Between my first year of law school and two young children, I have really cut down on the amount of media I read in a given day. I tend to follow a pattern of checking the headlines at the New York Times, and then looking to see if any members of the Supreme Court press corps (mostly Adam Liptak, Mike Sacks and Dahlia Lithwick) have new pieces. If I have some free time (and if it’s not college football season), I then will read a little about politics.
I find that most political pieces are just that: political. Most political writers are so ideologically-driven that the pieces they write are mostly fluff–much like a Mitt Romney answer. And rarely will a political writer question the wisdom of a sitting President that they actually voted for. And if they do, they never do it in an election year.
I never quite understood why orthodoxy is more important than the general well being of the country, especially when you are an influential member of the media. Democrat and Republican is not a principle, and sometimes its not worth holding onto when the country is in a free-fall on some pretty fundamental issues. But digress do I.
So I recently discovered two writers who don’t just follow the mold of party ideologue; they break it. The first is Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. He is an admitted progressive. And yet, he challenges President Obama on civil liberties, war, cronyism, corporate influence, and government transparency. Better yet, he does it in an election year.
The other writer I really admire is Conor Friedersdorf over at The Atlantic. He has a libertarian bent, but it’s a pragmatic libertarianism (for example, he doesn’t oppose a basic social safety net or a progressive income tax). If he had a choice for President it, probably, would be Ron Paul. But like Greenwald, he too is willing to criticize his candidate in the midst of an election year.
Greenwald and Friedersdorf are not necessarily objective (which, to be honest, no journalist is completely objective). But they do pass blame equally. So that places them squarely within the 1% of this country’s political writers that can say that.
And did I mention they can write.
Here is Friedersdorf coming to grips with Ron Paul’s racist newsletters:
Figuring out what flaws to accept in a candidate is a brutal calculus. I wouldn’t begrudge someone who, having pondered the matter, decided that as best as they could tell — we’re all guessing about character judgments — the racist newsletters are reason enough to refrain from supporting Paul. In some ways, it would be easiest for me to reach that conclusion: to establish as a litmus test that I’ll never vote for anyone even remotely associated with what is poisonous drivel.
What I find harder, but compulsory, by my code, is at least comparing candidates all of whom stand for something poisonous, immoral or idiotic. Should I stay home? Does that not make me complicit in a different way? These quandaries are inescapable in a large democracy, especially one that is a global hegemon. My tentative conclusion: among the candidates who could win, Paul is least complicit in needlessly killing innocents abroad; he is least likely to deprive innocent foreigners of their God given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; he is most committed to civil liberties and drug legalization at home. The contrary policies, which I regard as abhorrent, are easily ignored by most voters, because they are the status quo.
It is easiest to evade the moral implications of policies already in place.
Here is Greenwald’s unrelenting summary of the American criminal justice system in a piece published just this week:
It’s long past time to rip those blindfolds off of the Lady Justice statues. When the purpose of American justice is to shield those with the greatest power who commit the most egregious crimes, while severely punishing those who talk publicly about those crimes, it’s hard to imagine how it can get much more degraded or corrupted than that.
We live in an age of never-ending Facebook updates, tweets, blog posts, newspapers, online magazines, and the like. Yet, it’s hard finding anything or anyone of substance. It’s harder still to find a great voice among a chorus of screamers. If you have the time, and if you care about liberty and the direction of the country, then you should be reading what these two gentlemen have to say. If you become alarmed after reading their articles, well, I warned you.