Keeping the Wellsprings Refreshed

As Ryan’s last post discussed, and as we chronicle each day at PA, the right side of American political discourse these days is a cramped and feverish space conditioned by raw partisanship, intolerance of internal dissent, and a commitment to rigid cultural and governance models.

Some progressives implicitly and explicitly envy conservatives their “discipline” and refusal to let empirical evidence get in the way of ideology, and even many who don’t admire these qualities fear they give the Right a built-in political advantage.

My main prejudice on this perennial subject is that even if I thought turning the Left into a lean and very mean fighting machine would lift morale and produce more and more satisfying political victories, I just don’t want to be like that. There’s something inherently unsavory about forms of “progressivism” that eschew self-criticism and diversity of opinion; openness to innovation and a focus on the bottom line of real-life results are so central to the progressive enterprise of bending public policy to the challenges facing the American people that I just can’t live without them.

And that’s the main reason I am proud to be associated with the Washington Monthly, which has long promoted a liberalism that is honest with itself about its accomplishments and its shortcomings, and is confident enough about its values and its ultimate objectives to risk trial and error, and to fight the confusion between ends and means that can kill all innovation. It’s a spirit that the Monthly has helped keep alive in journalism, and in progressive politics, for decades.

If you share that appreciation for the Monthly tradition, I’d ask you one more time to consider helping out the “Charlie Project,” which will encapsulate that tradition in a film about Charlie Peters and the magazine he built. We’ve got a ways to go in securing the funds to finish How Washington Really Works: Charlie Peters and the Washington Monthly, and the clock’s ticking. So please pitch in if you can, and together we can refresh the wellsprings of progressive journalism and politics.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.