Provocation from Peter Beinart, via the Shorenstein Center

I just received in the mail the hard-copy edition of the Sixteenth Annual Theodore H. White Lecture, hosted by the Joan Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School at Harvard.  Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of the New Republic gave the lecture on October 27, 2005.  The full text is worth reading.  (It is available online
as a video file, but I can’t find the text online yet; looks like
previous iterations have been posted in PDF.)  Since it is not
easily in text form yet, I thought I’d excerpt a bit from the end of
his lecture, right before Q&A (at which point Alex Jones, the
distinguished director of Shorenstein, steps back in to moderate).

“The achievement, I think, of the Clinton and the DLC generation was,
in fact, to think about first principles, to think about the
relationships between state and civil society, to think about the
ability of the market to achieve traditional, liberal ends.  I
think that’s fundamentally what distinguished them from the
neo-liberals like Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis, who had emerged in the
1970s and ’80s.”

(FWIW, I am with him up to here, for certain.)

“My fear is that the new blogosphere generation, the one that’s
emerging today, the children of Howard Dean, is so focused on
organizational and tactical questions about how the Democratic Party
can frame its message, they’re not focused nearly enough on what the
Democratic Party and what liberals believe.  That they are so tied
into the party structure itself that they don’t spend nearly enough
time thinking about what Democrats believe. …

“Let me just end with a word about what this means for liberal
journalism, because one of the striking things about the bloggers is
that they are not only activists, but they are journalists, too. 
The blogs blur that division.  Their stress on tactics, on winning
elections rather than on first principle, I think, is bad for liberal
opinion writing.

“The bloggers are helping to create a journalistic culture with too
much focus on what will help Democrats win, too much interest in the
short-term.  And it’s producing cramped, small-bore, predictable
and, perhaps worst of all, dull political writing.  It’s not what
liberals need today.  It’s not what opinion journalism needs
today.  It’s not even what the Democratic Party needs today, and I
don’t think Teddy White would have approved.”

The right call to arms, missing the point, or some of both?

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