Whenever you say “Nobody on our side does that,” you’re wrong.
OK– I am not a connected guy. I don’t live in Washington DC. I don’t work for a think tank, magazine, political action campaign, or anything of the sort. I am the last to catch on to any inside-baseball stuff. I get my Washington-insider stuff from the same public websites any other political geek does.
But I know of a right-of-center private listserve where conservative journalists, thinkers and commentators write about the current issues of the day. There is one right-wing commentator who almost anybod who reads this blog has probably read, a couple of reporters from various media (print and online), a few conservative professors, and some assorted others, from what I understand. (The person who clued me in to this listserve hasn’t given me a membership list, or anything, and wouldn’t.) The existence of the listserve isn’t a secret, exactly, but I’m to keep any member’s participation secret.
I say this only to point out the rank absurdity of Mickey Kaus’s denial that there is any conservative analog to the Journolist. No, it’s true, this particular listserve probably doesn’t have the same degree of influence as the Journolist does, and it doesn’t have as many “names” as the Journolist does, although in the age of the Web I really question whether that has any meaning. But this is a conservative vehicle with nearly identical aims and a nearly identical setup to the Journolist. Are mere questions of degree and influence all that it takes to acquit a conservative Journolist from Kaus’s complaints?
Now, Kaus is a vastly more connected and plugged-in guy than I am. He would have a much, much easier time accessing information about this kind of conservative listserve than I would. (In fact, there is a rather simple professional connection from Kaus to the particular list I’m referring to.) And I assume, though I don’t know, that there are other listserves like the one that I’m aware of out there; that seems to be the working assumption of the person who has clued me in. In other words, my suspicion is that if Kaus hasn’t found any conservative analogs to the Journolist, it’s because he wasn’t looking that hard.
More to the point, if Mickey Kaus had discovered a conservative version of the Journolist, if that Politico story had been about an identical conservative institution, would anyone— anyone at all– say that he would have prosecuted the story with equal zeal and sense of outrage? Could even his most zealous defenders claim that? Even those who find my questioning his commitment to liberalism or the Democratic party untoward, I think, would admit that he wouldn’t be nearly as inclined to stamp his feet and declare the Journolist a terrible phenomenon if it was a collection of right-of-center journalists and bloggers.
I haven’t been impressed by many of Kaus’s recent criticisms of Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman and others. But his larger concerns about cocooning and the echo chamber are certainly worth listening to. What I want to know, though, is why he’s so certain this is a phenomenon that could only happen on the left, and whether he’d be equally exercised about a conservative Journolist. No, the particular listserve I’m aware of isn’t equal to the Journolist in influence. But that’s not the point. The point is that conservatives are not immune to the kind of problems that Kaus identifies, and I think his glib assertions that they are don’t do any favors for his efforts to be heard on this subject.