Left2Right

by Brian on December 7, 2004

There’s been a lot of hubbub, both here and elsewhere in the blogworld, about the Becker-Posner blog. But if it’s intellectual firepower in a group blog you’re after, you should be reading Left2Right. Here’s its mission statement, which should be good for setting off a round of debates.

In the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, many of us have come to believe that the Left must learn how to speak more effectively to ears attuned to the Right. How can we better express our values? Can we learn from conservative critiques of those values? Are there conservative values that we should be more forthright about sharing? “Left2Right” will be a discussion of these and related questions.
Although we have chosen the subtitle “How can the Left get through to the Right?”, our view is that the way to get through to people is to listen to them and be willing to learn from them. Many of us identify ourselves with the Left, but others are moderates or independents. What we share is an interest in exploring how American political discourse can get beyond the usual talking points.

The contributors so far include Elizabeth Anderson, Kwame Appiah, Josh Cohen, Stephen Darwall, Gerald Dworkin, David Estlund, Don Herzog, Jeff McMahan, Seana Shiffrin, and David Velleman. Wowsa. And many other names you may have heard of, from Peter Railton to Richard Rorty, are listed as being part of the team. This should be worth following.

{ 24 comments }

1

Russell Arben Fox 12.07.04 at 3:46 am

Definitely lots of firepower there; it’ll be interesting to see how many of these folks turn out to be compelling bloggers as well as thoughtful scholars. David Velleman has already posted on a lot in the brief time since the blog began; he has an excellent post on the de factor resegregation of schools across America’s suburbs and exurbs here; I think that’s an important aspect of the problem to include when thinking about the conservative hostility to public school guarantees and reforms.

2

Russell Arben Fox 12.07.04 at 3:51 am

Whoops, excuse me, Stephen Darwell authored that particular post. And, of course, it’s one which Brian linked to already. Gaaah.

3

Kieran Healy 12.07.04 at 4:29 am

That’s quite a lineup. I’ve added it to the blogroll.

4

Jacob T. Levy 12.07.04 at 5:20 am

Wow; quite a list. Like the ACS’ “Constitution in 2020” blog it represents a major influx of the academic great and the good into blogging. In both law and philosophy, I’d think that the “legitimation” that Henry brought up last week now has to be considered pretty well complete.

5

dsquared 12.07.04 at 6:36 am

Or, possibly, impersonators thereof.

6

Russkie 12.07.04 at 2:30 pm

They seem sincere in their desire to establish a framework for discussion with the right (though a few caricatures of conservative views still slip in)..

But the posts are uncontroversial enough that rightists can largely agree with them. I’d like them try to offer substantive views on accommodation of varying stripes of Islam by Western countries, or on contemporary alternatives to the market economy.

7

BIgMacAttack 12.07.04 at 4:20 pm

This is more irony right? Kinda a continuation of the Posner bit? Right? I know shouldn’t have to ask but this politics so I am uncertain.

‘In the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, many of us have come to believe that the Left must learn how to speak more effectively to ears attuned to the Right. How can we better express our values?’ Etc.

side by side with

‘Vehicles in New Jersey are covered with decals representing little ribbons inscribed with the legend: “Support Our Troops.” I have done a lot of driving recently and have noticed geographical disparities in the distribution of these symbols. There are fewer in the Midwest and very few at all in the LA area. They are also disproportionately displayed on SUVs and vans, which isn’t surprising given that the owners are disproportionately reliant on the oil supplies that our soldiers are in Iraq to protect (among their other purposes).’

that is irony. Intentional or not.

How can I get through to the right?

I know! Why don’t I point out that they support a bloody war in order to fill their SUVs with cheap gas(in part).

That should do the trick! I am getting through you right wing bastards! You support murder to save a few hundred dollars year on your fuel bill!

Now we are building bridges!

8

Nicholas Weininger 12.07.04 at 4:41 pm

So far, watching the “dialogue” between the lefty posters and their righty responders in the comments has made me pretty glad to be a libertarian noninterventionist. The post about the support-the-troops ribbons was especially nausea-inducing: in this corner, the total cultural cluelessness and muddled hypocrisy of the supposedly cosmopolitan left; in the other, the mission civilisatrice altruism of the humanitarian-bomber right. If this constitutes reasoned engagement, so much the worse for reasoned engagement.

9

Matt McGrattan 12.07.04 at 5:27 pm

Serious question: why would you want to build those bridges (from Left to Right)?

10

Joe O 12.07.04 at 5:43 pm

Bigmacattack is right they are way off from their mission statement. Their way of reaching out to the right is to sincerly explain why we hate them. Like that is going to change people’s minds.

11

Giles 12.07.04 at 5:56 pm

Self Describing themselves as “really smart” – check.
Patronizing tone – check.
Seething bitchiness emanating from writing – check.
Seen this before – check.

I think they might better be left2themselves

12

gavin mcnett 12.07.04 at 6:06 pm

Not so impressed. There’s quite a bit of good thinking there, but it’s often naive and behind the curve.

Contrast with Berube, an academic on top of the issues, or Laura Rozen, a specialist policy wonk.

The site needs verve and engagement. I hope it lives up to its potential.

13

dsquared 12.07.04 at 6:12 pm

Serious question: why would you want to build those bridges (from Left to Right)?

Presumably it is an attempt to rekindle the fires of the Democratic Party’s embrace of aggressive anti-Communism in the 1960s. Which is, obviously, in part responsible for the extraordinary strength of social-democratic politics in the USA today.

14

ry 12.07.04 at 7:20 pm

Having read the mission statement here and having used the link via Volohk COnspiracy I find Left2Right rather odd. If, as the mission statement says, there’s an attempt to listen to conservatives I find it rather failing. The first data point on terrorism post is a classic example. LEcturing conservatives that liberals are more intellectually honest is BOUND to win them over, ce? It positively DRIPS with, on the left, commonly held assumptions without explaining them, and though they’re commonly held on the left they are rather controversial(ex: WOT creating more terrorists. Fact? How, do terrorist orgs publish order of battle reports or organizational charts like the US, PLA(China), and other nations? That’s an assumption or a point of view, and not a fact(if it is a fact, show us the primary source material this is gleaned from.)). The Crooked Timber Crew should really mention something to Left2Right about how it’s failing its stated goal of bridging the gap by becoming yet another site to say ‘conservatives aren’t honest and just don’t get it do they?’

15

Luis Villa 12.07.04 at 7:56 pm

I’m glad I’m not the only one who found this almost a sad caricature of liberal intellectual elitism. I hate to use that phrase, because it is so loaded, but this is exactly the kind of boring lefty moralist/intellectual ‘we’re so much better than you, why can’t you understand that?’ prattle that drives conservatives and many centrists out of their skulls. I want the left to win; I really do. But if this is the best writing we can come up with as a ‘bridge’ we’re in deep trouble.

16

Brian Weatherson 12.07.04 at 8:18 pm

I agree that the McMahon post wasn’t the best thing to have on the front page the day the site went public. But I think many of the critics here are applying an unfair standard. The point of the blog is to work out what a bridge would look like – it isn’t necessarily to be that bridge from day one. Of course instantiation is one way to show how a bridge should look – but it’s hardly the only way.

17

BigMacAttack 12.07.04 at 8:50 pm

Brian Weatherson,

No of course not. So tommorow we can expect a thoughtful follow-up from Jeff McMahan, maybe titled, Sorry SUV drivers WTF was I saying and WTF does that reveal about me?

or

Not.

18

Giles 12.07.04 at 9:07 pm

“a bridge would look like”

In most countries the “bridge” between left and right looks like a Parliament – its the arena where ideas are debated back and forth. Whats wrong with that system?

19

Luis Villa 12.07.04 at 9:58 pm

Brian: the problem is the shape the bridge appears to be taking. The American left has failed to persuade not just because of the content and framing of the message (which this site does appear to be focusing on, which is good) but also because of the delivery of the message. The best messages in the world conveyed in the tones and language of the top 5-6 articles on left2right aren’t going to be persuasive to the vast majority of people, even among those who style themselves intelligent liberals, much less the ‘right’ they are trying to bridge to.

20

Uncle Kvetch 12.07.04 at 10:13 pm

In most countries the “bridge” between left and right looks like a Parliament – its the arena where ideas are debated back and forth. Whats wrong with that system?

Nothing at all. It’s just that it presumes that both parties are capable of formulating a set of guiding principles based on more than “We’re just like the other guys, only somewhat slightly less so.”

Until such time as the Democratic Party decides to start standing for something other than its own existence (and I’m not holding my breath), we’ll have to make do with the alternatives.

21

nick 12.08.04 at 12:33 am

Let’s accept it: the conservative responses on that site suggest that they do not want to be ‘reached out’ towards.

They want to rule, be kowtowed towards, and obeyed.

22

Ry parsons 12.08.04 at 7:16 am

Brian Wetherson,
No, it isn’t just the one post. It was the bulk. I pulled my quote from the second or third post down. If it’s dialogue that’s desired don’t write conservatives are jerks’ type posts. Simple.
Your reply here is the mirror image of something that one of the LEft2Right folk posted–not being able to take criticism of ones ideas. That’s the fatal flaw of L2R right now. It makes claims that are false, and calling them on it brings cries of ‘not getting it’ or ‘being harsh’.
Also note: some of those complaining are asking that the snarky condescension and unexplained assumptions presented as facts be removed so that the mission of building the bridge can take place.

23

abb1 12.08.04 at 9:40 am

Although we have chosen the subtitle “How can the Left get through to the Right?”, our view is that the way to get through to people is to listen to them and be willing to learn from them.

There are people on the Right I can listen to and learn from. But they are all Democrats, conservative Democrats.

There is absolutely no chance to get through to Republicans, they are nuts; it’s hopeless.

24

cube 12.12.04 at 12:11 am

why is it named left to right.

why not right to left?

i think this is baised against jews

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