Politics & Policy

Your go-to lefty, &c.

Where are the best Leftist voices?

For the next issue of National Review, I’ve written kind of an offbeat piece. (What’s new, I know.) It’s called “Looking for Lefty: The problem of what, and whom, to read.” Actually, I have a similar piece in the next issue of Standpoint, the British monthly. The NR piece is a longer version of the Standpoint piece, which is more of a note, or “short.”

Like you, maybe, I spend a lot of time with conservative publications. I work for one, to begin with. And yet we should have some fiber in our diets; we should not just eat political or journalistic candy. And I always feel I should read more people on the left.

For years now, I’ve been “looking for lefty.” I’ve wanted a go-to thinker and writer on the left, who would give me the best arguments of that side. I want someone — or, even better, some publication — to be the fiber in my diet. I have not had much luck, though.

From time to time, I pick out a columnist and say, “Okay: I’m going to read him faithfully, or at least regularly, no matter what. I’m still going to eat my candy in the form of Mark Steyn, Charles Krauthammer, and others I love. But I’m going to read this fellow too, because you need a balanced diet, or at least not a totally imbalanced one.”

That fellow, however, usually commits some offense that turns me off for good. Very often, that offense is racial. People on the left have the nasty habit of throwing white sheets over conservative opponents. They seem not to be able to help making false accusations of racism.

Show me a man who won’t tar his opponents with racism, and I’ll show you my friend for life! Like many another conservative, I’m fairly easy: Just don’t make false accusations of racism, okay? Think you can handle that?

No, sadly — often, no.

#ad#Anyway, if I’ve written two whole pieces on this very subject, why am I going on about it here in my web column? I’d like to do some canvassing. I wonder whether readers have some “go-to lefties” — people or publications they consult regularly, for the purpose of some media balance. Do you have honorable people on the left you rely on, to bring you the other side? If so, I’d like to hear about it: Please write me at jnordlinger@nationalreview.com.

Conversely, if you’re a lefty, do you have go-to righties? I’d like to hear about that too.

In my piece for Standpoint, I say, “Conservatives who concentrate on the conservative press do not necessarily live lives of peace and harmony. You can spend 90 percent of your time stewing about the failings of other conservatives.” Ain’t it the truth. We on the right are very good at infighting and splintering. I wonder whether it has anything to do with ghettoizing ourselves in the journalism we read.

To read some conservative blogs and whatnot, you might get the idea that our enemies are George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Which is, of course, nuts.

Confine yourself to RightWorld (as I sometimes do), and that starts to look like the whole world. But take a dip into LeftWorld, and you realize just how much we on the right have in common. We are allies, if we’d only know it.

Anyway, to be continued . . .

‐For the last couple of months, a theme of this column has been, “Yeah, Obamacare doesn’t ‘work,’ but who cares whether it ‘works’? ‘Working’ is not the point. Changing society is the point. The ‘fundamental transformation of America’ is the point.”

A Democratic congressman, James Clyburn, put it with some candor a few weeks ago: “If we were to look at what we were attempting to do with [Obamacare], you will know that what we’re trying to do is change a values system in our country.”

#page#I thought of our theme when reading a post by Douglas Carswell at the Telegraph. He was talking about the EU. And he said, “If the Brussels elite quit doing things because they did not work, the Common Fisheries Policy would have been scrapped in the 1980s.”

Exactly. That’s exactly what I’m trying to say.

‐Did you read this charming little item? “University administrator investigated for running phone-sex biz while on the job.” Here and now, I’d like merely to highlight the administrator’s job: She is “the cultural diversity coordinator with the university’s Ethnic Studies department.”

If that doesn’t encapsulate modern America, I don’t know what does.

‐A couple of months ago, I was in an airport, buying some postcards at a gift shop. The cashier asked me whether I wanted to buy some items to send to our troops in Afghanistan.

What are you supposed to say? “To hell with the troops”?

A few days ago, I was at a Barnes & Noble, buying Christmas cards. The cashier asked me whether I wanted to buy a book for sick children in a hospital.

What are you supposed to say? “To hell with the sick children, especially at Christmas”? I bought the suggested copy of Pinkalicious.

I like charity, very much, but I don’t like this at all — I don’t like this coercion at the cashier’s counter. Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m happy to hear another side, but I don’t really like it. I think it’s wrong.

#ad#‐A little language? I had a memory of college: A prominent historian, Barbara J. Fields, was criticizing the promiscuous use of the word “crisis.” Every little two-bit problem is a “crisis” these days, she said. But the acceleration of events that led to the Civil War? That was a crisis.

I thought of Fields (whom I loved) when reading an article about Ukraine by Alexander J. Moytl:

Crisis is a sexy word that means all things to all people, but, if used rigorously, it usually means a life-threatening condition, one in which, to pursue the medical analogy, the patient faces a 50-50 chance of recovery. It’s impossible to apply the word with equal precision to social reality, but the point is that we should use crisis only with reference to extremely serious conditions that appear to be unsustainable for more than the short term.

‐A little music? For a column in CityArts, go here. It’s about a new piece by Christopher Theofanidis, an American composer, and a performance of the Schumann Piano Concerto by Jonathan Biss (with Iván Fischer and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s).

‐A little more music? It came to my attention that Saturday was the centennial of Rosalyn Tureck’s birth. This superb pianist, a proponent of Bach, died in 2003. She was a great friend of Bill Buckley’s, and he thought the world of her. I know she thought the world of him. (I never met her.)

One day, Bill wanted to get away from the usual haunts. We went to a restaurant way up north in the Bronx. Tureck had lived nearby, and she had introduced him to this restaurant.

She played Bach, and other composers, with steady technique and consummate taste. (Pardon the cliché, “consummate taste,” but it applies.) I do believe there is no pianist I would rather hear regularly in Bach. You can hear him purely — practically unfiltered. You lose all sense of interpretation.

Here is a taste. I’ll see you later.

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