A new collection of Michael Kelly’s writing, Things Worth Fighting For has just been released. I bring this up for two reasons. 1) Kelly was a truly great American writing machine and he deserves to be remembered for that as well as for being a profoundly decent guy. And 2) Because another part of his legacy was the revivification of The Atlantic into a truly excellent magazine. One way he did this was by throwing the doors open to new, iconoclastic and often conservative writers. It seems to me that legacy is starting to slide. The Atlantic is still a great magazine, but it seems to be inching further and further into official Liberal Magazine Land. One can be a liberal magazine and still be a great magazine, The New Republic has proved that more than a few times. But what made the Kelly and post Kelly era Atlantic particularly special was its effort not to be predictably on one side of the political ledger. The first three articles in the current issue are by Jonathan Chait, Ryan Lizza and Joshua Green. They’re not particularly partisan pieces, and they’re all good. But they contribute to the continued Slateification of the magazine, by which I mean that “post-partisan smart” is defined as a certain kind of enlightened liberalism which enlightened liberals see as simply correct, not liberal. Yes, I know Mark Steyn and PJ O’Rourke write for The Atlantic and lots of other conservatives, including from NR-land, still appear in there — though it seems less and less. But Steyn writes about theater and music. P.J. is sui generis. And nobody’s replaced David Brooks’ voice over there.
Still, there’s no better sign of the Atlantic’s Slateification than their annual “State of the Union issue” issue which assigns the task of determining the objective truth about All Things to the New America Foundation, particularly Michael Lind. There are a lot of smart guys over there, Lind (grumble, grumble) included. I don’t want to get started on that place, but suffice it to say they fit perfectly within the “post-partisan smart” = “Brookings with bite” framework.
Anyway, I bring this up becausse I like the magazine and I like what Kelly did with it and because, well, I’m a magazine nerd.