A lot of writers write about people they disagree with. I think part of what makes me different — and has made me different through my career — is that I try to write for people I disagree with.
Of course, when you write for people you disagree with, you can end up looking like a contrarian, or at least it can cause people to call you a contrarian. And certainly I have been contrary to something. But mainstream media outlets — especially prestige outlets like The New York Times and NPR, and national web outlets like Vox — are themselves contrarian, in that they reflect a subcultural set of political views and values well to the left of the median voter in the Democratic party, let alone the country as a whole.
I was for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential primary and so were most Democratic primary voters. Yet my normie position — an apparently “contrarian” one if you looked on Twitter in January 2020 — was weirdly absent from the commentariat. When the New York Times ran opinion columns advocating for each prominent Democratic candidate, they had to turn to conservative Ross Douthat to write the case for Biden.
The conversation that gets erroneously called a “national conversation” — conducted among select journalists, operatives, activists and academics — is essentially a conversation by and for people who supported Elizabeth Warren. It reflects the values and preferences and linguistic quirks of one minority part of one political party’s coalition. And sure, I am contrarian in relation to that subculture, but not to our overall politics or society, within which I sit closer to the median than most other people you will hear from in the press.1
Dissenting from and complaining about this subculture is not novel; it’s become a cliché to jump to Substack and complain about it. But my beef with this subculture isn’t quite the usual one, and that’s why this newsletter is going to be different. I don’t feel oppressed by the subculture. But I do think it has caused certain influential people to become badly misinformed in ways that have been damaging to the interests of both the press and the Democratic Party.
To follow this “national conversation” is to end up badly misled about what normal people want and believe and care about; which ideas are popular and which are merely fashionable; and in particular, what problems Democrats need to address and how if they wish to win elections. While this insularity problem is especially acute in politics, it also applies in cultural and even business coverage. Spend enough time in the media bubble and you might start saying that people have turned against Lin-Manuel Miranda, or that people hate Amazon.
My intention with this newsletter is to offer a corrective to that, with coverage that punctures conventional wisdom on politics, business, the economy, and mayonnaise. If you have read me elsewhere or have listened to me on the radio, I hope you expect my arguments to be rigorous and interesting, that I will be very serious without taking myself too seriously, and that I will be worth reading even when you disagree with me.
I especially hope you will read this newsletter if you disagree with me. If you want to inform or persuade people, you have to talk to people who don’t already think what you think. And you have to tell them something they disagree with. You have to be — in this specific sense — contrarian. And I will be.
If that interests you, I encourage you to subscribe, comment, email me, and join a community of readers that I think will be tremendously interesting to engage.
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