The Sans Everything bullpen follows no party line, often arguing amongst ourselves on the issues of the day. One topic that has been the source of much debate is the merit of the New Republic. My esteemed colleague A.M. Lamey greatly admires the New Republic as a bastion of tough-minded liberalism, always willing to challenge the pieties of the left in the name of intellectual rigour.
I, on the other hand, think that the magazine is beholden to its own peculiar set of pieties, much more noxious than anything found in conventional left-liberal thought. Since at least 1974, the dominant tone of the New Republic has been that of Ivy League debating club glibness, where arguments are valued for their surface cleverness rather than intrinsic merit. This atmosphere of boy’s club conceitedness has often been augmented by a host of unappealing attitudes: a jingoistic willingness to celebrate all of America’s war (combined with a tendency to attack as unpatriotic all those who are less willing to kill foreigners), an unqualified defense of Israel’s foreign policy often shading into anti-Arab racism, a prissy disdain for the cultural and political interests of working class Americans, a general scorn for Black and Latino culture, topped off with a complacent belief that a magazine can be pro-feminist simply by publishing a few pro-choice editorials without making any greater effort to bring in female voices. The typical New Republic writer is a meritocratic know-it-all who thinks everyone different from him in class, cultural or gender is just an affirmative action scapegrace. (For a comprehensive critique of the magazine see Eric Alterman’s fine piece.)
Having made this mild and temperate complaint, I will allow that the New Republic has always had a handful of good writers, generally from a social democratic background, who have been free from the general neo-liberal shallowness of the larger magazine: Hendrick Hertzberg, Ronald Steel, and Irving Howe. And Stanley Kauffman is an excellent film critic. Of the good New Republic writers, one of the best is John Judis, author of an superb biography of William F. Buckley and a prescient critic of neo-imperialism. Whenever he writes on politics, Judis brings to bear his great historical erudition and sober realism.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that everyone, whether they like the New Republic or not, should read his latest post on McCain and the true meaning of patriotism.
I never doubted, however, that McCain’s motives in pushing America into war were honorable. Nor do I question his motives in pushing Georgia into NATO or in rattling the sabers against Iran. I question his judgment and wouldn’t want him as president. But I do question his motives in inserting himself into the attempt by the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, and the Congressional leadership (excluding the usual suspects from the Republican House delegation) to fashion a plan for preventing a Wall Street crash. He has shown a willingness to put the success of his campaign ahead of the country’s welfare.