From the eve of one national election to the eve of another, what a long, strange—and fun—trip it’s been. From a national moment of feverish anticipation to a moment of—what?—smear and loathing, you have to ask, why would anyone follow politics? If you want your heart broken follow baseball. Politics was never my thing. It was policy that moved me. Health care reform. The root causes of the economic meltdown. These were the touchstones of my interest.
And now, four years, 199 posts, 225,000 words, a half a million reads later, I think the main thing accomplished is that my nerd cred is likely indelible. Clearly, I am a wonk. I went just five weeks without a post during those four years, counting the extra leap year week. One was last week, when I was in France. One was when my dad died. This was, after all, a commitment to write, and to have at least one original thought a week. I was, and remain, passionate about health care reform and economic reform. From my first post, “The Hard Truth About Government Spending,” which received not a single comment, to the last one, “Who is Mitt Romney? RomneyCare Reveals All,” you can’t claim I pandered for readers.
I never bitched about Open Salon, because I am deeply grateful for the platform. I chose it because an old friend was one of the founders of Salon and I had no idea what the Huffington Post was. And I remain loyal to a site that features the likes of Joan Walsh and so many other wonderful professionals. Breaking in here at Open was no easy deal either. The site was in the throes of its first wave of expansion following its beta-rollout, which, sadly, I missed. There were so many fine writers here with hardcore followings (scores and scores of comments) that I never really figured to become part of any inner circle of cool kids—and doubt that I am one today. I miss that energy, and many of the writers of 2008 and 2009, but in every era here there have been amazing writers, people who I have come to care about a great deal.
I blogged because I could. I blogged because I had left an executive job for consulting and writing and I could finally come out of the closet politically. That felt so good. I felt like I had to ante in to the dialogue in the face of Sarah Palin, the CATO Institute, John McCain, and the whole misguided cabal of the right, and of libertarian economics.
I could never in a million years have predicted how the right would double-down on the bankrupt formula of deregulation, regulatory capture, and unmitigated greed that drove our economy into the ditch in 2007. Nor could I foresee the insane opposition to modest health care reform in the face of 47 million insured in the U.S. And while I did not foresee the Obama backlash (read my January 2009 piece, “The New Basics: Toward a Coherent View of Reconstruction” for proof of that), I did get it once it occurred. It was the 1930s all over again—except Obama wasn’t Roosevelt.
He is who he is, I suppose, to spin a cliché I don’t much care for. And we are on the cusp of a whole new gestalt—or not (predictions are dangerous)—no matter who wins. What I mean to say is that nothing can be predicted, ever. I would guess Obama will win. I would guess Ohio will be why. But if he doesn’t, I won’t fall off my chair. If Mitt Romney wins, the world will not end. If Mitt Romney wins, and the Republicans hold the House and take the Senate, I will be very surprised but not astounded.
After four years of wanting to talk more about policy but paying more than a little attention to politics, very little astounds me. Will we become a hard right nation? It could happen. If so, that would be the truest measure of “American exceptionalism” in some time, because we would be standing very clearly outside of the norm of industrialized nations. We are exceptional, that much is true. Our exceptionalism is expressed in our failed health care outcomes, our infant mortality rate, our lost retirement savings, and our military budget.
Still, I’m a booster; I believe we have it in us to get it right…someday, someway, as Marshall Crenshaw might say. Does that make me an exceptionalist? If so, fine.
I’m restless these days. I don’t hear many people clamoring to read about things that really matter; things like health care, the loss of America’s middle class job base, or the nearly imminent catastrophe we face from global warming. It’s all heat and no light out there in the smogosphere and media gulch.
Has my blogging changed over the years? I hope it has less heat than light. My pieces are shorter. That would please some of my early readers who commented, in effect, “Are you kidding?” Still, I’m gratified that some of my “long form” pieces—a good number of them actually—are in my “Top 10” most read list. I have been amazed to see the legs some pieces have had, and continue to have, even if they were long. I learned that more divisive the issue, the more reads you get. Three of my pieces in my personal Top 10 are about gun rights. And I wrote about gun rights very rarely. Meanwhile, I wrote countless pieces about health care reform and none of them made my Top 10 as it stands today.
Is it immodest to mount one’s own retrospective in the blogosphere? Perhaps, but it’s a do-it-yourself world here. Am I going to stick with it? I don’t know…like I said, I’m restless. It may be a passing phase, a four-year itch, but it is work—sometimes with original reporting—in the face of competing interests like making a living. The flowering of the blogging culture between 2007 and 2011 created a mind-boggling glut of content—content that was sometimes great and sometimes horrendous—that may someday define a significant part of who we were at a given moment when subjected to some digitally-based literary-anthropological analysis. I am honored to have been an infinitesimal part of it.
But most of all, four years in, I just want to thank everyone who took the time to read me. Even the ones who hated it. They had to read it to hate it. Blogging is addicting; you know that. And at some point you kick the habit I presume. Or not. But, four years in, I did what I set out to do. I wrote about issues I cared about to a readership that cared, too. I like that. And OS was there for me to do it. I like that, too. Thanks, OS. Thanks, readers. Thanks, friends. What a long, strange—and fun—trip it’s been.