The Rise of Ezra Klein

It's awfully hard to say anything that constructive about the infamous JournoList without having access to the kind of discussions that take place on it. When I first heard about it, a while back, it seemed like it might be an example of the movement-ification of American liberalism, in which left-of-center types (especially people in the press) who once would have airily dismissed the idea that they belonged to a partisan "team" began attempting to imitate the conservative movement out of horror at its successes. But then again maybe the email list is just a wonderfully high-minded attempt to "illuminate standard political reporting with expert policy commentary," with no partisan purpose whatsoever. How should I know? I'm not on it!

Either way, though, isn't the real story here not the list itself, but the man behind it? I mean, email chains come and go, but the ability to bring your elders together for a common purpose is a rare thing indeed in media-intellectual circles. Isn't it possible that we're seeing the emergence of Ezra Klein as the William F. Buckley of movement liberalism - the wunderkind around whom older thinkers orbit, with JournoList as the equivalent of National Review in the Fifties, and with your Paul Krugmans, Jeffrey Toobins and Joe Kleins playing Willmoore Kendall or James Burnham to his WFB?

Okay, fine, maybe the parallel doesn't quite hold up. But I do think that Ezra's organizational genius is ultimately the story here, his modesty about his own importance notwithstanding.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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