The Kaus Phenomenon

By Daniel Larison

Matt and Ross have been discussing the rather strange question of whether Slate is a center-right publication, and Matt said most recently:

And I'll admit that while I look at Slate all the time, I'm not a particularly thorough reader of it and the Mickey Kaus phenomenon looms large in my mind.

This is something that puzzles me about liberal views of Mickey Kaus.  Kaus has repeatedly said that he will vote for Obama, he was an early neoliberal (as those involved in the debate over the merits of neoliberalism last year will remember) and has worked at other such "center-right" publications as The New Republic and The Washington Monthly.  He has the habit of criticizing what he considers to be excesses and errors of those to the left of him, at least partly because this is simply what neoliberals do.  They are not usually in the habit of reinforcing liberal conventional wisdom when they find it lacking, but even neoliberals are center-left people.  Kaus' refreshingly sensible opposition to so-called comprehrensive immigration reform and his concerns about the effects of mass immigration on social equality are, as far as I can tell, the main reasons why he is routinely accused of being a crypto-conservative, because people who are "really" on the left aren't typically concerned about these things. Even his reasons for challenging the immigration status quo are rooted in his desire to promote social equality, which I assume most liberals would also want to promote.

Meanwhile, dissident conservatives who are on the right frequently attack shibboleths of the mainstream right, but we do so from a conservative perspective.  Even when our arguments are undermining some part of conventional wisdom on the right, we are not therefore mostly publishing liberal content.  It works the same way among liberals, too.

Cross-posted at Eunomia