Picking Fights

by Patrick Appel

Freddie DeBoer isn't blogging much these days, which is too bad because he's one of my favorite online writers despite his being to my left on any number of issues. When Freddie makes a point, he doesn't bother to dull the sharpness of his words – as any number of his statements in this interview make clear:

I do want to immediately recognize and admit that I have the extremist’s luxury; I don’t have to sully my beliefs with appeal to dirty partisan politics. But that cuts both ways. People say that politics is the art of the possible, but there’s so much insistence on a narrow range of possibility that they winnow away at what we can actually accomplish. Ultimately I have to admit that there are real constraints on political action, but I also have to insist that when you make practicality a chief concern in politics, you’ve effectively undermined democracy.

Freddie's disregard for authority reminds me of Andrew. I'm attracted to this quality precisely because I'm more like David Brooks myself, who admits that he isn't nearly as opinionated a writer as Andrew or Chait. For me, politics and policy is more like math and less like a bar brawl. I've as much capacity to make moral judgments as Chait, Andrew or Freddie, but I'm inclined to place my opinions in vast fields of gray rather than rush into a political controversy.

The trouble with my preferred method is picking a fight is often a faster and better way to flesh out an argument. This isn't always true, as Dave Weigel's excellent post on Trig Palin makes clear. But tediously researched and hedged statements can actually stifle debate with their apparent reasonableness. I'm convinced that humans are wired to respond to heated debate; listening to two people argue is ancient in comparison to reading white papers or editorial monologues.