Today's New York Times has a fun little story headlined "The Nation Magazine May Benefit From Republicans' Gains." The basic thesis: Being on the same side as the federal government is deadly for the progressive publication's business ("No weekly magazine tracked by the Media Industry Newsletter has lost more pages of advertising this year than The Nation"), whereas being in opposition does wonders to both bottom line and editorial vigor:
[C]ould last week's Democratic pummeling actually have a silver lining for The Nation[…]? Katrina vanden Heuvel, the magazine's editor and publisher, did not have to think long about that question.
"If you can't expose the hypocrisy of this new group of Republicans, then we're not doing our job. And I mean that," she said in an interview from her office on election night as she sipped a glass of Champagne, defiant as Democratic losses piled up and the mood around her darkened.
"I mean you've got a lot to work with," she said. "You've got a Tea Party caucus in the Senate, a Tea Party caucus in the House. So I think you have a lot of rich material."
If history is any guide, Ms. vanden Heuvel could be proved right.
I yield to no one in my appreciation for the elaborate Dadaist prank that is vanden Heuvel's Twitter feed (where you can watch her deny the Champagne anecdote and also bust with prose poetry like this: "Join most other countries & distinguish between investment & operating budget/ US govt budget is NOT like household one.Time to invest!"), and I am eternally grateful for her mother's investment in a newspaper I co-founded 20 years ago yesterday (true story!). But this story illustrates a journalistic and maybe even basic human advantage that Reason has over most all other magazines of political opinion: We are always in opposition, no matter which team is running the state.
For evidence, look no further than to our Republicanoid pals over at National Review. When the GOP this fall unveiled their craptacular, don't-go-touching-entitlements-or-defense "Pledge to America," Reason Senior Editor and indefatigable champion of freedom Jacob Sullum (among many others) gave the document the shellacking it deserved. National Review? "We'll Take the Pledge," the editors wrote, declaring the already-forgotten manifesto to be "bolder" than the famous 1994 contract.
How about our friends to the left? Surely they've been holding the president's feet to the fire on stuff like marijuana prohibition, right? Well, maybe my Web search skillz are lacking, but all I could find in The American Prospect on Proposition 19, for example, was this lonely blog post. How about the Obama-ite Center for American Progress? Yeah right.
Imagine for a second Katrina vanden Heuvel taking to the pages of a famously liberal daily newspaper in 2012 to make "The Case Against Barack Obama," based on the way he has (and he has!) flouted her espoused principles. Or picture her backing a presidential candidate whose views she agrees with, instead of kicking him to the curb every four years except when it's time for the next Nation cruise. Conversely, picture Rich Lowry & co. showing respect for the anti-war right (let alone left) while it's a Republican president waging war.
It is a liberating feeling, focusing on ideas and principles instead of political parties and dreamy or super-evil politicians. But there's a reason why such an approach is the exception and not the rule in political magdom: It's harder work! There is no political lodestar to set your compass to every night. You are constantly irritating readers who have more of a stake in one party or another (including/especially the Libertarian Party). That makes us, perhaps perversely, more dependent on each and every one of you, dear cranky readers.
This independence on its own doesn't make us better, nor does it mean that our competitor-colleagues–including at The Nation and National Review–don't produce a lot of high-quality journalism. But it's a damned start! You can sleep at night knowing that your tax-exempt donation to Reason will not be spent in the service of looking the other way while our putative allies bungle in the jungle of politics. We keep our eye on the ball of unrestrained government, regardless of who is mismanaging it, and we do it on a budget that, well, let's just say that The Nation's reported operating deficit of $500,000 is a serious number in our universe.
So to reiterate: We need ONE THOUSAND of you to donate, in order for that torch to the left to turn fire-orange (or is it blood-red?). If you give $100, you get a free subscription to the print mag, a t-shirt either of Reason or of the cover of our 3D-tastic November isse, plus one of 10 (count 'em) books by various Reason authors while supplies last. Give more, get more. Give less, you still get a sweet bumper sticker, plus your name up there on the donor banner, lording over all who watch.
Donate right the hell now! And watch Nick Gillespie fence with Katrina vanden Heuvel on Parker/Spitzer below: