I have thought for a while that I should have a post explaining the meaning of my header’s subtitle: “A Partisan Nonpartisan Blog.” Here is the interpretation:
“Partisan” means I am passionate about policy and cultural issues.
“Nonpartisan” means I don’t belong to any pre-existing “team,” whether Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, etc.
My experience in blogging and tweeting during the presidential election contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney has clarified for me what that means in practice. In November, I will step into a voting booth and make a choice. But I don’t want advance intimations of that choice to cloud my treatment of each issue. Although I have to set priorities about what I write about, if I do write about an issue, my commitment is to try as hard as humanly possible to give you my unvarnished opinion on that issue—even if, according to an exaggerated sense of my own importance, expressing my unvarnished opinion on an issue would hurt the chances of the candidate I think I am more likely to vote for by a tiny amount. (Here, I can only barely stand to do without the word economists use for a tiny amount: “epsilon,” drawn from calculus.) If I ever waver from that commitment, I will think hard about choosing a new subtitle for my header.
If you ever think the priorities I am setting for what I write about are skewed, please use the “Ask Me Anything” button on my sidebar or make a comment to a post to nudge me toward dealing with the issues you think I should be dealing with. On issues, posing questions for me will have a big effect. But to avoid distraction from a focus on the issues, I will be slow to answer questions about which candidate I support when I think that different, reasonable weightings of the importance of various issues could lead to different candidate preferences—even for someone who has the same views on the issues that I do.
In a fractal recapitulation of the “team-loyalty versus unvarnished opinion on each issue” conflict, fidelity to the truth can sometimes hurt the overall thread of one’s argument on an issue. Here, fidelity to the truth has to come first. Let me list the legitimate excuses: (a) there is no duty to mention facts that seem to run against one’s argument that are actually unimportant and could easily be answered; (b) for clarity it is permissible to defer dealing with even important, widely-known facts until a commenter sets up the Q part of the Q&A; and (c) human language always deals in approximations, especially in short-form essays. But for a blogger who hopes to have the trust of readers, it is never OK to say something one knows to be false and misleading, even in the service of what one might think is a higher Truth. Or to make a slogan out of the wisdom of my best friend Kim Leavitt:
“We are in trouble if we let our devotion to Truth get in the way of our devotion to truth.”
All humans are fallible, so I may slip at some point. But I shudder at the thought.