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September 3, 2004

a tagline

After 19 months and 422 posts, I think this blog needs a tagline. I'd like to write something brief and descriptive over on the left side of your screen so that people know what they're looking at; but I haven't come up with a satisfactory formula yet. I'm playing with: "A nonpartisan blog mainly about the arts and practice of civic participation, with themes of public work, deliberation, civic education, political and media ethics, and democratic theory."

September 3, 2004 1:04 PM | category: none


What's so great about non-partisan? Conviction and intellectual honesty are not competing values....

September 4, 2004 10:42 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Fred Vincy


Thanks for the good question and the opportunity to clarify my position. I'm in favor of parties, partisan competition, and ideological debate. I am perfectly willing to proclaim my own ideological views, which are left of the US center. However, my professional work--and this blog--are supposed to fill a different niche, which I have defined before as "civic." When we adopt a civic perspective, we take it for granted that there will always be competition between liberals and conservatives, and we ask whether this struggle is being conducted in a way that is good for the polity as a whole. Does politics encourage participation, address important issues, strengthen democratic institutions, and enhance trust? Those are the questions I try to address here. By the way, I often find that responsible conservatives have useful things to say about these issues.

Focusing on the civic dimension of politics requires me not to identify with either party--so in that sense, I'm non-partisan. It doesn't mean that I must take ideologically moderate positions; maybe radical reforms are necessary to save our civic culture. Nor must I give equal credit to both sides. Right now, I think that the Republicans are doing much more collateral damage to our public life than the Democrats are, although the Democrats are not always benign. Just because I work quite hard to be non-partisan, I hope that my complaints about the Bush administration and campaign are persuasive. They come with a promise that I would be just as hard on a Kerry administration that violated civic norms and ethics.

Partisan competition and debate are essential and honorable, yet I also feel that in the current rather ugly climate, we need some venues and voices that are carefully non-partisan. That is the role I try to play.


September 5, 2004 11:25 AM | Comments (4) | posted by Peter Levine

I do see your point and what you are trying to accomplish. (I had not previously read the post you linked to.) I do think that there is a qualitative difference between the harm that Republicans and Democrats are doing to public life -- for Republicans, it is a matter of strategy, not just tactics. The problem for the Democrats, then, is that responding tactically (as Kerry is widely being urged to do right now) seems necessary, but also plays into the Republican strategy of defining politics as having to do with personality rather than issues, a playing field that is very favorable to the better-financed side. If you can help develop a solution to this dilemma, it will be a very valuable contribution.

September 5, 2004 1:52 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Fred Vincy

How about:
"Peter Levine's Blog: An academic activist's lens on civic renewal"

September 5, 2004 5:35 PM | Comments (4) | posted by Michael Weiksner

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