Six days after the 2000 presidential election, at 3:37 p.m. EST, TPM came into being with a few surprising words: “As if things couldn’t get any weirder, did you notice the name of the lawyer who made the Republicans’ unsuccessful arguments before that federal judge today?”
Looking back now, it seems like there must have been something that came before that post. As if things couldn’t get any weirder than what? What federal judge?
But there wasn’t anything else. That was the start of TPM, at the height of Florida recount chaos. The first post began in the middle of a conversation that the next post, published 13 minutes later, continued.
It’s a conversation that has now continued for 20 years.
There was a bit of backstory, told in the video above. Josh Marshall had some experience with political blogging, something that was still in its very early days. He had done a sort of proto-TPM thing at the American Prospect, where he was Washington editor. That’s a position that was “less grand than it sounds,” in the words of Joshua Green, who was a reporter at the Prospect at the time. He described it in an Atlantic post a decade ago noting TPM’s 10th anniversary.
An image lodged in my mind from those days is walking into Josh’s office one Monday around lunchtime and finding him sound asleep on his couch in the same clothes from Friday and surrounded by about 30 empty two-liter bottles of Pepsi One (not exaggerating). Point is, he operated on his own clock.
The content of that first post wasn’t as out-of-left-field either as it may seem now, at 20 years’ remove. The conversion Josh was apparently jumping into mid-thought would have been familiar to any politically astute reader: The country was in the throws of a national crisis. Some long-time TPM readers have written to us about that early period, during which they refreshed the site endlessly. By the time the Bush v. Gore decision arrived on Dec. 12, 2000, TPM wasn’t going anywhere.
Josh Marshall tells the story of TPM’s origins in the video above.