Charting a Path Forward

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For the last several months I’ve been planning next year at TPM. That involves a mix of editorial goals, how to deploy our resources, what new things to do and build, business strategies, hiring. It runs the gamut. One of my jobs here is to figure out how to match each of those things together so they all come off in an effective and durable way. While I knew the election could have a range of outcomes, I have mainly been making those plans on the basis of a very different set of assumptions about what 2017 would bring. Last night was as shocking as it was disappointing, together making for a shattering experience. But as I made my way through the day today, trying to catch bits of sleep I’d missed the night before, I started to think about what TPM’s role is, should be in this coming now suddenly very different year.

For the last eight years we’ve had one overriding political context, the presidency of Barack Obama. That fact shaped a lot of what TPM now is. But TPM existed for years before that. In fact TPM was born in a situation not entirely unlike the one we find ourselves in right now. I wrote the first post on what was then just a one person blog political blog (the word already existed but I wasn’t aware of its existence until sometime later) on November 13th, 2000, just days into the Bush v Gore Florida recount.

TPM was born in opposition. So it is not an unfamiliar role for us. It’s natural.

I’ve been telling you recently how one of my big goals for next year is dedicating more resources and organizational focus to original reporting. That is only more important now. If anything it makes me want to put even more emphasis on investigative reporting. That’s costly and time-consuming. But it seems critical in the period we’re moving into. We think a lot of the big policy changes that are coming – on health care, financial regulation, taxes, climate change and a host of other issues. But in many ways what I am most interested in and concerned about is the machinery of government and civil society itself.

These may seem like kind of elite concerns when it comes to millions of people losing their health care, modest progress on global action on climate change getting torched. But it’s not an either/or. I’ve written a lot about the authoritarian roots of the Trump movement over the last year. That’s real. We need to have that at the forefront of our thinking.

There are basic structures of government, the protection of independent social and political action from government, that make up the gears and fly-wheels of political change, the mechanisms by which better political futures can be created. Lose those and you move into a very dark place. Some of the most important are preserving an independent judiciary, guarding against the politicization of the exercise of state power, preserving and expanding voting rights. Much of this can be bundled under the heading of making sure that a state in the hands of creeping authoritarianism does not hollow out civil society.

This is an area where independent media – media not so large that it needs to have a transactional relationship of the government of the day – plays a critical role. We intend to be there playing that role.

What the last 24 hours has made me think much more about is community. People who are pushed out into the political wilderness need a place to congregate, share and develop ideas. TPM is principally a news organization. The entire organization is tailored to that end. But it’s always, in different guises, also been a place to hash out political and policy ideas. Before last night’s election I had tentative plans to set up a new section of the site dedicated to an open discussion of the big public policy questions confronting the center-left and left. There’s a lot to hash out. This seems even more important to me now.

These are just some initial thoughts. I’ll be expanding on them in the days to come. As disappointing as last night’s results were and as much as it tempts me personally at moments to withdraw into the private realm, I think it makes what we do even more important than it would have been with a happier outcome. I am committed to making good on that responsibility. I welcome your comments, advice, insights and support.

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