I've always worried that I'm not quite a "natural" blogger. I was never the kind of person who e-mailed all sorts of interesting things to various overlapping mailing lists, and I've always written too long and too infrequently. I'm sort of amazed that this blog has the audience it does, given my lapses and my sometimes wonky interests. But I've always thought it would be great to be part of a group blog, one which would provide its own provocations, and in which I wouldn't be the only person responsible for content. (Acknowledging that commentors provide a lot of the content and value here as they do elswehere, especially recently.)
That's why I'm so thrilled to be joining the group that will be contributing at the start of Josh Marshall's TPMCafe, which goes live today (May 31). The group of people who will be participating in the "coffeehouse" portion of the new site is extraordinary: Three are my colleagues and former colleagues at the New America Foundation: Steve Clemons, Mike Lind, and Karen Kornbluh. Really, if there was a single reason I joined New America this year, it was for the opportunity to have a steady, water-cooler dialogue with these three and others, and it has lived up to that expectation. Other participants I've had some long and provocative exchanges with, although I don't know them as well as I'd like to: Ed Kilgore, Greg Anrig, Reed Hundt. (I always use Hundt as an example of the reach that a blog can have. Last fall I wrote something not quite accurate about how the Federal Communications Commission works, and within an hour, I had a comment and email from Hundt, a former FCC chair, gently correcting me, which I've always thought exemplified the brilliance of online collaboration through blogs: its easy to make errors, but even easier to correct them.)
And others -- Annie Lamott, Marshall Wittmann, Judith Shulevitz, I know only through their writing. (I do know that I went to college approximately with Judith Shulevitz, so I'm sure that over the course of this we will find some common bonds!)
In addition to this group, Josh has brought Matt Yglesias's entire blog under the wing of TPMCafe (further proof that anti-trust enforcement is dead), added a blog by the very smart Ken Baer, and will maintain the blog that Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren started at the time of the bankruptcy bill. If you look around, there seem to be some indicators of other features as well. So I've got one cubicle in a corporate empire.
It's also extremely flattering to be asked to participate in this by Josh, who I don't know well. I had always admired his journalism at The American Prospect and elsewhere, and his was certainly the first "blog" I read regularly. I doubt I would have seen just how to use this form well without his example. With the exception that I was never as interested in the Chandra Levy/Gary Condit melodrama as he was, I've often felt slavishly imitative of what he was doing, to the extent that I sometimes had to pull back and change topics so as not to track him too closely. I think TPMCafe, in addition to bringing together a lot of brainy liberals, will help Josh do what he does best, and what blogs can do best, which is sometimes to grab an issue and, as Howell Raines used to say, "flood the zone," and other times pull back and be more eclectic and imaginative.
As for The Decembrist, I expect to keep it going. I may sometimes cross-post, or use this for longer points that don't seem to fit in with the conversation of the moment at TPMcafe. I know that Josh intends to to cycle new voices into the TPMCafe discussion, so I don't regard that as permanent. On the other hand, I don't know that I can keep a steady stream of posts here and there, and do any other writing or actual work. So there will be some tension, and we'll have to see how it plays out. I am confident that everyone who enjoys The Decembrist will want to read TPMCafe, though, so be sure to bookmark it. The conversation's started already, my name has been invoked, and I'm late!