centrist pundit John Avlon being interviewed by Solomon Kleinsmith in 2012

11 May 2011

Political Pundit John Avlon Among Centrist Rising Stars

Solomon interviewing centrist pundit John Avlon at the 2012 conventions.

There aren’t too many strident centrists in the world of political punditry. Some mislabel those who strive toward journalistic integrity as being centrist, but that’s just being nonpartisan.

To be clear, I’m not criticizing being nonpartisan – we need genuine journalism much more than we need centrist punditry, but when I see things like this it heartens me:

In April, CNN.com was up over last year with 1.45 billion global page views and 100.2 million global video views due in large part to CNN’s coverage of the Royal Wedding (see full numbers below) and CNN.com’s Opinion section.

CNN.com Opinion had its best month ever with 18.9 million global page views, 61% higher than last year.  The top five writers in the Opinion section for April were CNN contributor LZ Granderson, CNN senior political analysts Gloria Borger, best-selling author Bob Greene, senior political columnist for The Daily Beast John Avlon and syndicated columnist and NPR commentator Ruben Navarrette Jr.

(bold mine)

I don’t know how often John Avlon is on CNN’s cable news channel, as I don’t bother to watch news on TV (by far the worst way to ingest news), but I do get alerts when clips of him are shared on various sites and follow just about everything he writes that makes it online. I’ve been a fan of his work for years, since the Publication of his first book about six years ago (Independent Nation: How Centrism Can Change American Politics) and his column on Radical Middle.

With all of the extremist nonsense flying around, it doesn’t surprise me at all that his star is rising at CNN, as a voice of reason among all the zealotry. I suspect this will continue, and his work will continue to help nurture the groundswell of centrists and moderates who are waking up around the country, and beginning to build a foundation for an opposition to the left and right in coming years.

(Editor’s Note: As I’m copying and pasting this over onto the new site, around six years after writing this, I’ll point out that Mr. Avlon is now the Editor-in-Chief at the Daily Beast, and has written a few more excellent books.)

I had the pleasure to speak with him at the launch event of No Labels, very briefly at the conference of Independents a few months later, and a few other times by phone and email. He also has reached out to some of the smaller centrist grassroots groups I’ve been in contact with as well.

He’s putting his money where his mouth is, and along with trailblazer candidates like Eliot Cutler and organizations like the Independent Party of Oregon and No Labels (which Avlon is, of course, a co-founder), centrists finally are starting to have some things they can look to for leadership and hope that things will get better for the center of the American electorate, and the country at large.

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11 thoughts on “Political Pundit John Avlon Among Centrist Rising Stars”

    1. Yeah… The new theme was all screwed up, so I reverted back to the old one, and this theme handles images totally differently, so it isn’t showing.

      Here… I’ll post it just to gloat 🙂

      1. You ought to get him to join in an open thread so we can all have a chance to develop a rapport with him. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must resume throwing darts at a printout of your Facebook pic.

        1. It’s too bad you couldn’t make it to the No Labels launch. That isn’t a bad idea… the open thread with John Avlon.

          I like that idea in general actually… try to get movers and shakers among centrists and independents to come on the site and respond to comments. I think this would be better than a chat, since people would be able to come back and comment on their own schedule, rather than being limited to a narrow window.

          Just added this to my idea box.

  1. Truth be told, I was heartened at your return (even if temporarily) to the old format. The new one “bugged” me, pardon the pun.

    1. I took a quick look around the best places to buy themes… and found one that I think will work out even better than the one I was using had it not been buggy. Hopefully it works out better.

  2. I like Avlon a lot (disclosure: he included my campaign in a cnn.com article). But I think he & NoLabels are too big-tent. And we watched Avlon on Parker-Spitzer let Eliot Spitzer get away with claiming Democrats are “moderates.”

    To use a basketball metaphor, we have to box out centrism more, claim more specific ground and be confrontational (politely but substantively) where we disagree.

    1. The problem, Jeff, is that among so-called moderates or centrists are people like me who are passionate about the issues we care about, but have no passion for actual centrism. I don’t purposely try to walk the center line, making sure I don’t stray too far right or left. My politics usually come from a pragmatic place. If a dollar spent funding Planned Parenthood saves $3 in future spending and I’m in favor of that, does that make me a leftist? If, as a person who works in the transportation industry, I see way too many government agencies stepping all over each other to do basically the same thing and I would like to see them consolidated and reduced, does that push me to the right? But if I’m in favor of many of the transportation industry regulations because I know it to be fact that without them companies will NOT do the right thing, am I liberal?

      No, I have issues that go both ways, but I really couldn’t give a rip about staying in the center. My passions don’t lie in the center.

      1. We need to decide amongst ourselves exactly what we’re talking about when we talk about centrism. Is it an actual ideology (finding a midpoint between the left and right on every issue under the sun) or simply a political approach (culling the best ideas from the left and the right)? Most centrists, I find, prefer the latter. “Pragmatism” is the best word for the ideology Jeff would like us to box out.

        @Jeff: There’s not much anyone can do with Spitzer. He’s pretty much the left-wing Bill O’Reilly; his own editorializing makes up two-thirds of his interviews.

        1. Yes, pragmatism is how I would describe my philosophy, but I verified on the campaign trail that “pragmatism” the word is a Rorschach test — almost everyone thinks their politics are the most pragmatic.

          For now, the terms I’ve homed in on are freedom + fairness. Freedom has become a code word for the right and a dirty word for the left; vice versa with fairness (mostly — “Fair Tax” an exception); that’s not right — we almost all value both and explicitly so.

          Yet there’s a tension between giving everyone a fair chance, as Lincoln pleaded, and leaving everyone their freedom. I’m engaging that tension in the political book I’m writing (but got sidetracked from when I took on a non-political book writing job).

          Actually, philosophers have described this tension as within “freedom” itself. Negative freedom is the absence of state controls on you and the threat of undue violence, etc. Positive freedom is having stable access to basic economic needs and physical safety, so that you are able to have Lincoln’s “fair chance in the race of life.”

          This concern is partially semantic — what substantive term is both accurate and promising for branding our pragmatism? Maybe I’ve given up on “pragmatism” too easily. But it also sounds a little jaded, lacking American idealism, etc. (“sounds,” I write intentionally, not “is”).

          Other branding ideas?

      2. This is how I try to look at issues too. I just don’t like “ideologue” driven decision making. It is way too simplistic and it dominates the political scene.

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