Crack for the civic-minded

It’s election time again, and again it’s hard to exaggerate the importance of the outcome for our country and the world. It’s also time for political junkies to admit that from now until November 4 we’re going to be spending an entirely unhealthy amount of time following the news.

It’s come to my attention that a few people are not as news-obsessed as I am, and in particular that not everyone follows politics online. Like a lot of people, I really got started reading political blogs during the ramp-up to the Iraq war, developed an incurable habit during the 2004 election season, and have continued to adjust my online reading habits as bloggers have come and gone. What follows is a smattering of sites I find worthwhile or think you might enjoy in this election year.

First of all, I can’t recommend Matt Yglesias’s blog at the Atlantic‘s website highly enough. Matt’s writing is consistently original, relevant, and interesting, way better than most op-ed columns you’ll read, and he’s a central figure in the political blogosphere so he links to other good stuff. Matt’s politics are pretty traditional liberal Democrat, so don’t go there looking for radical critiques of the status quo. But I probably read Matt more than any other political blogger. Good on policy issues and electoral strategy, not as focused on the day-to-day horserace.

Another blog at the Atlantic is written by Mark Ambinder, a seasoned political reporter. Ambinder actually travels with candidates, makes phone calls, and does interviews, and he’s a pretty good reporter who benefits from the independence that comes with blogging. On the downside, he sometimes suffers from the political reporter’s disease of simply repeating spin from various interested parties at the expense of solid analysis.

In 2004 I became obsessed with a blog by “The Mystery Pollster” that featured really lucid analysis of polling trends and methodologies by an anonymous Democratic pollster. That pollster has since outed himself as Mark Blumenthal and has moved his online address to, where he and a few other pollsters present analysis and aggregated polling data. Many major media organizations sponsor polls that they then promote in their stories; presents all of these polls and discusses their differing methodologies, biases, and the trends that emerge from the data.

Real Clear Politics also has a poll aggregation page that’s worth checking out. The site’s main page is a digest of political news that frankly seems dangerously ample and not entirely of acceptable quality.

If you want basic information about what the candidates say they stand for, there’s an oddly designed site called On the Issues that claims to have “Every Political Leader on Every Issue.” The New York Times has an election guide to the presidential candidates that might be a better place to start.

Of course, just reading a candidate’s statements about her platform isn’t enough when you’re trying to decide between several relatively good candidates, as Democrats are during this primary season. What you really want is analysis. For health care issues in particular, Ezra Klein is a great place to start. For the economy, there’s Paul Krugman, of course, and Brad Plumer, and Brad DeLong if you don’t mind some fairly esoteric analysis every once in a while.

I should also mention Andrew Levine’s pugnacious Democrats Now, which provides intelligent agitation for a more progressive and bold Democratic Party. The Agonist is another left-of-center site that has a fair proportion of election analysis. Kevin Drum is more centrist but worth a read — a nice mix of substance and gossip.

Four others that I shouldn’t leave out: Obsidian Wings has some really good progressive writers and a few odd conservatives; the comments section has been good in the past. Lawyers, Guns & Money is eclectic and not always election-focused, but their writers are sharp. Tapped is the group blog of the American Prospect magazine and is a nice one-stop shop for the current progressive buzz. And Balkinization, my favorite legal blog, will be essential if and when this year’s electoral process winds up in court.

What about the “old media”? As a political junkie, I certainly read my share of The New York Times and the Washington Post; I also like the Guardian (which has a new U.S.-centric web edition if you’re so inclined) and the BBC. The newsweeklies all suck except for the Economist, which is smart but heavily biased. I find television news, whether cable or broadcast, so ridden with omissions and bias that I think its net effect is to create ignorance in those who watch it.

It helps when reading political coverage to note the byline and try to keep track of that reporter from day to day or week to week; you’ll be a much more informed consumer of that writer’s point of view. Remember that reporters traveling with a presidential campaign, and political reporters generally, tend to get caught up in a herd mentality, so the conventional wisdom that shapes mainstream news articles and is passed on as analysis by talking heads is often quite wrong. Of course, since the mass media’s conventional wisdom shapes reality whether it’s accurate or not, it’s worth knowing the press’s current groupthink.

For excellent press criticism, check out Media Matters and Dean Baker’s Beat the Press, both from a left-liberal perspective.

How are you going to read all this? Well, underemployment or an understanding boss helps, as does canceling your cable TV service. I’d also recommend using an RSS reader of some sort. You can “subscribe” to most of the sites I’ve mentioned and get their latest headlines automatically, then click and read only the articles that look interesting.

If the sites I’ve listed aren’t enough for you, remember most of them have blogrolls full of more political sites.

And I’m sure lots of other people here have favorite political websites. Please share in the comments.

30 responses to “Crack for the civic-minded”

  1. Dave says:

    Let me add one that I just came across this morning (via Yglesias): PolySigh, a group blog that seems to have a heavy election focus right now. Among other stuff currently on their front page is an analysis of Iowa results that shows Huckabee is not well liked by Catholic voters.

  2. Robert says:

    No Salon blogs?! I thought you were at least a Glenn Greenwald fan. And I also like their War Room blog, though it’s on the superficial side.

  3. Dave says:

    I like Greenwald, but all that text is exhausting. He’s probably a once-a-week read for me. I should check out the War Room again now that the season is ramping up.

  4. Beth W says:

    Wow, that’s a lot of blogs. I appreciate the list although I’m not going to get myself started reading all of them or else I may become addicted. I have found in the last week or so that I have nearly endless patience for election analysis. Since I don’t have cable, I listen to npr and watch Charlie Rose on pbs. Dave, what do you think of Charlie Rose?

    Did anyone see Hillary Clinton interviewed by Maria Menounos on Access Hollywood? And what about her emotional speech yesterday, good or bad?

  5. Ruben Mancillas says:


    I considered myself a politics junkie but I stand in awe. Thanks for these recs.

    I don’t want to point out how closely my tracking various horseraces/predicting the outcomes of particular matchups (don’t even get me started on the selection of the vice president) is queasily similar to my fantasy hoops obsession but it’s there, trust me.

    And thanks to my east coast friends for the very warm welcome on saturday night.

  6. TC says:

    The Slate Political Gabfest is an excellent weekly podcast that does a good job of covering the immediate political news as well as covering media coverage of that news. Sort of like a lighthearted (but still intellectually rigorous) On The Media.

  7. Dave says:

    Oh lord, how I hate Charlie Rose. I find him to be a terrible interviewer, always interrupting his guests and forcing his own frame of reference onto everything. He’s also a real suck-up to business interests.

    Ruben — I clearly see my own politics addiction as analogous to the way lots of people follow sports. Some people even have room in their brains/reading schedules for politics and sports (e.g., several bloggers I linked to, like Yglesias and Scott Lemieux at LGM), but I don’t. For some reason, when I was a kid I picked up the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats while remaining fuzzy about the American League and the National League. (I know one of them has the designated-hitter rule, but I can never remember which.)

  8. bryan says:

    wow, dave. you’re really ahead of me when it comes to football.

  9. brooke says:

    Great, just what I need is more information to digest. Actually this *is* great information, thanks Dave! It’s always helpful to know what the smart kids are reading. I get my fix by listening to my local NPR affiliate (streamed all day most days except Sunday) and reading the Times, as well as a smattering of blogs here and there, depending on the topic.

    But I have to disagree about Charlie Rose. I love who he interviews, and his perspective. I don’t watch him that much anymore, but every now and again I notice he’s interviewing someone interesting. Did you see him interviewing Jay Z? Classic TV, that. Charlie Rose should never, ever say “diddy”

    I kind of think of Charlie Rose as on older, manlier, less dynamic TV version of Terry Gross…

  10. bryan says:

    older, manlier, less dynamic TV version of Terry Gross…


  11. Beth W says:

    Charlie Rose and Terry Gross both suck up to their guests.
    And I love them both.

  12. Dave says:

    I don’t love Terry Gross, but she is fucking Mary Poppins compared to Charlie Rose. My god is he a self-important corporate tool. Completely unbearable. He gets great guests because he’s the only serious, daily interviewer on TV in the whole country. And even then he makes terrible selections. How many CEOs do you really want to listen to? How many pro-war foreign-affairs experts on a “balanced” panel discussing the Iraq war? Charlie Rose reeks of the worst of the Clinton era, and that’s a putrid smell indeed.

  13. Dave says:

    I should have said earlier: Thanks to ssw for suggesting this post.

  14. Beth W says:

    So, you’re saying you don’t like Charlie Rose?

  15. bryan says:

    no, i just don’t like football.

  16. ssw says:

    Thank you SO much for this post. I did ask for it, and we got it. YEAH

    Beth, I watched the interview with Hilary, and it was great. She may not win, but I totally admire her courage, spirit, and ambition.

  17. Dave says:

    I thought Hillary’s emotional moment on TV was nice, but apparently the press is determined to make it into an example of either her “weakness” or her “calculation.” It was probably about as calculated as everything a politician at that level does when cameras are around. I don’t support Hillary at all, but the sexist shit that the press throws at her really pisses me off.

  18. brooke says:

    “There is a moment in the life of every generation if it’s to make its mark on history, when that spirit — spirit — has to shine through, spirit that says we are casting aside our fears, and our doubts and our cynicism… when we embrace the difficult, daunting task of remaking a nation…”

    — Barack Obama [via WP]

    Hillary is totally qualified to be president, and I’ll support with out hesitation Hillary if she wins the nomination.

    But Barack is like a much needed breath of fresh air. I share the widely circulated sentiment that there hasn’t been this kind of hope and optimism in politics since the 60’s. Barack in ’08!!

  19. brooke says:

    The sentence “Hillary is totally qualified to be president, and I’ll support with out hesitation Hillary if she wins the nomination.” should read “Hillary is totally qualified to be president, and I’ll support her without hesitation if she wins the nomination.”

    Too much Star Wars, I watch…

  20. Marleyfan says:

    Remind me to never discuss politics with Dave, I think I’d feel like an incoming freshman listening to my professor, with my head leaning forward and a stupefied look on my face.

    Great links!

  21. Natasha says:

    Awesome post! Thanks Dave! I’ve always shared your opinion that mass media successfully aims to create mass ignorance; hence I stopped watching the news. I never realized there were so many other sources of political information. I would love to read most of it. Why exactly do you not support Hillary? And who do you support at this point and why?

  22. lane says:


    Dave was referencing BASEBALL.

    This is why we all love you.

  23. I was waiting for someone to get my joke but apparently it was too likely that I may not have known which sport he was talking about. Thanks, Lane, for letting me off the hook.

  24. Dave says:

    I was referring to rugby, myself.

    For anyone who agrees with me that health care is one of the most important issues facing the country, here’s a chart by the Kaiser Family Foundation comparing candidate’s positions. (Top three Democrats shown; you can compare others, but it quickly becomes obvious that the Republicans don’t care at all about fixing the system.) (Link via the Apostropher.)

  25. bryan says:

    re: rogan’s suggestion. i appreciate that it might make the student feel less threatened and still protect the teacher (by having a witness on hand). but this is a pretty serious situation which may very well warrant administrative intervention. i would ask the dean of students to schedule the meeting and hold it on neutral territory — the dean’s office, not yours.

  26. bryan says:

    oops. that comment belongs on “straddling offence.”

  27. lane says:


    I’m disappointed that you were joking.

    It seemed so within the realm of possibility and was . . . delightful.

  28. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Dave, just had to tell you how much I’m enjoying the Yglesias site.

    My favorite line today was about Huckabee reminding him of Greg Stillson (and if anyone gets that reference without checking color me impressed)

    And not to push the point too hard but I also like the consistent Wizards notes too…

    Bryan, the Wizards (formerly the Bullets) do NOT use the designated hitter.

  29. Dave says:

    Yglesias and his goddamn sports blogging. A distraction from the real issues, which include detailed Wire blogging.

  30. Dave says:

    Another blog for y’all: I thought the blogger was still on hiatus, but he’s back. Spencer Ackerman is a sharp young journalist who focuses on Iraq and other national-security issues (and is Matt Yglesias’s roommate). He blogs at Too Hot for TNR — so named because he got fired from The New Republic for not toeing that rag’s line on Middle Eastern policy.