December 10, 2014

A case for how The New Republic was overwhelmed by changes in politics, not media


Final VerdictIn the Atlantic this week, Peter Beinhart, former editor of The New Republic, argues that the takeover by Chris Hughes that resulted in the departure of top editors is less about a shift in the media landscape than the gradual departure from former publisher Marty Peretz’s idiosyncratic but forceful brand of liberal discourse in a very different political climate.

One the one hand, Hughes and Peretz are playing a different long game: “If you see TNR as a crusading publication in the tradition of Partisan Review and Dissent, it makes sense to subsidize its losses. If you see it as a less successful BuzzFeed, it does not,” Beinhart writes.

the new republic cover

The cover celebrating the centenary of the New Republic—and the last issue most of its staff worked on.

But the bigger picture story Beinhart paints is the shift to the right in American politics — there’s no longer a left to criticize from the center:

The key factor, I think, has been the shift of American public-policy discourse to the right. As mainstream Democrats have grown more centrist and mainstream Republicans have grown more radical, it has become virtually impossible to craft a provocative, credible form of liberalism that lies somewhere between the two.

Peretz loved taking stances against what he considered the “Old Left”— Beinhart points to the review of Melville House‘s Final Verdict by Walter Schneir as an example, a book that was praised in The Nation and the New York Times Book Review, among others.

Although too young to have witnessed the heyday of the Old Left in the 1930s, Marty still nursed a grudge against those progressives who had apologized for Stalin. Long after anyone except for a few octogenarian anti-anti-communists on the Upper West Side still cared, TNR kept trying to prove that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg had been Soviet spies.

Regardless of those crazier moments, Beinhart argues that today, that space for “contentious, crusading journalism” exists on the left of the Democratic Party elite, and that whoever fills that space “will be The New Republic’s true heir.”


Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.