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Open Columnist - Asking for Input From Readers

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As many of you know, I have just started writing a nationally syndicated weekly newspaper column through Creators Syndicate. From the beginning, I set out to make this column different from the typical inside-the-Beltway, divorced-from-everyday-reality bromides that fill our media - and that means more than just being one of the only syndicated columnists in America anchored in and reporting from a non-DC/New York location. It means rejecting the old model whereby a columnist simply issues their edicts to the masses from Mt. Olympus. It means engaging readers in a far more serious way than the rest of the insulated Punditburo. And I feel a special responsibility to this considering I (think) I am one of the first - if not the first - syndicated newspaper columnists to come out of the Netroots.

To kick this off, I want to ask readers for some input on my first few columns. As I said, this is just the initial step - I have some more ideas on how to really try to pursue the spirit of transparency inherent in Open Source culture. I was really inspired by the OpenLeft effort to open up the legislative process a few months ago as it related to Sen. Durbin's telecom bill. I want to try to be the first Open Columnist, if you will - and this is just the beginning.

So, to review, here are my first four columns, from most recent to oldest. I am including a synopsis and a few thoughts on why I chose to write them:

  • Immoral, Not Inept: The Bush administration is regularly chastised for being unwilling and/or unable to engage in hardball diplomacy. But in a Central American vote happening this weekend under a virtual American media blackout, this same administration is using fear and intimidation to go to bat for its biggest corporate donors. I thought this was an important column to write because the vote was happening just a few days later.
  • Tyranny of the Tiny Minority: New polls show the public is outraged that Congress has been unable to pass anything. But a look at the mathematics inherent in our constitutional framework shows that a tiny minority has, through the U.S. Senate, the ability to hold the rest of the country hostage. That means state legislatures are where real progress will - and is - being made.
  • Over the Dead Bodies...Again: The term "NAFTA" has become a 4-letter epithet to most working-class Americans. So why are Democrats bowing down to corporate lobbyists and pushing to expand NAFTA just a few months after campaigning on an explicit promise to reform the old NAFTA?
  • The Lesson of the DMV: A look at how a routine trip to the Division of Motor Vehicles tells the story about budget and tax debates better than any data or economist ever could.

I tried to cover the intersection of foreign policy and economic policy, a take on Washington that very few have explored, and more than a little state/local politics. I deliberately avoided covering any of the presidential machinations because I believe they are grossly over-covered by columnists, primarily because it is the lazy choice (it is far easier to simply write about what some presidential candidate said in a given week than actually doing some real reporting).

Over at DailyKos and OpenLeft, I've posted a poll asking you which column you think was the best. It is a very blunt instrument, so for those who have a bit more time, please use the comments section here or there to expand further on your votes. Which of the columns did you like and why? Which did you hate and why? Do you think my rationale about where to focus and where not to focus is sound? What issues do you think I should delve into? What issues should I avoid because they are too overexposed? And obviously, if you have specific column ideas, send them along.

Clearly, four columns cannot comprise the overall scope that I hope to cover on an ongoing basis. For instance, I plan to write on land politics and some civil liberties issues, and I also hope to focus more intently on Iraq (though again, that issue is so covered by pundits, that I only want to weigh in when I have something to say that few others are saying). But this gives you a flavor, and anyone who follows my writing knows that my passion is economic and class issues, which I think these columns represent.

So thanks in advance for your feedback. The more I hear from readers, the better a writer I can be, and more importantly, the more I can use this platform to represent the unrepresented. Our movement is regularly ignored and vilified by the media - and we rightly complain about mistreatment from the David Broders and Joe Kleins. I want this platform to be a chance for us all to fight back - and I need your input to do that.

As always - if you'd like to see my column regularly in your local paper, use this directory to find the contact info for your local editorial page editors. Get get in touch with them and point them to my Creators Syndicate site.