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Posted by on Dec 23, 2008 in At TMV | 0 comments

Bloggers of the Year

There has been much begrudged acknowledgment of Time Magazine’s designation of Barack Obama as the Person of the Year. The pick was such a no-brainer that, while perhaps deserved, left many grumbling with its anti-climatic qualities.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not an Obama hater. I was a relatively early supporter of Obama’s and found him exciting both throughout the primaries and the general election, though that excitement waxed and waned in waves. I was as excited and emotional as anyone on election night watching the first African American ascend to the highest office in the land and equally excited that the man himself was of such an exceptional caliber.

But many of us who have been watching the election intently since early this year are starting to go into a bit of Obama overload. Indeed, I can only imagine that Obama himself is going into Obama overload. There comes a point at which the excitement generated by a personage like Obama finds its way over the slippery slope of cult of personality. The Time designation of Person of the Year is in many ways a perfect example of this.

As Obama himself mentioned in numerous stump speeches, the real power in a campaign like his isn’t its glorification of the candidate itself, but rather its ability to excite and energize average, everyday folks into a greater degree of civic engagement. The success of the campaign, in fact, depends on such energy. So at a certain point the roles that the candidate and the supporters play in crafting a successful and moving campaign become, to some degree, blurred.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan’s call that for everything that Obama has brought to the table in 2008, the real stories are those of which you may not have heard. Stories about everyday folks who are changing the world in which we live and by engaging their immediate surroundings. In a substantial sense, these stories are as much about “people of the year” as Times crowning of Obama.

To that end, and because it so very much in vogue to not such-and-suches of the year, I would like to note a couple of bloggers who have absolutely made my year and whom I think are deserving of some recognition. My penchant in terms of blog recognition is to focus on independent bloggers, given that these folks often work their hearts out at maintaining qualities sites with no compensation and do so in additional to holding full-time jobs/studies.

To be as fair and balanced as possible I have chosen two indie bloggers to highlight, one from the leftward leaning end of the spectrum and one from the right. Here they are:

Freddie deBoer of L’Hote: As I understand it, Freddie started off as an avid commenter of numerous blogs including The American Scene, Matthew Yglesias (both at The Atlantic and following him over to Think Progress), Postmodern Conservative, Ross Douthat, Megan McArdle, and Eunmoia, among others. In June, Freddie decided to take his commentary from the footnotes of others’ posts to his own blog and has enjoyed an ever increasing readership ever since.

What I like most about Freddie’s blogging is that he commits himself utterly and completely to every post that he writes. Contra the often popular blurb posting that permeates some degree of most bloggers’ content, Freddie’s posts are pretty much always intensely searching and committed to exploring the full context of the topic at hand. Every post digs as far into intellectual terrain of the chosen topic in an effort to unearth as much insight as possible.

An unabashed lefty, Freddie’s primary interlocutors tend to be conservative thinkers. And while Freddie makes a point of challenging the prevailing wisdom of his ideological sparring partners, he also makes some of the most sincere efforts on the web to understand the underlying rationale and principles that motivate those individuals. Posts like this are an excellent example of Freddie’s commitment to rigorous and intellectually honest discourse.

For these reasons, Freddie’s posts are always interesting to read and apt to provide one with a fresh and insightful perspective on a range of topics that cut to the heart of things that matter in American life.

John Schwenkler of Upturned Earth: John is also a relatively new blogger who has experienced a relatively meteoric rise to blogging fame in that time. John started blogging as a means of supporting some journalistic endeavours he had on the go with Doublethink Online and the American Conservative Magazine. John quickly became a popular online stop over for libertarian and conservative thinkers alike and found himself invited to contribute to the @TAC group blog at the American Conservative online, then a regular columnist at Culture 11. Recently John has been invited to participate at The American Scene and his own blog, Upturned Earth, has become a feature blog in the Culture 11 constellation.

A philosophy student at UC Berkeley, father of one, and practicing Catholic, John brings what think is one of the most interesting and compelling mixes of sensibilities to his conservatism short of, perhaps, Andrew Sullivan. John’s conservatism seems always to be in some sort of flux and he seems more interested in exploring new and interesting question than conveniently and rigidly defining his own politics. That sense of exploring various possibilities is nicely displayed in a Skype conversation that I recorded with John back in September.

None of which is to say that John can’t throw down with the best of them on issues of importance, his is one of the clearest and most compelling voices I’ve heard railing against the use of torture on enemy detainees and his skepticism towards rushes to war are arresting. John also has the keen ability to sniff out incredibly interesting elements of American life that you would be hard pressed to run across anywhere else, but that also invariably demonstrate a real life correlate to a particular issue or topic he might want to discuss. I am always popping by John’s site, if for no other reason than I know I’ll learn a great deal while there.

In short, John is one of the careful and considered, but passionate and compassionate conservatives that leaves one with the hope that being conservative doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive to being cool.

So those are my picks. My two cents is that reading these two bloggers is a boon to anyone who frequents the blogosphere. But, obviously, picks like this are highly subjective and born out of just the sites that I happen to frequent. Of course, part of the fun of blogging lies in the sharing of these types of information and authours. So I’m curious to know, who would be your picks for 2008?

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