Regular readers will stop in and say, “Wait … what’s going on here?”
Not that they’ll be shocked to see a drastic change to the face of my blog. I’ve changed it regularly for more than a decade. This web space has always been more about a hobby than a platform — and likely always will be.
But this is perhaps the most drastic change yet, as I drop the narrowly-scoped “Dispatches From the Cumberlands” for a broader (yet more politically-themed) “Slightly Right.” It is one part my viewpoints and commentary, as it has always been, and one part content curation.
With that said, let me tell you what it isn’t: This is not an effort to provide an alternative to The Drudge Report. That would be silly. Matt Drudge may be going through an identity crisis, but he’s carved out his niche on the internet and there’ll never be another — though that hasn’t stopped plenty of folks from trying.
Nor is it an effort to emulate Drudge — though you might not be convinced, with the bold headline at the top of the curated links, followed by columns of simple text links. Let’s just say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
I’m a news junkie. I should be; I work in the news business. I’m a political junkie, too. There’s irony in both of those statements, since I’ve never been more disgusted at the state of American journalism and American politics than I am right now. I don’t see much sensibility in either these days, but my hope is that through my own writing — even if I’m the only reader of my work — I can keep a bit of common sense alive.
That’s where the name comes in: Slightly Right. I’ve always admired Dwight D. Eisenhower’s quote about political extremes: “Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.” He’s right, you know. The most effective way to govern is not from the right or from the left, but from the center.
I’m an unabashed conservative. As a news editor and publisher, I tried to tiptoe around that for a lot of years — not because I was ashamed of my own ideologies, but because I didn’t want them to interfere with my work. With American trust in news media at an all-time low, the last thing I want to do is give anyone reason to question my work as biased based on my political leanings. But I’m a community newspaper editor, and my work rarely revolves around partisan issues — even when the subjects are political. On a community scale, especially in rural America, the issues are much more often about urban vs. rural than about left vs. right.
With all of that said, I’m not a Republican and have never considered myself one. My home state, Tennessee, does not require or even allow voter registration by party affiliation. But, if it did, I would be an independent. I’ve rarely voted a straight ticket, often choosing a mix of Republicans and Democrats on my ballot.
That’s because I’m Slightly Right: a conservative, but with a moderate stance. It’s what Tennessee State Senator Ken Yager calls “a Howard Baker Republican.” He uses that term to describe himself. I can’t use it for myself because, as I’ve already said, I’m not a Republican. Maybe I can be a Howard Baker conservative. Baker, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader who famously asked of President Nixon, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” before going on to be President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff, just happens to be from the same small county I’m from. Just as the endearing term, “Howard Baker Republican,” might suggest, he was guided by pragmatism rather than extremism, and could just as ably work with Democrats as with Republicans.
Indeed, Baker’s boss was very much a “slightly right” leader in his own right. Ronald Reagan is viewed today as something of a father figure of modern conservatism, but I’ve long maintained that if Reagan were alive today, he couldn’t be elected. He was too moderate. Reagan had some very staunchly conservative policies, but folks also tend to forget that he raised taxes, increased the national debt and — perhaps most notably, at least in today’s political climate — championed gun control. The most basic thing about Reagan: he knew how to compromise.
Not since the GOP-led Congress and the Clinton White House of the ’90s has America understood the art of compromise. It has been lost, to our detriment.
I’ve been criticized by my Republican friends as a “liberal” because I didn’t vote for Donald Trump (relax; I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either) and because of my stances on environmental issues — especially mountaintop-removal mining … and I’ve been criticized by my Democrat friends as a “conservative” because of my stances on social issues like gun control and abortion. All the while, I just lean back and smile and say, “Don’t try to pigeonhole me.” If you do, chances are you’ll be wrong.
So this is my focus on Slightly Right … at least, it will be until it bores me, which might not take long; as always, I’m doing this more for my own entertainment than anything else. For that reason, I won’t make an exhaustive effort to update curated news links every hour or even every day. As I said at the top, this isn’t an effort to provide an alternative to The Drudge Report. But I tend to drop links I find of interest in notes to friends from time to time, and I’ll begin dropping them here, as well … and, sometimes, commentating on them.
As always, drop me a line at benwgarrett at gmail dot com if something is on your mind.
— Ben Garrett