Email Of The Day

Mostly for the bottom part:

Hi Andrew, I know you’ll be receiving hundreds, likely thousands, of tributes and thank-yous this week, notes of appreciation long and short from your readers around the world. I hope you find time in your transition to read and absorb these messages of love and support. I hope too that you find pleasure and satisfaction in knowing that your readers appreciate you for who you are, not just what you do. You deserve all the good things you’re going to read about yourself, including (hopefully) this big chunk from me.

You surely know this already, but you’ve worked yourself into your readers’ daily lives in a way that cannot entirely be explained by your intellect and skill as a writer, prodigious as your talents may be. The internet is full of smart and talented writers. But their readers don’t know their favorite bands, their favorite shows, their favorite comedians, their favorite drag queens, where they vacation, what turns them on, what turns them off, the names of their partners, and, of course (because most people keep these thing private), deeply intimate details about their personal health. I haven’t seen these writers at their best and their worst. I was not brought to tears when their dogs died. I don’t even know if they have dogs. But you, Andrew, are unique. We have come to know you. You have come to be our friend, and we will miss you. I will miss you.

I’m finding it difficult to tell you how important your voice has been to me personally, and I think more broadly, to the political discourse, since I began reading the Dish eight years ago (I’ve read it nearly every day since). Back then, I was finishing law school in South Carolina. Raised in a very liberal, very Christian southern family, I had never felt quite at home in the red state of my birth or in the academy of conventional liberal thought.

In your voice I recognized a fellow-traveler, and – more importantly – an honest voice in what felt to me like an increasingly dishonest world. Between you and another fellow-traveler – Barack Obama – I felt a renewed sense of hope that there was space for honesty and integrity in public debate, or at least a worthy counterpoint to the toxic truthiness fed to us for eight years by the Bush Administration-Fox News noise machine.

You and Obama were certainly not Bush’s only critics. But you were his most important critics, because you recognized rightly that Bush’s biggest failures were not failures of policy (though his policies were failures); they were failures of process. They were failures, on some level, of judgment and character – the result of rash and reckless decision making that prioritized emotion and ideology over conservative, rational consideration based on ascertainable facts.

This always struck me as a moral critique as much as it was a political critique, and I always believed it was the most compelling reason for Obama’s candidacy. When I told my friends – Democrats and Republicans – in 2008 that the first reason I was voting for Obama because he was the “conservative” candidate (“small-c conservative,” I’d add), and the second reason was that he was the liberal candidate, everyone scratched their heads. No one knew what I was talking about.

But you know what I’m talking about. I think you learned these lessons yourself, the hard way. And I learned them – at least in part – from you. The lessons ground into me in those years inform my thinking as a practicing attorney – and indeed, just a normal person – every day.

I now live in D.C., and I don’t write on the internet much. But I do make arguments for a living. And I know how hard it is to work in an adversarial business while maintaining your integrity, to make winning arguments without giving in to the forces of ego and insecurity that will make bad facts disappear and turn nuanced arguments into grade-A cable news bullshit. Your open, daily struggle to examine and re-examine your own views is an act of moral virtue and courage, and I know of no other writer who is as vigilant in this regard. You should be very proud of that. It’s your character, not your intelligence, that makes you special. And to have built the credibility you have in this town – where a premium is placed on smarts, and too little value placed on character – is a colossal achievement.

I don’t mean to make this overly sentimental. We have obviously never met, and I cannot look into your heart. Like everyone – as I’m sure you would be the first to acknowledge – you have your share of faults and failures. But you (and your fantastic team, I should not fail to mention) have done something great here, something of which you should be very proud, and something that has been very meaningful to me. It’s not every day I write ridiculously long, laudatory emails to strangers. But there is so much that I will miss about the Dish – your faith; your skepticism; your humor; your humanity; your appreciation for the subversive and the absurd; your deep reverence for the rich complexities of the American experience; all the inside jokes. I am sad to see you guys move on, but I know you have much more to give. I look forward to seeing what that is, as I know you do too.

So, all that said, I’m closing with a parting gift. I’ll call it “The 10 Pet Shop Boys Songs Most Likely to Double As the Dish’s Final Post.”  Here goes:

10.  This Must Be the Place I’ve Waited Years to Leave

9.  A New Life

8.  Happiness Is An Option

7.  Leaving [embedded above]

6.  No Time For Tears

5.  The End of the World

4.  To Step Aside

3.  I Made My Excuses and Left

2.  I Don’t Know What You Want But I Can’t Give It Anymore

1.  I’d Rather Leave While I’m in Love

Best of luck to you, Andrew, and all the Dish staff. Get some rest!