Who Are the Liberal Media’s Respected Thinkers?

shieldsAs a news junkie, I often find myself seeking out political discussions and debates on the various news networks. I like listening to the exchange of viewpoints and the impassioned sparring over serious topics from seasoned analysts. The roundtable and panel formats are my favorite. They’re much more interesting to me than the hyper-partisan, red meat shows that are designed more to fire up political bases than they are to enlighten anyone. I’ve already figured out through forty years of life lessons and experiences where I stand philosophically, thus I don’t need constant affirmation that my views are correct.

Still, I’m interested in what people on the other side of issues have to say, and I’m certainly open to being persuaded that I’m wrong. After all, I didn’t always support gay marriage. I wasn’t always against the death penalty. Some people might have even considered me to be a non-interventionist on foreign policy a long time ago. But with that open-mindedness has come a realization that I just can’t seem to escape: Liberals may largely control the media these days, but they’re nearly absent when it comes to serious, independent thinkers among their ranks.

I’m not saying that liberals in the media are dumb. Well, some of them certainly are, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. I’m saying that there’s just not a whole lot of depth when it comes to the supposed liberal elite in the media. Frankly, it disappoints me. After all, I want fruitful, robust debate. I want to hear opposing, well-reasoned sides of various issues. I want liberal thinkers in the media to convince me that my stance on an issue is wrong by stating a compelling case for why they are right.

The problem is that I just can’t seem to find such people.

When I listen to the opinionated media voices on the left, I very rarely hear any thought-provoking wisdom. I very rarely hear the advancement of pragmatic ideas for bettering the country. What I consistently hear is shallow, knee-jerk reactionism and parroted DNC talking points. And I’m not just talking about the loons over at MSNBC. I’m also talking about the academics who’ve won major achievement awards for their work – aka the geniuses at the New York Times, Newsweek, and the rest.

A classic example of the left’s deficiency in the area of serious thought played out last Friday on PBS’s Inside Washington. The weekly panel of distinguished columnists and commentators were discussing the State of the Union address, and some of the initiatives President Obama introduced in the speech. When the topic of raising the minimum wage came up, regular panelist Mark Shields took a deep, pensive breath and made this professorial statement in support of Obama’s plan:

“If you can’t pay somebody nine dollars an hour, you probably shouldn’t be in business.”

Well there you have it… If you own a company that would have a hard time adjusting to a 20%, across-the-board hike of your employees’ salaries, you might as well just hang things up. You don’t deserve your shot at the American dream!

What a constructive prognosis for businesses in a struggling economy.

Just for clarification purposes, I think it’s important to mention that Mark Shields is, in fact, not an angry teenager living in his parents’ basement. He’s a well-educated man in his seventies who has had a long and impressive career in politics, teaching, and writing. Yet, he not only felt comfortable saying something like that, but his demeanor suggested that he thought he’d said something pretty darned intellectual. The liberal panelist sitting next to him, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, certainly seemed to think so. She quickly voiced agreement with him.

Is this really what passes for profound, liberal wisdom these days? I fear it is.

Thankfully, fellow panelist Charles Krauthammer was there to broaden Shields’ horizons. “You talk about the economy as if it’s a moral instrument,” he said before explaining that in a country with a staggeringly high teenage unemployment rate, any additional costs thrown at business-hiring will only make the problem for minimum-wage earners worse.

I think liberals sometimes have some interesting points to make when it comes to social issues, but when the topic is the economy, federal spending, foreign policy, energy, or any other of the major challenges our country faces, it’s an entirely different story. There is an inexplicable, intellectual laziness on the left that seems to prevent these people from identifying the very real costs associated with any benefit. I realize this isn’t a groundbreaking observation. It’s just a scary one – especially when our top leaders in Washington seem to subscribe to the same mindset.

It’s hard to escape the notion that the country would benefit greatly from the influence of distinguished, independent thinkers in the liberal media who would actually challenge the shortsighted instincts and gross naivety of their ideological peers.

Forget the media’s problem with liberal bias for a minute… How about just a little bit of seriousness?

Now, I realize that there are several one-dimensional hacks in the conservative media as well, but there is also a surplus of brilliant, independent-minded voices from the right who seem to have no liberal counterparts.

Who are the Charles Krauthammers and the George Wills of the left? Who are the liberals who don’t cling to partisanship, but rather demonstrate a deep understanding of history and policies, and offer contemplative, pragmatic solutions to just about every issue?

Who are the Thomas Sowells of the left? Who are the respected, liberal economic thinkers? At this point, I can’t imagine even the most committed lefties daring to throw out a name like the New York Times’ Paul Krugman. That is, unless they think comic book ideas like creating trillion-dollar coins and faking alien invasions are the answers to our country’s economic problems.

For that matter, who are the liberals in the media who look at a $16.5 trillion national debt, and think our country might actually have a problem that warrants a serious solution – one that doesn’t include demagoguery and gimmick actions that serve no identifiable purpose? Where are their ideas? Surely there isn’t a litmus test for liberal thinkers that demands that they all subscribe to the idea that the welfare state must come at the cost of bankrupting the country.

Who are the Bernie Goldbergs of the left? Who are the honest media critics who place the integrity of their journalistic professions before their personal political views, and call out both sides of the ideological divide for their biases? We’re seeing one finally emerge in the form of Kirsten Powers, but in a trade dominated by liberals, where are all the others?

Even when you look at the people outside of the profession who become media darlings to their ideological cohorts for a few minutes of fame, there’s something fascinating to observe. On the right, those people are the Dr. Ben Carsons, who use their moment in the limelight to put forth productive, meaningful ideas on tax policy and healthcare. On the left, those people are the Sandra Flukes, who use their soapbox to insist that others need to pay for their birth control pills.

Who are the independent-minded, persuaders on the left? Who are the thinkers? Perhaps those are the types of questions I should challenge the left-leaning readers of this column to answer. I’d really like to know who it is that you respect in the media, and who influences you.

And if you can’t think of any people that aren’t either comedians or professional demagogues, how can that not concern you?

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series. His first novel, "From a Dead Sleep," is available at all major retailers. His second novel, "Blood Trade" is available for pre-order and will be released in Sept. 2015. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • sjangers

    Jeez, John. I generally appreciate your commentary, but this example is a bit ridiculous! Holding Mark Shields, Nina Totenberg, Paul Krugman and Sandra Fluke out as examples of mainstream liberal intellectualism creates a real straw man argument. In Shield’s case, it might even be fair to claim that you make a hollow man argument. That guy is a blithering idiot.

    I agree with the premise of this column but, in the interest of fairness, let’s try to find one or two more examples, beyond Kirsten Powers, of liberals who might be capable of independent thought, or at least of breathing without the assistance of a life coach. There must be few of them out there.

    • John Daly

      If you can give me some examples of those people, I’d appreciate it. That was kind of the point of the column: I can’t find them.

      I absolutely believe that people like Krugman, Shields, and Totenberg are the types that the left consider to be intellectuals. Krugman’s the most famous of the three, of course.

      • sjangers

        Sorry, John. I was just doubling down on, or maybe just underscoring, your satire of our liberigentsia. I guess I didn’t do a very good job of it.

        I’m afraid I’m a little more cynical than you are. I think liberals tend to view anyone who agrees with them as an intellectual.

        • John Daly

          Oh, lol. Sorry about that.

  • carroll733

    mr daly i am a liberal but i agree that there are more thinkers on the right but all they do is think and criticize they don’t come up with any alternative plans or programs. take obamacare where was the alternative plans after they blocked hillarycare they had years to come up with a plan

    • ph16

      Carroll, point taken, but who says that we need a central government plan for everything? Who says the government should be involved in healthcare for instance?

    • John Daly

      Hi Carroll,

      People forget this, but prior to the passage of Obamacare, over 80% of Americans said they were happy with their current healthcare situations. So to expect ANY conservatives to counter Obamacare with a different, sweeping government program (that few wanted) is a shallow argument.

      Conservatives have long supported (and proposed during the healthcare debate) targeted ideas like pooling healthcare plans and allowing citizens to purchase insurance across state lines, but they believe the private sector does a much better job in the healthcare arena than the government could ever do. .

  • Brhurdle

    I certainly agree with the premise that emotion rules over logic for the liberals. It is my opinion that logic is largely absent since it does not appeal to liberals. They have somehow convinced themselves that equality is the overiding concern for any situation and the laws of science and nature must be overcome to eliminate the inequalities. What baffles conservatives is that the most important issues today involve economics and the distribution of wealth/resources and the refusal of liberals to consider the impact of their positions on the creation of wealth. It appears they would sacrifice a higher standard of living for the lower socioeconomic classes for a more even distribution of wealth. To a conservative, this is punishment for success that is irrationally driven by envy. Thus the comment from Shields who would rather see McDonald’s go out of business and eliminate the $3 hamburger than have people subjected to the indignity of “substandard” wages. – the fact that the resultant $5 burger is no longer affordable for the minimum wage worker is irrelevant in their mind.

  • sheila0405

    What I’d like to see are the stats on minimum wage employees. How many total minimum wage jobs are out there? And, out of all of those, what percentage are held by teens? Is there a percentage of minimum wage workers who are relying on those jobs alone in order to live? What percentage of the work force do these workers comprise? I keep hearing the teen unemployment rate being put forth as the argument against raising the minimum wage, but I don’t hear much about the workers who are trying to survive on those wages. There have to be many millions of minimum wage workers. Not every worker gets to eventually climb the corporate ladder, because there are only so many higher wage jobs out there. Or am I wrong?

  • http://www.lewrockwell.com/ Tuci78

    “Frankly, it disappoints me. After all, I want fruitful, robust debate. I want to hear opposing, well-reasoned sides of various issues. I want liberal thinkers in the media to convince me that my stance on an issue is wrong by stating a compelling case for why they are right.”

    If you want “well-reasoned” thought from these “Liberal” fascists, you’re foredooomed to disappointment.

    The long and the short of it: If they were capable of reasoning, they wouldn’t be “LIberals.” The obliteration of reasoned thought is the purpose of their adherence to collectivist progressivism, the most flagrant idiocy (and malicious violation of their neighbors’ human rights) in the history of these United States.

    Re-read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements (1951). To quote therefrom:

    “The urge to escape our real self is also an urge to escape the rational and the obvious. The refusal to see ourselves as we are develops a distaste for facts and cold logic. There is no hope for the frustrated in the actual and the possible. Salvation can come to them only from the miraculous, which seeps through a crack in the iron wall of inexorable reality. They ask to be deceived. What Stresemann said of the Germans is true of the frustrated in general: “[They] pray not only for [their] daily bread, but also for [their] daily illusion.” The rule seems to be that those who find difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led.

  • John

    I’m no deep thinker or super educated columnist,I’m just your average working stiff.Its amazing to me how every one is a politician calling out there opponent counterparts whether they be liberals or conservative it seems to me that after all the dust settles this country is completely and utterly comprised of three basic people the rich,poor and those of us that are stuck in the middle.The belief that right or left thinking gives you the monopoly on being right or wrong is ridiculous to me because in the great scheme of things aren’t we all just trying to do what’s best and most beneficial for those in our own circle.

  • sheila0405

    Kirsten Powers was the only name I could come up with, and I was pleased to see she got a mention near the end of this piece. It was months after I started seeing her pop up on Fox before I found out she is a liberal. Powers listens to the other side, finds common ground, and holds her own pretty well when she disagrees with a more conservative point. But she is no powerhouse, at least not yet. Maybe we will see her emerge as a cogent defender of liberalism after she has some more years under her belt. But the dearth of truly erudite liberals is not good for America. We need robust debate to clarify issues.

  • Ray_Van_Dune

    If you measure the ratio of emotion-driven arguments to logic-driven arguments in the writings of liberals and conservatives, you will see a clear difference. Try it – grade each sentence +1 for logic-driven or -1 for emotion-driven, and give the option (not to be abused!) of scoring an occasional zero, and see what you come up with.
    Note my word “-driven”. I am not saying “logic-driven” means factually correct, I am saying that logic-driven means an argument based on assertions or observations of evidence and related outcomes (historical or hypothetical), as opposed to “emotion-driven”: appealing to what would be the most desirable or fair in the judgement of the author.

  • Royalsfan67

    Sometimes I can listen to Jon Meacham. He seems a serious thinker. When he is talking you don’t hear all the usual cliches

  • Royalsfan67

    I can think of one name, but he sounds more like a conservative today although he describes himself as a liberal, and that is Pat Caddell.

  • Johnny Deadline

    Another terrific post, John. Great liberal thinkers are more rare than $3 a gallon gas in the Age of Obama for the simple reason that liberals “think” with their feelings. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s boneheaded comments that unemployment benefits grow the economy or Obama’s recent declaration that we can provide free universal preschool, invest in infrastructure and enact a minimum wage increase without it costing a single dime? Because these ideas make them feel good, they “think” they are good ideas.

    To quote Horace Walpole III (just another dead white guy to liberals ), “Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”

  • RickonhisHarleyJohnson

    The problem is self-correcting, John. When a liberal truly embraces learning related to; the economy, foreign policy, unemployment, etc. they are no longer a liberal. The facts are too overwhelming and they are no longer a liberal.

    • John Daly

      lol. Interesting take.

    • Ray_Van_Dune

      I think you must mean “self-reinforcing”, since as liberals grow up and hopefully leave the ranks of the emotion-addicted, the imbalance actually grows.

  • ARJ127


    You take one trite comment from one “liberal” pundit and then proceed to tar all of them with the charge of being shallow thinkers. Krauthammer and Will are certainly thoughtful conservatives. They have undoubtedly had their moments of shallowness, too. David Frum on CNN is another intelligent conservative. I wouldn’t include Bernie in their intellectual league.

    The argument for any increase in the minimum wage should be based on the wage-earner’s ability to buy a basic basket of goods and services (food, shelter, clothing, etc.). If the wage earner can’t buy the necessities with the current minimum wage, something should be done to help (no, not another government hand-out). Keeping the minimum wage in line with inflation shouldn’t be considered as an extra-ordinary measure. That the wage wasn’t adjusted in previous years, due presumably to the tough economic times we faced, makes any serious adjustment now tough to take. Perhaps governments could provide a temporary sales tax break on clothing, shoes, etc. as has been the case in some jurisdictions. Another would be removing any payroll taxes on jobs that pay less than some pre-determined hourly rate.

    • John Daly

      The Shields remark was merely a recent example, but I absolutely believe it’s representative of the wisdom liberal elite in this country.

      I disagree that minimum wage should reflect a living wage. Otherwise, employers could no longer afford to keep the teenagers who bag groceries, bus tables, or run cash registers while living with their parents.

      Like Krauthammer said, the economy is not a ‘moral instrument’ where workers are entitled to a specific quality of life outside of the workplace.

      • Brian_Bayless

        Those jobs that pay minimum wage now used to be “Bread and Butter” jobs that people could still raise a family while being paid their salary.Employers could afford that then, so why has it changed now? Cant just blame the “Liberals” for that

        • John Daly

          When have minimum wage jobs EVER been “bread and butter” jobs that people could raise a family on? Which era are you talking about?

          • Johnny Deadline

            Exactly the point I was making in my reply posted above. Raising the minimum wage makes liberals feel better, economic consequences and practical experience be damned. This administration never likes to let a crisis go to waste, and liberal voters never like to let facts get in the way of their arguments.

  • Stephen17

    Rather difficult to take this article seriously when the writer makes names plural by adding apostrophes–particularly in a column in which the author sits in judgment on commentators’ intelligence. Also, while he makes some good points, is the assertion that the left has interesting points to make about social issues but not about anything else really credible? In a piece that decries intellectual laziness, is that assertion anything more than a lazy way to say I don’t want to take unpopular stands on social issues, so I’ll cave in there and pretend that, say, Robert George at Princeton doesn’t make a compelling case against gay marriage?

    I’m sympathetic to much of what this writer says, but he can do much better, especially in an argument about the intellectual content of political comment.

    • John Daly

      Thanks for the grammar correction. I certainly had it wrong.

      My point about social issues comes from how costs and benefits are realized. With social issues, the costs and benefits typically aren’t monetary, don’t effect the lives of every American involved in commerce, and they don’t have a global impact. Most are pushed down to the state level. I don’t consider them to be nearly as consequential as the economy and foreign policy.

      • Stephen17

        Dear Mr Daly,
        then I suppose that good government is simply a matter of the bottom line? I think that that is a very limited view of government, which throughout the Western tradition has been seen as (when at its best) an administrator of justice. And justice surely has to do with more than economic matters.
        But if we grant what you say, it still is no reason to ignore social issues. Do you think that more permissive sexual attitudes that arose in the 1960s had any negative (or positive) effect on the economy? Is it possible that the breakdown of the family has helped contribute to large social pathologies and an explosion in welfare? Has that in turn led to the construction of a large and permanent constituency that is in many large cities (states? the nation as a whole?) essentially a monolithic bloc ensuring one-party rule and therefore the flourishing of corruption. Is it possible that the jurisprudence that led to the decisions you favor in social life has led inexorably to the corruption of the judicial process, as Griswold necessarily leads to Roe, Roe to Lawrence, and so on? Simply to avoid the issues by saying that “liberals have good ideas on these matters” in order either to sound inclusive or to use that as a substitute for robust argument in favor of a position arrived at by careful analysis seems like a copout to me.

        I don’t mean to sound harsh, but if people take upon themselves the mantle of pundit, then it would be better for all involved if those pundits spoke the turth, rather than what is convenient.

        All that said, I am sure that you and I would agree on most things. One of my strongest opinions these days, however, is that if conservatives are to prevail, they need to do the hard mental work that you claim liberals are avoiding. In other words, I hope that conservative writers do more than merely opine: I hope that (like Charles Krauthammer) they think carefully and therefore persuade because they make the stronger case.

        Yours truly,

        • John Daly

          What I said in my column is that liberals sometimes make some interesting points on social issues. I didn’t say that there aren’t any important social issues. Of course there are.

          My point is that the liberal media is sorely lacking in wisdom when it comes to what I consider the most serious challenges of our time.

          I absolutely spoke the truth, as I do in all of my columns. You seem more upset that we don’t place the same weight or priorities on issues than there being any real disagreement between us.

          I certainly appreciate the feedback. I really do. I think you make some excellent points, and as I wrote in my column, I appreciate the ‘thinkers’ like yourself. I don’t see these types of discussions on the lefty websites.

          • Stephen17

            Dear Mr Daly,
            I suppose that I didn’t understand what you meant when you said, “I don’t consider them [social issues] to be nearly as consequential as the economy and foreign policy.” My point is that social issues lie at the heart of much–if not most–of our economic woes. I think too that though you are not happy with our current foreign policy, the people who run it are in place largely because the social policies that we’ve followed for the past several decades have provided a ready-made constituency that elects such people. Hence the social climate produces the underclass that elects the people that gut our military. And that underclass will prove impervious to even the most eloquent and logical of conservative arguments on the economy.
            On the whole, I suspect that I agree with you about many tactical matters when it comes to economics and defense. On the other hand, I think that a military and an economy are ultimately reflections of a culture, and a nation whose culture is rapidly disintegrating won’t long be able to have either a strong economy or military. To cede the culture to the liberals and fight about power is only to buy a short time. As Rush says, ultimately it is about the institutions that disseminate culture. Leave those to the liberals, and soon we will have nothing left.

            Yours truly,

          • Stephen17

            Dear Mr Daly,
            not to flog a dead horse, but I wonder if you noted the following insight from Angelo Codevilla’s much vaunted (and truly insightful) piece that appeared on the Forbes website yesterday morning. (Rush mentioned it; Mark Levin read the entire thing on the air; it was linked at Realclearpolitics.): “Nothing will require greater unity against greater resistance than ending government promotion of abortion and homosexuality. Yet those whose main concerns are with financial probity cannot afford continuing to neglect that capitalist economics presupposes a morally upright people.”

            I hope that you’re doing well.

            Yours truly,

      • Stephen17

        Pardon for the typos: I meant “truth,” and one of that series of questions lacks a question mark.

        • John Daly

          Don’t worry about it. And believe it or not, I appreciate the people who point out the grammar mistakes in my columns as well.

      • sheila0405

        Another grammar correction: “whose” is possessive. I think you meant “who’s” a la “who is”, right?

        • John Daly

          Not may cleanest column, I concede. 😉

      • sheila0405

        Oh, and you need to look up the difference between “effect”, which is an outcome, and “affect” which means influences.

  • cmacrider

    John: When you recognize that the Left is comprised reactionaries clinging to their postwar welfare state and central planning in a digital age of unprecedented innovation; when you realized that this archaic structure is founded on a metaphysics that assumes truth is nothing more than a consensus around a subjective perception, then you are forced to the conclusion that they are simply not equipped to pursue innovative solutions. Hence talking points become the substitute for critical analysis.