by Ryan Meehan
David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of three books. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Weekly Standard, National Review, Reason, New York Post, and numerous other publications. David has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News and dozens of radio talk shows across the country. I am very honored to have David Harsanyi as my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When did you first become interested in politics? What was the subject matter of the first piece of political writing you ever did; and what was so rewarding about the feeling of completing that essay which led you to want to pen more articles about the science of civics?
DH: My parents were political people who had defected from communist Eastern Europe in the late 1960s, so there was always talk about current events in my home. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when my interest began, but probably around 1980 with the election of Reagan. My career began in sports journalism. One of my first jobs was at the Associated Press, which where I started writing book reviews on the side that often had to do with political topics. I honestly don’t remember what my first political essay was—though it might have been a column about Oriana Fallacci for the Weekly Standard or about Israel for the National Review.
RM: What is the biggest difference between The Federalist and some of the other online sites such as Breitbart, Reason, and The Blaze that employ a similar format? When did you first meet (Federalist Publisher) Ben Domenech; and what can you tell us about the similarities in your visions which have allowed you two to develop this website into the successful publication it currently is today?
DH: I think our success has a lot to do with Ben’s vision for the site, but also the hard work of co-founder Sean Davis and senior editor Mollie Hemingway, who all brought strong voices and great work ethic to help us get off the ground. Since then, we’ve added many talented writers. The sites you mention all do what they do really well, but I’d say we all have different strengths and sensibility – one of them is our focus on culture and women’s issues.
RM: How would you grade the television media with regards to the way they have covered Obama’s presidency? Do you think the political climate of the media will ever shift to the point where we will get somewhat of an accurate on-screen assessment of a liberal president?
DH: No. That’s simply a function of an inherent bias. Most producers and reporters are liberal and often times even if they try not to be they are biased. Either because of their focus or their tone or what they decide to cover. One of the purposes of The Federalist is to point this out.
RM: Speaking of the media, you did this fantastic article in late May entitled “We’d all be better off if political journalists were openly biased” … In that piece you said “Partisans have the best motivation to ask the right questions.” Other than the fact that so many journalists are liberals disguised as being non-partisan, why do you suppose that so many individuals are naive enough to assume that most journalists are right down the middle and don’t possess any bias at all?
DH: Honestly, I doubt that most people believe journalists are right down the middle. Polls show that Americans don’t trust journalists and that has to be one of the reasons. Most often, voters would like to hear the journalists reinforce their own perceptions about the world. My argument is that it’s okay to be biased as long as you’re not corrupt. So, for example, you might be pro-choice and you might want ask pro-lifers tough questions. I applaud you. Pro-lifers should be able to answer tough questions. But if you ignore the recent Planned Parenthood videos, which by any journalistic standard should be a huge story, then you are corrupt.
RM: For those who aren’t familiar with the term, what does it mean to be a “reductionist”? Is there one particular focal point of your belief system to which you would assign that item of terminology above all others?
DH: I use the term more as a joke. I’m not really a reductionist in the philosophical sense. But when I was a newspaper columnist especially, it was important to be able synthesize your views and offer them with a turn of phrase or a joke.
RM: Your latest book is entitled “The People Have Spoken (And They Are Wrong): The Case Against Democracy”…What are some of the main points that you use to condemn the concept of democracy in that offering; and are there any alternatives you suggest in that set of passages which might provide a better way for the United States to select those who lead their government?
DH: We don’t need an alternative, we have a Republic. My core argument is both moral and policy related. First, simply because most people believe something is right or true doesn’t necessarily make it so. Large groups of voters don’t always act rationally or ethically, so we need to set up as many barriers that inhibit direct democracy as much as possible. One of these barriers is the Constitution. There are others. The more localized votes are the better, for instance. The harder it is to institute radical change in governance, the better. These are barriers that politicians are always looking to knock down. If Americans simply adhered to founding structure, we would be okay.
RM: Out of the seemingly endless list of available candidates to acquire the GOP nomination in 2016, who do you think has the best shot at winning the general election and why? Is your answer to that question based on that particular candidate’s ability to bring more undecided voters over to the right, or their steadfast defense of the party’s core beliefs?
DH: For Republicans, probably Marco Rubio. Seems to me he’s the best situated Republican to win in a general election. He’s a naturally talented politician who’s conservative enough to appeal to all branches of grassroots conservatives – social, foreign policy and economic– and responsible enough to bring in big donors. I imagine many conservatives will be suspicious of him because of his immigration positions in past, but I also believe they would live with him if he won the nomination.
RM: How serious of a threat do you think Bernie Sanders is going to be to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid? Why do you think so many people on the fence have taken such a liking to him over the past few months; and is there any way at all you can see him winning the Democratic nomination?
DH: Not a very big threat. But I do think his success, and Hillary’s need to chase him left, tells us plenty about the incredible leftward lurch of the Democratic party over the past 15-20 years.
RM: If you could have someone who is becoming disillusioned with the entire political process read one passage from any of your books, which one would it be? Why do you think that particular segment of reading material would be so crucial to someone who is considering the abandonment of political participation?
DH: Frankly, I think my books would only hasten someone’s exit from political participation. One of the tragedies of the 21st century is that politics has become such a big part of our lives. It should matter much less. I almost never vote.
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/
Purchase “The People Have Spoken (And They Are Wrong)”: http://www.amazon.com/People-Have-Spoken-They-Wrong/dp/1621572021
David on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/davidharsanyi
David on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davidharsanyi
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.