Can it be? A New Republic that’s not self-important?

Just before he launched The New Republic, Herbert Croly told the New York Times that the magazine would “devote a good deal of attention to the feminist movement, in general.” In his opening statement as editor of the magazine, Gabriel Snyder suggests that he intends to make good on that commitment. In part by hiring more women writers, in part by opening the magazine to the world from which it has been cloistered for so long.

But if our founders sat down today to settle on the best way to achieve this mission, they would not have picked a weekly printed magazine and ignored a vast array of digital publishing possibilities. And just like any publication with hopes of success in the world of 2014, they would want The New Republic to be better at welcoming into our fold readers, writers, and editors who reflect the American experience as it exists today.

As we revive one proud legacy of The New Republicthe launching of new voices and expertsthose new voices and experts will be diverse in race, gender, and background. As we build our editorial staff, we will reach out to talented journalists who might have previously felt unwelcome at The New Republic. If this publication is to be influential, and not merely survive, it can no longer afford to represent the views of one privileged class, nor appeal solely to a small demographic of political elites.

As Jeremy Kessler observed on Twitter, Snyder’s is a shrewd use of history: claiming the spirit of the magazine’s founders in order to free the magazine of that cramped vision that gets forged in the corridor between Harvard Yard and Leon Wieseltier’s townhouse. And that grating gravitas that made reading the magazine such a trial.

Snyder’s detractors will say that there’s a disconcerting absence of politics or ideas in his statement. I say: there’s a refreshing absence of politics and ideas in his statement. So much of the magazine’s self-importance was caught up in its sense that it was launching perpetual “insurrections of the mind.” Snyder’s modesty—intellectual, political, and stylistic—comes across as a welcome relief. At least for now.

Who knows? Maybe something good will come of this.

Update (9:30 pm)

This post by Phil Weiss makes me think that there really may be more to this shift from the old to the new New Republic. A whole demographic of the culture is giving way, maybe, to a more multicultural, less geographically specific and centered sensibility. The New Republic was, in many ways, a holdout from the postwar era, more the aura of a holdout, really. Through Wieseltier, it was meant to be the voice of Wilson and Trilling, of New York, of seriousness. It wasn’t really, which is what made the magazine a kind of kitsch. But now, with Snyder’s statement and hiring decision, perhaps we can finally say good bye to all that.


  1. gvgray December 22, 2014 at 9:26 pm | #

    speaking of leon wiseltier’s townhouse. every time i read the guy the first sentence is always the same. it reads, i am smarter than you so sit down and take instruction. usually there are intellectual inside jokes, references to obscure footnotes in nietsche, etc. well i say good riddance man and while you’re at it get a haircut

  2. Bill Michtom December 22, 2014 at 9:42 pm | #

    Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks to a bigger problem for The New Republic.

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