On leaving the blogosphere for academia

Today is my last day running AMERICAblog.

I’m starting a Ph.D. program in Political Science at Ohio State, and I have some serious reading and stats to brush up on before the program starts. My research will lie at the intersection of political psychology and democratic theory, focusing on experimental deliberative democracy in particular. Basically, what’s going on in our heads when we talk about politics as democratic citizens, and how can we do it better?

As you can imagine, I am absolutely ecstatic to get started.

I actually applied and was accepted to the program before I took over this site from John Aravosis. I deferred a year so that I could give professional writing a shot, and so that AMERICAblog wouldn’t have to shut down when John got a job that wouldn’t let him be political in public. But now that year’s up, John’s back and, to be quite honest, I’m ready to bounce — for two unrelated reasons:

Mostly, this primary

I was excited to write about the 2016 campaign before it actually got underway. Every presidential election, we say that this particular presidential is the most important presidential election of our lifetimes. The last few cycles, that has consistently held true, and I think it holds true this year. The Democratic primary gave us our first chance in quite a while to have substantive debates challenging Washington consensuses concerning the size and scope of government, how to meaningfully address skyrocketing economic inequality, how urgently to address climate change, whether taxes on the middle class are worth raising if they pay for good things and even whether Henry Kissinger is worthy of our respect. The general election presents us with a choice between a pragmatic bureaucrat and a creeping fascist. In both arenas, it’s been quite a while since the range between our choices was so vast, and since the implications of our choices have been as interesting as they are dire.

And yet, in this most important election of our lifetimes, I’ve been struck by how remarkably dumb we’ve all become. Very serious people supporting and opposing all manner of candidates — very smart people who surely know better — have spent an inordinate amount of time writing keyboard-melting takes that simply can’t be taken seriously by a thinking person.

This was the election that brought Andrew Sullivan out of retirement to tell us that anti-racist students on college campuses are responsible for the rise of Donald Trump (the National Journal pinned the Trump on Al Franken). This was the election that got voting rights proponents like Josh Marshall to make fun of engaged democratic citizens for not knowing they had to register with a party six months in advance of an election they didn’t know would be competitive. This was the election where our favorite wonks went from considering single-payer health care to be a noble, politically unfeasible goal to being Actually Bad Policy in the span of one candidate’s platform — siding with the Wall Street Journal over Robert Reich.

Me, four years and many hot takes ago.

Me, four years and many hot takes ago.

This was the election where the caucus system — a system that the United States would not recognize as legitimate if adopted by a developing democracy — was actually fantastic if and only if it produced outcomes favorable to your preferred candidate. This was the election where the Human Rights Campaign was an edgy outsider organization. This was the election where making public college tuition-free was both conservative and perhaps kinda racist. This was the election where having the third-most liberal voting record in the US Senate could make you more extreme than the lefties of Europe. This was the election where picking a chair up and putting it down could be a more egregious act of violence than smacking a woman in the face.

This was the election where online became real life; where Democratic candidates were somehow responsible for neo-Nazi Trump-supporting Twitter eggs. This was the election where self-described progressives suggested that the illegally-funded-by-Reagan Contras were actually the good guys. This was the election that made H.A. Goodman and Walker Bragman household names in the blogosphere. This was the election where you could be paid money to write that Bernie Sanders agreeing to debate Donald Trump is analogous to both of them raping Hillary Clinton (really).

This was the election where some reality-based, data-respecting, democratically-minded Democrats convinced themselves that math doesn’t matter and votes don’t matter, because Bernie Sanders is going to be the president. He just is. Maybe the evil superdelegates are going to wake up one morning, see the light and become smart and good Sanders supporters. Maybe Hillary Clinton will get indicted. Maybe she’ll just drop out on her own. Either way, something is going to happen, and the man is going to revolution his way to the White House, because Clinton is the actual devil who can’t be trusted.

While others demand that she lie about lying.

I like Bernie. I voted for Bernie. I’m not exactly excited about voting for Hillary Clinton in the general election, but I’m absolutely prepared to do so. As it happens, that’s a pretty common position to take, but you wouldn’t know it based on the smoldering hellscape that is today’s online discourse. That position doesn’t drive clicks. The positions I’ve linked to above all do. The upshot here is that it’s nearly impossible to be reasonable, original and well-trafficked all at the same time. You can pick maybe two of those things if you’re lucky, and I’m certainly far from blameless in leaving at least one by the wayside at various points in my tenure here. Still, the fact remains that the incentives set by the market for clicks are somewhat exhausting and extremely discouraging.

Also, this was never really my site

This was perhaps a function of my age, and of entering the blogosphere after Twitter was already a thing, but I didn’t realize when I started writing for this site over four years ago that blogs don’t travel well. John Aravosis cultivated a specific brand and a readership for the site over the years that he ran it, and that brand and readership remained specific to him over this past year, even if the bylines were no longer his. The traffic numbers don’t lie: Our readers are interested in reading about LGBT rights, which is John’s strength, more than they are interested in reading about voting rights, which is my strength. This was obvious when I took over, and while I tried to keep the LGBT arm of the site going, that didn’t always turn out so well. A straight guy in his early-mid 20s with a background in electoral politics simply isn’t going to cover LGBT issues as well as a seasoned LGBT activist. Even when I got the words right, they didn’t and couldn’t mean as much coming from me.

The specificity of AMERICAblog to its earlier leadership and readership has also been apparent in seeing how AMERICAblog is discussed (or not discussed) in online circles over the past 15 months or so. When John A. left, we effectively fell off the radar in the liberal blogosphere. Now that he’s back, the site is again associated with him. To be clear, that was completely predictable, but it’s made this past 15-ish months feel a bit like yelling into the void. I’ve written plenty of posts that I’m proud of — that I think are interesting, important reads and solid pieces of writing — but did any of them, you know, matter? It’s hard to say.

So I’m going to head back to central Ohio and keep my head in some books for the next five to seven years. I get to move away from the day to day of the American political fray and toward the broader and, to me, more interesting questions concerning how we can make democratic deliberation more productive in general. If this election cycle is any indication, there’s plenty of work to do.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • dcinsider

    Jon, I did not always agree with you, but I always felt your posts were well written and a pleasure to read. Frankly, there is not enough money to get me to take on this crowd of commenters :)

    Best of luck to you. We need smart guys for the future. And I know President Trump will always be looking for a few good men.

    Be well. Be happy.

  • Baal

    I thought you wrote many great posts.

    Good luck in academia. I’ve spent 36 years there. There are many worse things.

  • Thanks, everyone, for the kind words below. I should have clarified this in the post itself, but it really was fun for the most part!

  • Haha yeah, the voting machine thing in Kansas did break Reddit. I just meant in general — the average voting rights post didn’t have as much traction as the average LGBT post.

  • 2patricius2

    Jon, I wish you well in your studies. You have done a great job in bringing articles and discussions to this blog. You will be missed.

  • LiveFromHere

    These days blogs like this one and the world of academia are basically the same dopey thing.

  • Sugapea

    Jon, You’ve done a terrific job here and I am so happy to have John back!

    Please learn all you can on Politics…we are desperately in need of fresh, young leadership and with your handsome look, you will have advantages…realize that! Create and make your ideas/goals equally beautiful and beneficial for all of the people. We look forward to hearing and reading your name mentioned in the future of American Politics.
    My Grandfather…always taught:
    “Democrats Help Those Who Need Help…Republicans Help Those Who Don’t Need Help”
    Good Luck To You!

  • Margaretjbaylis

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!ti164ur

    two days ago grey McLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !ti164u:➽:➽:.➽.➽.➽.➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsAlphaGetPay$98Hour…. .★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★::::::!ti164o….,…

  • Kansachusetts

    Jon, that was a classy statement. I’m sure you must have been bothered by certain bizarre posts here of late, posts that fit your definition of “keyboard-melting takes that simply can’t be taken seriously by a thinking person.” But you went out with class, which is the way to do it.

    I want to say that after John Aravosis stopped writing here I didn’t read the blog as much. I had really enjoyed him in previous years. Then I noticed this guy Jon Green, who was posting cogent, progressive articles with regularity. You won me back to the blog. Best wishes with your PhD, and I hope to read your opinions again.

  • emjayay

    America cannot go to hell in a handcart. America can go to hell in a hand basket, or maybe a hand truck if necessary.

  • Bill Kenny

    The very best of luck. This gay guy loved your writing.

  • MoonDragon

    Good luck with your studies and a long, productive career.

  • emjayay

    With no links or references, I can only assume that the HBCUs that would not be free are the ones that are private? I’m guessing that even states of the former Confederacy can’t fund some public universities (or students going to them, however these proposals work) and not other public universities.

    It is totally appropriate to fund public universities and not private ones. That’s kind of the point.

    HBCUs were a response to segregation. That ended fifty years ago. If anyone wants to run a university aimed at a certain group of people, OK. But state support of institutions that were intended to deal with a legal situation that ended fifty years ago is an anachronism.

    Anyway, please explain your comment. I’m maybe way off base on this.

  • crazymonkeylady

    Thanks Jon, for doing the job. Best of luck.

  • Sandythansen3

    “my room mate Lori Is getting paid on the internet $98/hr”…..!ti296ur

    two days ago grey MacLaren. P1 I bought after earning 18,512 Dollars..it was my previous month’s payout..just a little over.17k Dollars Last month..3-5 hours job a day…with weekly payouts..it’s realy the simplest. job I have ever Do.. I Joined This 7 months. ago. and now making over hourly. 87 Dollars…Learn. More right Here !ti296u:➽:➽:.➽.➽.➽.➽ http://GlobalSuperJobsReportsEmploymentsCreditGetPay-Hour$98…. .★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★::::::!ti296u….,….

  • hiker_sf

    Yeah, because there is only ONE WAY to implement free education and we won’t be able to make minor changes along the way.

    And even if I buy into your ridiculous argument, are you saying that preserving HBCUs as they are today is worth having almost every university student in the US graduating with 5 and sometime 6 figure levels of debt?

    The announcement of the fake issue with HCBUs was before the supposedly all-important South Carolina election and on the heels of the ‘whisper campaign’ that Sanders never participated in the civil rights era marches, which was a lie.

    But hey, whatever it takes for your candidate to win. Oh sure, I’ll vote for her because she isn’t Trump. But I hope she inspires activists nationwide to fight almost everything she represents.

  • quax

    Jon, will miss your writing but are looking forward to the research you will produce.

    You may want to look up Prof. Zheng (Joyce) Wang at the Ohio State Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences. She pioneers a line of research that found that quantum probabilistic models seem to nicely capture irrational human decision making and judgement. To put it sloppily into a nutshell: Cognitive dissonance can mathematically be described like a quantum superposition, and recent research indicates that this can be used even in a predictive manner. This is mathematically heavy stuff, but I think it could be a gold mine to apply to social sciences.

  • The_Fixer

    Jon, you’re an exceptional guy and I have enjoyed all of your posts. Thanks for your well-written, informative and even humorous posts in the time that you’ve been at the helm. You have much of which you can be proud.

    As a gay guy, I have to also say thanks for your support. Intelligent, well-reasoned commentary about the LGBT world is always welcome, and is especially appreciated when it comes from a straight guy. I’ve lived in a world where that was a rarity, which is why it means so much to me.

    I wish you much success and hope you find the time to contribute here from time to time. Live life richly and well.

  • Don Chandler

    Voting rights is a dry subject but I read them all because you write and think very well. I missed John at first but you won me over. I wish you the best of luck. I’m going to leave out the politics and say I’ll miss you for now. But I know you will be back with a vengeance ;)

  • Best of luck in your studies, Jon! Thanks for letting some of us bloggers contribute to AMERICAblog. We’ve enjoyed the discussions and the posts!

  • d3clark

    Jon, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m very happy for you, and sad that you wont be at AB any more.. Some of your articles were keen, perceptive and spot on. I’d say over 85% were very, very good. And as for the LGBT articles. I think that they, too were also good. When a person ego is gay writes about a subject, he may indeed have more perspective than you might. But along with may that come some baggage, unchanging points of view, anger and other negative ideas. You were a peeper looking in from the outside taking a new and different look at the various LGBT topics, sometimes bringing different insights.

    Thanks for your valuable work on AB. Please come back to write often! Good luck and take care!

  • TheNeedle

    Good luck!

  • emjayay

    Nice job, and nice post. However, nothing wrong with making fun of engaged democratic citizens for not knowing they had to register with a party six months in advance of an election they didn’t know would be competitive.

  • Badgerite

    Don’t get dispirited. I always look in amazement at people who tell me they think America is “going to hell in a handcart”. This is just the more liberal version of that feeling.
    And I always think that we have gone from a republic that enshrined slavery in our fundamental documents to one that has enshrined equal rights for all in the Constitution and to this day that decision has borne individual freedom along and will continue to. Seriously, when has America not been a bit of a mess trying to get better?
    I have my problems with the Sanders campaign, but in a general, I would vote for a lamp post over Donald Trump. I would be concerned as to his VP pick. But ….you know……The Trump Monster? I don’t think so. His latest is he thinks the Keystone Pipeline should be revived.

  • Quilla

    Congratulations and best of luck!

  • keirmeister

    We’ll miss you, Jon, but I only have one little quibble: you MUST refer to it as “The Ohio State University”!

  • hiker_sf

    Thanks for your contributions Jon and best of luck.

    I can’t remember a time when I have been so dispirited by an upcoming presidential election. People used to sprinkle the truth with a few lies. Now it is the reverse. I’m pretty abrasive, so maybe I am deserving some some flack. But any time I criticize Clinton, I get accused of refusing to vote Democrat and supporting Trump. This type of ‘purity test’ is particularly galling coming from some who are so ignorant that they don’t realize that they are making my point.

    All of this is to say that I sincerely hope that the behaviors we’ve seen in this election cycle are aberrations and that they haven’t damaged your spirit.

    My parting words to you are this: Ideology never solved a problem. I’m looking to your generation to recognize this and move us into a new era of politics where ideology and party become irrelevant and that we instead focus upon issues and not this other bullshit.

  • Demosthenes

    Best wishes for success, Mr. Green!

  • I always felt that the voter fraud posts were the ones that did the best. And the one post I mention below shows that to be the case.

  • Phil in FLL

    Best of luck, Jon. Yes, I know that John Aravosis is a seasoned activist for LGBT rights, but I don’t think it was at all off base for you to focus many of your posts on voting rights. Those were some of your very best posts, and I hope that John Aravosis invites you or someone with your background to focus on voting rights in future blog posts. After all, if unscrupulous state-level officials limit people’s voting rights, civil rights will be less likely to advance. The one is a prerequisite for the other. It’s imperative for progressives to affect the outcome of elections, and I’m glad that we had the benefit of your posts concerning voting rights. Wherever you go, keep stressing the importance of both voting rights and participation in electoral democracy, and either ignore or shout down those who try to depress voting, either by law or by invective. Thank you for your work here.

  • And here’s the voter fraud one.

  • First off, thank you SO much for holding down the fort during my sojourn at the UN. You did a great job, and kept the site around and kicking. And for that we all owe you a great debt.

    Second, I take some issue with your concern that perhaps you didn’t have as much influence as you might have liked running the blog. Our top post of the past 18 months was your election fraud article that got viewed 245,000 times, 100,000 Facebook likes, and even 2,000 shares on Google+, and who shares anything on Google+?!

    Among other things, I was running a blog for an entire UN agency the past year. And, without divulging any secrets, let me just say they’d be envious of the traffic your stories got. I think you’ve had a bigger impact than you might believe. :)

    Thanks again on behalf of all of us for a job well done. And if the writing bug bites you while at grad school, feel free to come back whenever you like.

    JOHN

    PS Here’s that story: http://americablog.com/2015/08/mathematician-actual-voter-fraud-kansas-republicans.html

  • Moorezart

    You’re a very well-reasoned, highly intelligent young man and I wish you the best of all possible worlds.
    Take care!

  • Zorba

    Good luck, Jon! Ohio State is a great school, and I’m sure you will do very well.
    We have enjoyed your posts and your perspective. Take care!

  • Take care, Jon, and thanks for your service, your insights, and your great blog posts during your tenure here. I am confident your future is bright and that you will accomplish even greater things in the years to come.

    BTW, excellent closing post, too. Your points are absolutely dead-on. For what it’s worth, eight years ago, the Democratic party acrimony and infighting were worse. Michigan’s and Florida’s delegates were called into question because both states had violated their assigned schedule spots and voted too early. This time it’s super-delegates considered controversial; back then it was “winner take all” states, which the junior Senator from Illinois seemed adept at targeting. People were outright NASTY and all kinds of hyperbolic invective was flung around. The presumptive nominee was declared to be unelectable by many of his own party’s members and the opposing candidate’s supporters.

    And how could either of them hope to stand against the decorated war hero seen by many as about as moderate a guy as the GOP could be hoped to nominate. (Not much, but still… We’re not talking a Steve Scalise or Rick Santorum.) There were worries Clinton would not endorse her party’s nominee, given she stayed in the race until the very last primary…but then she did. I still think the guy I supported until a month ago, when his path to the nomination became mathematically unlikely, will display at least as much sense and pragmatism when the time comes.

    Then, in the summer, the GOP former war hero — after a fight with his own party — picked as his running mate a half-term governor from Alaska, a woman who’d previously not held an office higher than mayor and member of a resources board. And she proved to be the Democrats’ biggest gift ever from the GOP, by stint of being manifestly unqualified for higher office and basically an incoherent and ignorant loon prone to massive eruptions of word salad.

    I could be wrong, but I still think Trump is another symptom of the unraveling, the devolution of the Republican party, and that out of all the candidates they were running, he’s possibly the worst and weakest possible choice they could’ve made. Yes, he’s basically a human(ish) litmus test as to the decency, intelligence, and higher reasoning capabilities of those who support him. But he’s also a terrible, terrible candidate with no self-discipline and the worst thing an ignorant person can be: Someone ignorant as to what he doesn’t know, but believes he does anyway.

    In any case, thanks again for hosting AmericaBlog for the last year, Jon! Best of good luck.

  • Chris Andoe

    Best of luck to you, my friend.

  • goulo

    I’m happy for your success getting into the PhD program, and I wish you well!

    At the same time, I’m very sad to see you go! I’ve really enjoyed your posts, and you will be missed at americablog.

  • Hue-Man

    A couple of comments.

    Don’t run down your posts on anti-democratic voting laws – they don’t get nearly enough coverage and the issue fits nicely with the “dumb” campaign currently underway. Suppress Democratic voters and motivate the fascist base.

    Your difficulties with LGBT issues is symptomatic of the lack of LGBT coverage in mainstream media. Unless SCOTUS is involved, writers and editors don’t have the personal knowledge and history that a veteran like John Aravosis has. The open homophobia of the 1970s and 1980s, the slaughter of friends and family in the AIDS epidemic, and daily personal indignities are not anecdotes in history books. I wouldn’t worry about “getting the words right” – you’re addressing an audience that is very sensitive and highly critical!

    Good luck on your studies.

  • gratuitous

    Good luck in your future endeavors.

  • More than anything else, you’ll widen your perspective, feed your empathy with more experiences. Can’t help thinking, from this writing alone, ‘bit of a hot house tomato.’ I know nothing, I don’t know you. I made it all up in my head, as you now know. Enjoy your new ‘Next’!

  • Eric Henry

    “This was the election where making public college tuition-free was both conservative and perhaps kinda racist.”

    Can I just point out that the GOP in 3 different southern states JUST THIS MONTH have adopted Bernie Sanders’-like programs of free college, excluding HBCUs, as a way to destroy them? You can’t make public PWIs free, while excluding HBCUs from that system, and not expect the HBCUs to go under. They’re already struggling under the historical weight of low funding and small endowments, how do you expect them to not implode when their tuition remains $15-30k a year, and the white school across town is free?

    The GOP legislators doing this know it. Bernie, I’m sure, didn’t. But after being told about the effect his program would have on HBCUs, he should have altered his plan to not destroy HBCUs. There’s nothing wrong with Black people (or Clinton) pointing this out. The correct response to this from Bernie and his supporters should have been something like “Oh, we didn’t think about that. Lets alter the program to include HBCUs.” Not slandering progressive Black politicians for pointing this out.

    It’s not a knock on free college as an idea, but on Bernie’s implementation of it, which would have destroyed HBCUs, just like the GOP is currently attempting to do across the south with similar programs.

  • 2karmanot

    You go Jon! Doctoral work is exciting and stimulating, not the least of which is the company of brilliant peers. Your work is an indication of the great quality with which you bring to any investigative endeavor. You will be sorely missed. With you gone, I’m afraid for the increasingly rapid slide downward of AB. I’ve been visiting these boards for at least a decade it seems, every morning starting the day with news and commentary. It feels toxic and diminished now. With you gone, I truly wonder if I’ll visit much. Meanwhile you are off and onto a great intellectual adventure. Good Luck.

  • Your honesty and integrity will be missed.

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