For the last couple of months I’ve wondered why there isn’t a CSS-Tricks for politics. Why does every conversation about this subject stress me the fuck out and why can’t I find a place that is hopeful and consistent but isn’t just offering half-baked rants or click-bait trash? Is there a place to learn about politics without giving me a heart attack in the process?
Because I think all the major news orgs fail gloriously on this front. They have great stuff, yes. Lots of swell writers doing important work. But you have to wade through endless garbage and arm-chair opinions with no real political expertise. The great writers get lost in all that noise.
I think it’s because most writing is designed to be retweeted, but not to be read.
This reminds me: not so long ago I saw a technical post on a startup’s blog about how to create a 3D map but instead of talking about what they built or giving a brief intro, the writer instead began with the sort of Big Romantic Introduction like “Maps have always been important to the human species because...” And, woof. This is also why I can’t watch a lot of talks about design, too. A few years ago I went to a conference in New York about type and every single talk began with a 15 minute breakdown of the person’s career. There was so much fluff, so much useless intro. Tell me a story! Give me some drama! I don’t care that you worked at Nike, christ alive.
I think this is why I adore CSS-Tricks / Chris Coyier-esque posts (I know I write there but I can still appreciate what everyone else does despite me slowly taking it down from the inside). There’s no faffing about, and each post just dives straight into the fray. Over the weekend I was messing about with X and here’s what I built... It’s so much more approachable and there’s no ego involved. Technology X is not a stepping stone to some utopian vision of the world.
It’s more like: Look, I made a thing!
This is what I want from political writing, too. No harbinger of death stuff, no Big Romantic Introduction, and no click-bait crap. I want to read something that can teach me more about the political system over here without encouraging me to hop off a bridge.
So after months of searching for this sort of thing I found Dan Pfeiffer’s The Message Box. And I think it definitely sits somewhere on the Coyier Spectrum of Writing, in that there’s no fluff or dancing around a subject. Pfeiffer clearly thinks about each topic for a dang long time before putting pen to paper and there’s no ego I can detect. Each post is more like: This is how I am currently thinking about this situation. And goddamn that is so refreshing to me.
I also finished his book Yes We (Still) Can the other day and it recounts his journey from the ‘08 Obama campaign through to his work in the White House. I’d highly recommend it because there’s a lot to learn in there about how to deal with the current climate, how to think about the political challenges we’re dealing with right now.
And why we should be cautiously optimistic, too.