Not only does Harold Pollack say sensible things here about the relationship between the low-visibility and higher-visibility portions of the punditsphere, but it feeds in to my longstanding disagreement, and perhaps some agreement, with Steve Benen about the Sunday Shows. My disagreement with Benen is his standing complaint about the frequency of John McCain's and Newt Gingrich's appearances on those shows. I've had two responses: one, no one should really care about who the guests are on the Sunday shows, but at any rate, if conservatives don't mind McCain and Newt, then what's it to (the liberal) Benen?
Put it this way. If we're thinking about the non-partisan, "objective," "neutral" press, then there are two reasons to host someone's opinions. One would be if the person in question is a key government official -- in the White House, one of the departments or agencies, or an important actor in Congress. The other would be as a representative of a point of view, or of one of the political parties. So Frank Rich (see Pollack's piece) is perhaps worth having on the NYT op-ed page precisely because his thoughts are not particularly original, but instead are typical of a particular tribe of liberals.
By this standard, however, Benen's other Sunday show target -- Harold Ford -- is a questionable choice. At best, Ford represents a small group of Democratic centrists; it's reasonable that moderate Dems get represented occasionally, but surely not as often as mainstream liberal Democrats are heard from. (That's particularly the case since, as critical swing voters in the 111th Congress, moderate Dems were already likely to be well represented on the Sunday shows because of their positions as key government officials. Since Ford isn't one of those, he's even more superfluous).
Benen has a good case with Ford; he has an even better case with the op-ed writing duo of Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell. It is entirely reasonable for liberals to complain about which liberals represent them on the Sunday shows or, in this case, on the op-ed page of the Washington Post.
Which has been my position on this all along. Benen, I think, doesn't and shouldn't get a say in whether John McCain, Newt Gingrich, or Mickey Mouse shows up on the Sunday shows representing conservatives. If conservatives don't like it -- and as far as I can tell they do in fact feel adequately represented by McCain and Newt -- then they should say so, and I remain convinced that if they really cared, the relevant producers and editors would be responsive. Moreover, I think they should be responsive.
(You might be thinking -- yes, but don't op-ed pages and Sunday shows want original thinkers? I'd say: not particularly, at least not as regulars. Out here in this part of the punditsphere, there's plenty of room for diverse and interesting voices. But for those high-visible opinion outlets with very limited space, it's important first to be sure that the major strands of opinion are well represented. Of course, by all means editors and producers should seek out entertaining and interesting voices, but that's certainly possible while still making sure the basic point of view of each major party is fully aired).