New voices from across the political spectrum on Left, Right & Center

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Dear Left, Right & Center listeners,

Every week on Left, Right & Center, we close the show with Rants: one last soapbox for our pet peeves “from across the political spectrum.” Today I want to tell you about a change to the format of the show that focuses on those last four words. We plan to include more of that political spectrum on Left, Right & Center.

Since 1996, when KCRW created Left, Right & Center, our panelists have had long stints on the show. We believe it’s important for listeners to develop relationships with our panelists, get to know their politics and get a feel for their agree-to-disagree chemistry with me and the other panelists and guests, and to show change over time or steadfastness in their positions. 

The flipside is that this approach entails featuring only one person’s viewpoint on either side of the political spectrum for long periods of time, and does not necessarily capture the diversity of perspectives and experiences that exists in both political coalitions. In recent years, we have started including more subject-matter expert special guests, partly in an effort to bring in a wider variety of voices. But we believe this moment — just a few months before the 2020 election, at a time of great change in America — calls for a new approach on the show that brings in more voices on the left and the right.

So over the next few months, we will welcome a series of Right and Left panelists, each joining the show for a few weeks at a time. I’ll still be holding down the Center – except that Keli Goff will continue to guest host for me – and a lot of the Right and Left voices you’ll hear will be voices you’ve heard on the show before, but not as often as you will now. Here’s a preview:

First, I want to thank Christine Emba, who has been the Left on the show regularly since April. Christine has been a great addition to the show and will be back for another stint as our Left in October and November, and as an occasional fill-in in the meantime. I also want to thank Liz Bruenig. I’ve really enjoyed talking with Liz for the last year, and I’m looking forward to having her back on the show soon.

Dorian Warren will be our Left panelist for July and most of August, through the Democratic National Convention. I’m looking forward to talking with Dorian about how progressive the Democratic Party can and should be, and we can go deep on policy as the party heads toward its convention and turns its messaging focus toward what Joe Biden would do as president.

I’d also like to thank Michael Steele for some great conversations with me and Keli Goff as our Right panelist last month. Megan McArdle was our right panelist last week and will continue in that role for much of the summer. Megan has been a special guest and panelist on the show on and off for years, and I know she’s a listener favorite.

Megan, Dorian and I have already recorded a special episode for air on July 3 – a conversation about this extremely eventful year and whether we will see persistent change from this pandemic and from the protests against racism and police brutality – and I’m looking forward to dynamic conversations with the two of them through July and into August.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Rich Lowry, who has been on Left, Right & Center for many, many years. I’ve always enjoyed debating Rich and I look forward to having him on the show again.

Many of you have asked when certain panelists will be returning to the show, and I hope this announcement of a new format for the show clears that up in part. Some of you commented that you’ve been happy to hear more consensus than usual on the show in recent weeks, while some of you have tweeted about how the show is just “Centrist, Left & Lefter now,” which is a complaint we’ve heard before and take to heart. (We also continue to hear, strangely, from some people who think the show is right-wing.)

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the show. Frankly, the Trump era has made booking a show like ours more challenging, in part because the president brought along so little of the traditional conservative commentariat with him even as he consolidated his support in the Republican party. We’re not the only show that has found it harder than before to book panels that reflect the state of political disagreement in America while producing a good-faith conversation starting from shared factual premises. The election is only four months away, and our approach to whom to book on these rotating panels in 2021 and beyond will evolve differently depending on whether Trump wins or loses. Political panel show booking strategies are just one of many things that would revert closer to normal in a Biden presidency. But either way, we think increased variety in the show’s composition on an ongoing basis will produce a livelier and more informative show.

In the meantime, I’ll say: expect more of this. Some weeks you’ll hear more intense debate and disagreement. Other weeks, there will be more common ground than you might expect. I won’t promise more argumentative shows or more amenable shows. The only thing I promise to you is a good-faith debate among people from across the political spectrum.

Thank you for listening to Left, Right & Center.

Josh Barro

Credits

Host:
Josh Barro

Producer:
Sara Fay