What is The Cross Section?

The goal of The Cross Section is to get beyond the superficial, repetitious coverage of current events to explore how politics works, what influences it, and what it does to us. There are plenty of places to get the latest poll results or speculation on whether there will be another government shutdown, and there’s nothing wrong with paying attention to those stories. But in order to gain a fuller understanding of the political world, we also have to go deeper.

This newsletter will explore every aspect of politics: not just what’s going on in the presidential campaign, the White House, or Congress, but the broader economic, social, and cultural undercurrents that determine the shape of our political world, including the media through which we learn so much of what we know (and think we know).

But it won’t all be grim! There will also be the occasional dose of things that are a step or two to the side of the daily political debate, but are still interesting and important, whether it’s culture or technology or whatever else captures our attention and deserves deep consideration. There will be interviews with smart and interesting people. There will be passion and indignation and nuance and ambivalence. There will, from time to time, be graphs.

The Cross Section will take politics apart, peer inside its disturbing innards, examine the components, and determine how it all works together.

Who are you, Paul Waldman?

A brief history: As a young pup I worked for a series of losing political candidates, then after a short stint in political consulting went to grad school, thinking I’d be anointed with elbow patches and enjoy the life of the mind indefinitely. But after completing a Ph.D. in communication, including writing a dissertation whose entire readership numbered in the mid-single digits, I decided that talking only to a tiny number of fellow academics was too isolating. So I began writing articles for newspapers and magazines, then eventually co-founded an online magazine (the late lamented Gadflyer) during the golden age of the blogosphere.

After a few years at a progressive advocacy group, I became a full-time writer, first for The American Prospect, then for The Week, and then The Washington Post, where I was an opinion columnist for the better part of a decade, writing The Plum Line with Greg Sargent. Along the way I wrote a few books about media and politics.

Today I write columns for MSNBC and freelance articles for other publications. I also co-host a podcast with my sister Ayelet called Boundary Issues. And I have a new book coming out in February with my friend and colleague Tom Schaller. It will make some people mad.

Should I subscribe to The Cross Section?

You absolutely should subscribe to the unpaid version. But what about upgrading to paid? Here’s where I have to share some of my own thought process as I began this enterprise.

There are a few options one has when creating a publication like this. The first is to put everything behind a paywall. Another is to give paid subscribers some kind of premium content as an inducement, so that people say “This free version is good, but I’d like to get my hands on that other stuff.” The last is to make everything available to everyone, and ask people to offer a small token of support not because they’re getting something they can’t otherwise see, but because they value what you’re doing and want to help keep it going.

I’ve chosen to go with the last option, because I want all my work to be as easily available as possible to as many people as possible. I’m not sure if that means I’ll get fewer paid subscriptions; maybe it will. But it feels like the better approach for both myself and anyone who wants to read what I write. I’ll be honest: Over the long term, it’s difficult to know how financially viable this newsletter will be. It’s a lot of work, and if I only wind up with a small number of paid subscribers, there’s only so long it can be sustainable. I’ve seen that happen; with the aforementioned Gadflyer, we produced terrific journalism and analysis, but we couldn’t generate the revenue to keep it going.

But I’m committed to this new enterprise. Having written for many different kinds of publications — big newspapers, small magazines, TV networks, and everything in between — I believe this format offers the kind of freedom and independence that could produce some of my most valuable work.

All of which is to say, upgrade to paid if you can. It’ll mean a lot.

Subscribe to The Cross Section

Slicing politics open to peer inside its disturbing innards and determine how it all works


Journalist, author, occasional troublemaker