Coaston’s own individuality should be undeniable, especially among her left-wing media peers in a strongly Democratic DC. The former Vox and MTV political reporter is a registered libertarian who made her debut in right-wing academic media and professes ” a healthy skepticism about state power. . She also happens to be a happily married queer person, a former speechwriter for the Human Rights Campaign, a practicing Christian, and a fitness enthusiast who trains about twice a day. In November, she joined The New York Times, where she hosts the relaunched opinion podcast of “The Argument” newspaper.
In her new role, Coaston says she aims to “add a lot of external points of view that may not have been as well portrayed in the series, as it has focused a lot on the left, right, and left perspectives. from the center which are featured at The Times. largely.”
The DC resident has come to prominence as a beat journalist covering the multifaceted American right – understanding that, as she puts it, conservatism is “an ideology whose own adherents debate what it is.” (This is all the more true since Donald Trump arrived at the scene.) But other ideologies are no less ripe for exploration or questioning, especially for someone with his politics. Robby Soave, editor of libertarian magazine Reason, said he saw her “productively question liberal assumptions, as libertarians tend to do.”
Coaston grew up in Cincinnati. She describes her parents as “Democratic unionists” who “were giant hippies” – her father a black librarian, her mother a white woman who worked with neglected and abused children. Her grandfather served in the only U.S. Black Army unit to land on the beaches on D-Day. Her grandmother, whose childhood home was burnt down by the Ku Klux Klan, was one from the first blacks to work in the Pentagon and desegregated the church the Coaston family attended.
“My politics were shaped by the fact that I grew up in a very liberal family in a very conservative region,” says Coaston. “That’s why I’ve always been so interested in understanding why other people think the way they do. I was on an ideological island with my family, where we were very strange, and yet my parents thought Republicans were very strange.
She ventured away from her ideological island to the University of Michigan, where she edited the Michigan Review, a libertarian journal backed by the right-wing Collegiate Network – despite not being a libertarian at the time. “I was thinking [the Review] would be a good place to learn how to write convincingly, because I would be surrounded by people who didn’t think the way I did, ”she says. But over the years, she has gradually become more libertarian in her politics.
On “the argument,” Coaston hopes to be a model of persuasion – and an openness to be persuaded – as well as disagreement rooted in good faith engagement. She says there are too many bad faith performative postures in political arguments today. Americans often have a distorted view of politics that they do not share, which she compares to the deceptive shadows cast by the burning fire in Plato’s Cave Allegory.
Coaston has no illusions that argumentation necessarily leads to persuasion even when done well, and it does not fetishize agreement or national unity. “We can understand each other better without looking for a commonality that I don’t know if we’ve ever really had,” she says. “The commonalities have generally existed in this country when you quietly lock some people in a drawer.”
But she believes that better argumentation can lead people to be more educated about the difference – to Americans “who watch the flames, not the shadows.” Coaston is good at explaining the nuances of difference, including around issues of race. “Racism has played a role in the growth of conservatism,” she observes, “but that leaves out the fact that many African Americans espouse conservative views,” even those who support Democrats. His knowledge of these issues allows him to analyze in a complex way the distinctions between “neoconservatives”, “paleocons” and “traders” – or to argue that, despite the Trump phenomenon, “Trumpism does not exist”.
Coaston’s coverage of conservatism earned him respect on the right. “She’s had a well-deserved meteoric rise,” says Soave, another Michigan graduate who worked at the Michigan Daily while Coaston was at the magazine. “There are very few people who write about conservatives and conservative media who are loved and respected by conservative media people, and she is certainly one of them. She is such an impartial and independent thinker.
Its policy reflects this independent thinking. She is skeptical of gun restrictions, in part because she believes they are unfairly enforced against black Americans. She notes that “much of the early gun control movement was aimed at controlling the guns of African Americans and not the guns of other people.” She generally thinks America needs fewer laws.
Yet Coaston is at peace with the idea that her fellow Washington – and fellow Americans – will not agree with her on everything. “The great thing about this country,” she said, “is that it has always had the capacity to contain great multitudes.”
Graham Vyse is a contributing writer for the magazine and an associate editor for The Signal.