Commentary magazine was established in 1945 and, before Monday, only changed its design three times, so the launch of this fourth iteration of the venerable conservative magazine with deep Jewish roots had a certain celebratory air to it. Extreme makeover, it was not. But even though the sit-down luncheon in a paneled room at the Harvard Club was as clubby as the address implies, it was sweet to see the way change comes to even those who proudly resist it.
There are now small headlines beneath the bigger ones. Some crisp ornamentation — no photographs or drawings, heaven forbid! The most radical departure was, in the words of editor John Podhoretz, “a little color, because life should not always be lived in black and white.” The conversation was, similarly, low-key and self-congratulatory — quite a feat given the fact that most of those in the room saw their president, their party, and their political ideology roundly defeated a few months ago. The subject was the future of conservative magazines and the outlook was pronounced cheerful. “Conservative magazines have flourished because the right actually loves its arguments,” said Jonah Goldberg of the National Review, with the kind of triumphal relish that seemed to prove his point.
Of course, some conservative magazines such as Commentary have also flourished because they are, in Podhoretz’s words “mission-driven” (translation: heavily subsidized) and don’t have to worry about actually making money. There was even an implication that putting forth strong and provocative ideas was way more important than hitting a bottom line of any sort. Could the champions of democratic capitalism really be dismissing the profit motive in service of a larger cause?
Stay tuned. In color.