Joe Klein wrote in his book Politics Lost that maybe the reason Al Gore lost the 2000 election is that he listened to political handlers too much. They massaged and homogenized his message so much that it felt flabby. Gore was passionate about the environment but the polling said the public was not. So, don’t talk about global warming, Al.
Kline suggests the irony is that it probably would have done Gore some good. Not because the polls were wrong. Not because the electorate in 2000 cared about polar bears. But because it would have shown that he was a man of convictions, someone who could be a leader, even on an unpopular issue. And the electorate was looking for a leader.
Now the cynic in all of us could write Klein off as being no better than the political consultants he critiques by suggesting that politicians make manipulative use of integrity. A more sympathetic reading is that it’s not that different than the small business owner who says, “Honesty is just good business.”
Integrity and honesty are virtues and should be valued for their own sakes. And a person who is consistently honest will at some point hurt themselves in the short run. In the long run they have the reward of a clear conscience and of a good reputation.
In a previous blog, I talked about market research, finding out what you as a publisher can sell. I don’t want to imply that sales is the only or the most important arbiter of what a publisher should produce. While many other factors could be noted, in that blog I included one: “a book that fits you as a publisher.” There’s a lot that goes into that (which I’ve discussed partially in The Imitation Temptation). Here let me mention mission in particular.
A publisher needs to have a sense of integrity about its mission. What is it called to do? Why was it founded in the first place? The way that mission is fulfilled can and should change as situations change. But a publisher should be reluctant to shift in its fundamental values and purposes—even if that could mean short-term loss.
One example at InterVarsity Press is multiethnic publishing. Over the last thirty-plus years we have published over one hundred books by and for people outside the White culture. Some of these have done well but none has been a blockbuster. Yet all of them have been important, and we did them all because it is part of our DNA as an organization. We believe God’s kingdom is about breaking down barriers between men and women, rich and poor, black and white, Asian and Latino, or whatever. When those previously divided are united, it shows Jesus is Lord.
We intend to keep publishing such books as well. It’s who we are. It’s what we are called to.