Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Andrew Sullivan Is Trying To Say Is..., Ctd.

Vanity_Fair

From Andrew Sullivan:
...
Like [Tom] Ricks, I don’t believe my general inclinations politically have changed that much over the years. I prefer smaller government in general; I too believe in a robust defense; I have few issues with the free market; I think marriage and family are critical social institutions; I’m still a believing Christian; I have deep qualms about abortion and abhor affirmative action; I’m a fiscal conservative; want radical tax reform, cuts in unfunded entitlements, and culturally, I’m a libertarian, with a traditionalist streak alongside radical tendencies (so, for example, I both love the Latin Mass and intend to go to Burning Man next month). I haven’t renounced my precocious devotion to Thatcher and Reagan, even as I have out-grown them, as the world has as well.

But I am now regarded as a leftist by much of the right and to some extent, they’re right...
What Mr. Sullivan has never come to terms with -- and will never come to terms with -- is the clear, damning and irrefutable lineage of American Conservatism.  The fact that the eggs which Reagan's Conservatism and Nixon's Southern Strategy laid in our body politic hatched, and all beasts that are now stalking the land and freaking out poor, academic, Beltway True Conservative fops like Mr. Sullivan are the result.

And the reason those beasts survived to adulthood is because, all along the way, people like Sullivan nursed them. Helped them find their legs.  Gave them intellectual cover as they grew to monstrous maturity.  And assisted them in building an impregnable Reality Denial grid fueled by hippie punching.

And now he is shocked and horrified that what Liberals have warned him about all along has turned out to be true.

I really don't care about Andrew Sullivan's deep thoughts on the constellation of subjects -- free markets, tax reform, race, affirmative action, abortion -- about which he clearly knows little or nothing.

And there exists no subatomic level of fuck small enough to encompass how little I care about all the many exciting ways Mr. Sullivan fancies up his Pineapple Ice Cream Conservatism by festooning it with hyphenates.  It's a free country and he can call himself a fiscal-conservative-radical-libertarian-traditionalist-gay-Catholic or a monadist-phlogiston-Spiralist-bivalve-RaĆ«lian for all I care/  But no amount of tap dancing and garment rending is going to distract me from the plain, home truth that Liberals have been right from the start about everything, especially the barbaric nihilism at the core of American Conservatism.

See, what Andrew Sullivan is trying to say is that Liberals were right all along.

But don't count on him owning up to that anytime soon because as one disreputable typer-of-words wrote many years ago:
...even though Mr. Sullivan now, belatedly comes to believe much of what Liberals believe and finally deigns to notice a horde of grotesque truths about his Conservative Movement about which Liberals have been sounding the alarm for 30 years, Andrew Sullivan nonetheless looks us all straight in that eye and argues that he could not possibly be some mere Liberal.

Because in Mr. Sullivan's world, "Liberal" does not refer to a political ideology, but to an impoverishing political ghetto from which no amount of "being right about everything" will permit you to achieve escape velocity. In Mr. Sullivan's world, "Liberal" is a terrible disease that afflicts losers who do not get invited to spout their views on teevee.

Mr. Sullivan regularly receives such largess, therefore he must not be a Liberal.

He instead must be the lone member be of some rare and singular new species; some miraculous form of haploid political minotaur.

Because if he is not something spontaneously-generated and utterly sui generis, then he is just another Lefty-Come-Very-Lately, showing up at our door at 3:00 A.M., 20 years late and trailing toxic baggage behind him like a Halley Comet.

And who in the world would pay him to do his little dance then?


18 comments:

Monster from the Id said...

Barbaric nihilism indeed is concentrated on the political Right in the USA.

However, BN is a nasty part of human nature, so it can become a force anywhere on the political spectrum--even on the Left, hence the Reign of Terror, the gulags, and the killing fields.

My namesake lives in all of us.

Anonymous said...

"...there exists no subatomic level of fuck small enough to encompass how little I care..."

Fucking. Brilliant.

Monster from the Id said...

Strictly speaking, what the USAmerican Right wants is not exactly nihilism--an end to civilization--but rather an imitation of the social structure of an earlier level of civilization plus modern technical conveniences, more or less feudalism with cell phones.

One might call it "Feudalism 2.0".

Kathleen said...

@Monster from the Id

Nailed it.

Chris Andersen said...

I am reminded of the Roy Cohn character in "Angels in America" (played brilliantly by Al Pacino) who when informed by his doctor that he had AIDs and that he got it because he was gay exploded with the classic comment, "I'm not gay, I just like to fuck men!"

You see, in Mr. Cohn's mind, being gay meant being powerless ("A gay man can't pick up the phone and get the President on the line. I can.") So he could never accept the label of being gay. But he was fine with admitting that he fucked men.

Andrew Sullivan reacts the same way to being accused of being a liberal. He has a conception in his mind of what being a liberal means (its roughly akin to "dirty fucking hippie"). Now, obviously he doesn't fit that conception. Therefore he can't be a liberal.

Mr. Sullivan is a closeted liberal so deep in denial that he isn't even aware of the conflict within himself.

steeve said...

"want radical tax reform"

There you go. Any liberal trying to convince Sullivan he's one of them will fail. This is the totality of what it means to be a republican. Everything else is optional.

(Of course, taxing the rich at 70% would be "radical", but i'm fairly sure that's not what Sullivan has in mind.)

At least he knows to avoid the party that wants to end families and Christianity. Such a party will surface in about 200 years.

tmk said...

Chris @ 12:04 -

Tap Drifty's link and scroll down.

:)

Anonymous said...

"I haven’t renounced my precocious devotion to Thatcher and Reagan, even as I have out-grown them, as the world has as well."

Dafuq?!?

"Precocious"? No. "Precocious" is Bluegal saying to Driftglass, "Honey! A yarn show! Can you take me? You don't mind holding my purse, right?". That level of creepy Reagan/Thatcher worship would be more akin to Bluegal telling Driftglass, "Oh, look! Mom found and sent my old robes from when I was in a Satanic cult! I wonder if they still fit? Hand me that cleaver and call the children, this should be priceless."

And "out grown them"? Again, dafuq? When? And by what standard? He no longer dry-humps the pictures when he has guests?

And, I agree, Driftglass, "...there exists no subatomic level of fuck small enough to encompass how little I care..." is brilliant, and shall be permanently entered into my lexicon.

Anyway, Sullivan's worship reminds me of the "Empty Idol" state I have mentioned before. That kind of primitive, unthinking worship.

Everyone take a drink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjnpTcvGvts

The Trinity of Reagan / Thatcher / Founding Fathers or Reagan / Ayn Rand / Walmart is an "Empty Idol". The unthinking "worshiper" pours his or her reverence into the empty idol. Eventually it fills up, and starts sloshing over back on to the worshiper. To the worshiper, "God" sounds astonishingly like the worshiper. To a good person who isn't particularly religious, God seems to speak back about peace and health and hope. To the conservatives, however, God vomits forth a river of hate and anger and aggrievement and paranoia and greed and superstitious ignorance.

And that is Andrew Sullivan. Has has filled his three-faced doll of Reagan / Thatcher / Burke with "I want my pot, gay marriage, and tax cuts, and I want the poor kept away from me. Oh, and Both Sides." Now, his idol doll is whispering to him that he has earned, by his rugged self, gay marriage and pot and tax cuts, and that letting the poor live in work camps is good Christian charity of him, and that Both Sides need to get along.

Mike.K.

Anonymous said...

"I haven’t renounced my precocious devotion to Thatcher and Reagan, even as I have out-grown them, as the world has as well."

Dafuq?!?

"Precocious"? No. "Precocious" is Bluegal saying to Driftglass, "Honey! A yarn show! Can you take me? You don't mind holding my purse, right?". That level of creepy Reagan/Thatcher worship would be more akin to Bluegal telling Driftglass, "Oh, look! Mom found and sent my old robes from when I was in a Satanic cult! I wonder if they still fit? Hand me that cleaver and call the children, this should be priceless."

And "out grown them"? Again, dafuq? When? And by what standard? He no longer dry-humps the pictures when he has guests?

And, I agree, Driftglass, "...there exists no subatomic level of fuck small enough to encompass how little I care..." is brilliant, and shall be permanently entered into my lexicon.

Anyway, Sullivan's worship reminds me of the "Empty Idol" state I have mentioned before. That kind of primitive, unthinking worship.

Everyone take a drink:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjnpTcvGvts

The Trinity of Reagan / Thatcher / Founding Fathers or Reagan / Ayn Rand / Walmart is an "Empty Idol". The unthinking "worshiper" pours his or her reverence into the empty idol. Eventually it fills up, and starts sloshing over back on to the worshiper. To the worshiper, "God" sounds astonishingly like the worshiper. To a good person who isn't particularly religious, God seems to speak back about peace and health and hope. To the conservatives, however, God vomits forth a river of hate and anger and aggrievement and paranoia and greed and superstitious ignorance.

And that is Andrew Sullivan. Has has filled his three-faced doll of Reagan / Thatcher / Burke with "I want my pot, gay marriage, and tax cuts, and I want the poor kept away from me. Oh, and Both Sides." Now, his idol doll is whispering to him that he has earned, by his rugged self, gay marriage and pot and tax cuts, and that letting the poor live in work camps is good Christian charity of him, and that Both Sides need to get along.

Mike.K.

Chris Andersen said...

tmk, great minds think alike :-)

DeSwiss said...

''...especially the barbaric nihilism at the core of American Conservatism.''


That is an insult to all barbarians from time immemorial..... :-|

casimir said...

M-f-t-I: Because the "USAmericanRight" is a political expression of a pathology, speaking of what it "wants" is a bit slippery.

The defining characteristic of membership in the Repub base is the inability to manage the existential fear that is foundational to being a human born into the vast, uncaring universe. This is almost tautological, because the core Republican strategy over the past 50 years to assemble a base has been to continuously extend and refine its skill at appealing to those whose inability to manage existential uncertainty makes them susceptible to standard authoritarian gambit of creating an enemy and promising protection from that enemy.

Accordingly, what the Repub base says - and tells itself, and believes - that it wants is freedom. What it votes for is authoritarianism masquerading as freedom. And what it truly wants - the logical endpoint of desublimated existential terror - is annihilation.

So to your earlier comment, yes barbaric nihilism is in us all. But those of us on the left are on the left precisely because we have the tools to reflect on and redirect our existential uncertainty - or to put it another way, to evolve morally. It is in the Repub base that barbaric nihilism has been intentionally cultivated and made available for mobilization.

Kathleen said...

Brilliant, Casimir.

Monster from the Id said...

"Those of us who are on the left are on the left precisely because...[we can] evolve morally."

That sounds like hubris to me, since the Left gave the world the Jacobins and Communists.

Anonymous said...

Casimir,
I would actually push you a little farther. I would say that, while a large swath of the conservative base is paralyzed by the "existential dread" fear, it is not entirely un-channeled.

Some worship it.

Mike.K.

casimir said...

M-f-t-I: I'm not intending a universal statement about "the Left" in all times and places. That would involve a tidy bit of historical and conceptual analysis I'm hardly competent to undertake. I just mean "the Left" as counterposed to "the Right" in the U.S. (and the rest of the post-industrial world) under present economic and social conditions.

I do think that what characterizes the Left, beyond its analytical critique of wealth and power, is continually working to expand the projection of the self into human society and the natural world with a (theoretical) aspiration of rendering "me/not me" or "us/them" obsolete. In other words, the Left is about ascending the Maslow hierarchy and the Right is about burrowing in at the bottom of it. (Which is why the propagandists of the Right have a lot easier time of it - they're appealing to peoples' worst instincts while the Left is trying to appeal to the better ones.)

And of course, this is all a grand generalization. There are plenty of folks who would place themselves on "the Left" (and who may be, from the standpoint of analytical critique) who are not very other-regarding and are quite happy to wage war against the Right under the us/them construct.

Monster from the Id said...

I would think that "me/not me" and "us/them" are inherent features of human psychology.

The first because empathy is a limited quality--no one can step into the brain of another human and so actually feel the pain or pleasure happening to that human.

The second because humans, like any other primates, are tribal animals.

Also, "Existential uncertainty" my @$$. The Rightists just want power (and wealth, as a means to power) because a million years of hard-wired instinct tells them that those who acquire power are more likely to survive and perpetuate their DNA. No metaphysics are necessary to explain their behavior. Occam's Razor!

casimir said...


You're right, MftI, instead of "the Right have a lot easier time of it - they're appealing to peoples' worst instincts," I should have said "they're appealing to peoples' most hard-wired, atavistic instincts." Which only means that the structural advantage of the Right over the Left is even more imposing than I suggested.