Monday, May 02, 2016

Andrew Sullivan and Plato's Republicans



Andrew Sullivan returns to paid mainstream media in the strangest way imaginable: by penning a long, boring SparkNotes high school study guide on Democracy: A Study In Contrasts.

With chapters on "That Guy Plato" --
What did Plato mean by that? Democracy, for him, I discovered, was a political system of maximal freedom and equality, where every lifestyle is allowed and public offices are filled by a lottery. And the longer a democracy lasted, Plato argued, the more democratic it would become. Its freedoms would multiply; its equality spread. Deference to any sort of authority would wither; tolerance of any kind of inequality would come under intense threat; and multiculturalism and sexual freedom would create a city or a country like “a many-colored cloak decorated in all hues.”
-- and "The Electoral College is Not Really a College" -- 
Part of American democracy’s stability is owed to the fact that the Founding Fathers had read their Plato. To guard our democracy from the tyranny of the majority and the passions of the mob, they constructed large, hefty barriers between the popular will and the exercise of power. Voting rights were tightly circumscribed. The president and vice-president were not to be popularly elected but selected by an Electoral College, whose representatives were selected by the various states, often through state legislatures. The Senate’s structure (with two members from every state) was designed to temper the power of the more populous states, and its term of office (six years, compared with two for the House) was designed to cool and restrain temporary populist passions. The Supreme Court...
-- and shot through with the author's sweeping, parochial, unattributed generalizations delivered by slow freight in the Authoritative Passive Voice --
For the white working class, having had their morals roundly mocked, their religion deemed primitive, and their economic prospects decimated, now find their very gender and race, indeed the very way they talk about reality, described as a kind of problem for the nation to overcome.
-- all I can say is, if Mr, Sullivan was shooting for a GED-level lecture on American democracy executed in a marmish tone and calibrated to pass muster with the Texas State Board of Education, then the first third of this banal turd has succeeded admirably.

Then, of course, comes the obligatory hippie punching, because what bland, cliche-barnacled journey-of-imagination-but-not-actual-journalism to heart of blue collar turmoil by the most privileged gay Conservative Catholic British Tory snob in America would be complete without stopping along the way to take a bite out of those awful, snooty Liberals:
...
This is just one aspect of what Trump has masterfully signaled as “political correctness” run amok, or what might be better described as the newly rigid progressive passion for racial and sexual equality of outcome, rather than the liberal aspiration to mere equality of opportunity.

Much of the newly energized left has come to see the white working class not as allies but primarily as bigots, misogynists, racists, and homophobes, thereby condemning those often at the near-bottom rung of the economy to the bottom rung of the culture as well. A struggling white man in the heartland is now told to “check his privilege” by students at Ivy League colleges. Even if you agree that the privilege exists, it’s hard not to empathize with the object of this disdain. These working-class communities, already alienated, hear — how can they not? — the glib and easy dismissals of “white straight men” as the ultimate source of all our woes. They smell the condescension and the broad generalizations about them — all of which would be repellent if directed at racial minorities — and see themselves, in Hoffer’s words, “disinherited and injured by an unjust order of things.” 
...
The Black Lives Matter left stoked the fires still further; so did the gay left, for whom the word magnanimity seems unknown, even in the wake of stunning successes...
And after you have waded through miles of this sort of thing, you can get on with the final third of the article in which Mr. Sullivan points out that Donald Trump is Bad.  Very Bad.  No, really.  He is really Very Very Bad and we should all wake the fuck up and start to take him seriously.  All hail the Acela Corridor's very own Paul Revere, typing bravely away from deep inside his Beltway bubble about the outbreak of a war that we on the Left have already been fighting for decades.

But ultimately what makes this a truly Andrew Sullivan-brand column is the nose-bleed altitude of internal illogic and cognitive dissonance to which it dares to aspire.  On the one hand, even from the safety of his Washington D.C. fastness, Andrew Sullivan is not blind enough to miss the level of deep and passionate pig-ignorance, hate and racism which runs bone-deep through the Republican party --
...
In some ways, this story contains all the elements of Trump’s core appeal. The vexing problem of tackling jihadist terror? Torture and murder enough terrorists and they will simply go away. The complicated issue of undocumented workers, drawn by jobs many Americans won’t take? Deport every single one of them and build a wall to stop the rest. Fuck political correctness. As one of his supporters told an obtuse reporter at a rally when asked if he supported Trump: “Hell yeah! He’s no-bullshit. All balls. Fuck you all balls. That’s what I’m about.” And therein lies the appeal of tyrants from the beginning of time. Fuck you all balls. Irrationality with muscle.

The racial aspect of this is also unmissable. When the enemy within is Mexican or Muslim, and your ranks are extremely white, you set up a rubric for a racial conflict. And what’s truly terrifying about Trump is that he does not seem to shrink from such a prospect; he relishes it...
-- nor is Andrew Sullivan stupid enough to pretend that deliberately cultivating and harvesting hate and rage and fear has not been at the core Republican electoral strategy all along:
...and those convinced [Trump] cannot bring a whole new swath of white voters back into the political process should remember 2004, when Karl Rove helped engineer anti-gay-marriage state constitutional amendments that increased conservative voter turnout.
And yet, somehow, while Black Lives Matter and "the gay left" and "students at Ivy League colleges" are singled out for extra helpings of Mr, Sullivan's pissy indignation, no such scorn is heaped on Fox News or Hate Radio or Regnery Press or the Wall Street Journal or any of the other cesspools of fascist propaganda which the millions and millions of bigots and imbeciles who make up the Republican base turn to every day for flattery, validation and endorsement of their worst impulses.  

But Mr. Sullivan knows what his audience of Beltway Shipwreck Kellies perched precariously atop their perks and privileges and high opinions of themselves want to hear.  He has friends throughout the ecosystem and knows how to mix the right barbs and the right honey in proportions that will please the people who write the checks. which is why he has a column in New York magazine. 

Update:  As I type this I see that Mr. Sullivan has parlayed his ponderous turd of an article into another invitation to let Chris Matthews talk over him on MSNBC where he just used the word "asshole" on live teevee. (h/t Heather at Crooks& Liars.) So, to recap...
  • Things you are allowed to say on MSNBC without repercussions:  "asshole".
  • Things which you are never under any circumstances allowed to say or even hint at in any way on MSNBC:  Larry Wilmore was absolutely god damn right about Joe Scarborough.



Update:  Add "campaign finance" to the long list of things about which Mr. Sullivan knows nothing. 

14 comments:

The Kraken said...

I was waiting all day to hear what you were going to make of this rant.

Karen Crosby said...

Thanks for that, Mr. d. Sullivan makes me so pissed.

stickler said...

Tools like Sullivan never finish the phrase "drawn by jobs many Americans won’t take...", leaving unsaid "...at a shit wage insufficient to support a decent American lifestyle."

dinthebeast said...

Sully, Sully, Sully, whatever are we to do with you? If this post wasn't quite enough somehow, the Rude Pundit ran him through another amusing wringer for our enjoyment...

http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2016/05/dont-worry-andrew-sullivan-americans.html

-Doug in Oakland

Paul Donahue said...

If Chris Matthews asked me to use the word "asshole" in a sentence I would respond, "Andrew Sullivan is my candidate for Asshole Of The Week".

Belvoir said...

This was magnificent, Drifty.

I read the entire wearisome article, and it came down to 1. democracy is dangerous and 2. elites are often correct and right gatekeepers and 3. the GOP should actively thwart the will of their own voters to deny Trump the nomination by any means and chicanery necessary. That's Sullivan's wonderful contribution.

I'm a fuh-laming liberal who loathes Trump, but I wouldn't blame Trump voters for being furious at their party fucking them over and blatantly tossing their votes. Just coming out of the closet to show the rubes they've been exploiting for years how little they matter. T'will be interesting.

Robt said...

I saw Andrew on the MSNBC. He doesn't seem able to accept any of his own word=smithian outhouse antidotes. Like he believed he wrote so elegantly for the rest of us to live by.

So let me ask now,
What network do you predict in your criftglassy crystal ball. that Reince Priebus ends up with?


Not a Robot yet...............

Lit3Bolt said...

Cap'n Sully of the HMS PunchDown returns! Thank you, driftglass, for slapping around this odious turd of an article, which like all of Sullivan's other "epiphanies" and "revelations" have all the dignity and aplomb of Mr. Bean.

I wanted to blow up this article too, but the bullshit is too dense. Of course, only Cap'n Sully can write a long form article that preaches authoritarianism as the only thing that can save us from authoritarianism. The authoritarianism of the elites is preferable because despite 9/11, the public looting and executions, the banks running wild, the endless wars and grift, and the fact as Sullivan acknowledges that the elites deserve Trump every day for every year of the rest of their miserable money-hoarding lives....

...the elites are preferable because democracy and populism are bad.

So the next stage of the long con by media elites like Cap'n Sully begins: the Republican Party, driven barking mad by Fox News and coddled by every institutional advantage in media and money, has become an argument against American democracy and populism itself!

So the next time people ask for nice things, like "roads," or "jobs," or "schools," or "peace," Donald Trump will be trotted out as exhibit A by the media as the dangers of radical, populist movements such as Amercians For Clean Drinking Water.

Trust in your elites, peons! They live...To Serve Man.

MavynFL said...

Effing brilliant, Driftglass!

Michael Doane said...

Great work once again, Driftglass. Always on the mark.

RUKidding said...

Sully draws a convenient veil over the usual suspects - Fox, Hate Radio, WSJ/NYT, Regnery Press, the corporations - while railing against the usual suspects on the left - those damn hippies, the gay left who don't know how to be magnanimous (WTF?), Black Lives Matter (except they don't), etc. The left is just so mean and wrong about rightwing dad being a bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic asshole. Why these poor poor white men have been tread upon for simply decades, while all these uppity ni.. uh leftist have forced the horrors of political correctness down poor poor rightwing dad's neck. Unfair!

Because of these un-magnanimous leftists, rightwing dad has fled into the all balls arms of Mr. Muscle Balls Trump. Why how ungrateful of rightwing dad after ALL the conservative establishment has done for him all of these years. After all, it's simply not the fault of conservative politicians and the corporations that rightwing dad no longer has job prospects, now is it? It's because of Black Lives Matters and the gay left and those damn hippies that rightwing dad can't get jerbs.

So let's all join hands and sing kumbayah while we let the real grown ups in the room run things for the pathetic proles. After all, the corporations know best. Don't get your hopes up, and remember this will hurt the hippies more than it hurts you assholes.

Neo Tuxedo said...

Don't get your hopes up, and remember this will hurt the hippies more than it hurts you assholes.

As long as they believe that, they're beyond reach. Remember Machina's Maxim:

The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of who[m] will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn't even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.

Rebecca W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca W. said...

Reposted:

Let's all agree that white working-class people in the Midwest are in a parlous state. (No pun.) I lived a few miles from Lake Erie for close to 20 years, and if you want to tell me that the Rust Belt has seen better days, I won't disagree with you. But who closed the factories? Who offshored the manufacturing jobs, demolished the unions, stole all the pensions, shut down the towns? Was it Democrats, liberals, progressives? Gotta say, not the last time I checked...in fact (if it comes to that) during the last election cycle I (along with everybody else in this country) was treated to the spectacle of an in-house fight between Republicans over who was responsible for the Main Street decline. (The days when Goopers would point to such an accomplishment with pride and cite it as proof of their devotion to excellence are past. They were past four years ago, too.) Gingrich blamed Romney, Romney blamed back. (Etc., etc.) Of course it was only a matter of time before the righties would sheathe the knives they'd drawn against each other and turn them against their old foes: women, blacks, browns, Asians to a limited extent, gay people, and Kids These Days. But all that old ad material is still out there and little of it has been disproven...I think it's time some of it was resurrected. Of course, none of the people who composed or approved those ads are now in the race, but the material from them might help to explain to people that they did not lose their towns and their lives because black people have gotten sick of being shot by the police. Then too all that stuff is merely factual and may not be persuasive, but it's the best suggestion I've got (as of now).