Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Reader Asks...

In a previous post, SO Katie said this:

... I love Andrew Sullivan. Maybe its because I'm more of a centrist than an extreme leftist ... maybe my parents didn't do good enough job brain washing me. ;-)

But I think it is great to see a conservative stand up for gay rights as Andy has done for years. I also think it is great that he is railing against the use of torture.

Was Andy dismissive of Iran Contra and Watergate?

Good points, so let's take them one by one.

First, I honestly don't know what an "extreme leftist" even looks like anymore.

When I was a kid, an "extreme leftist" might have been a loosely apt description of a member of or sympathizer with any one of a number of Marxist-inflected activist organizations, while someone on the extreme right might have looked a lot like a hippy/feminist/gay/black-loathing, gun-nut Archie Bunker-type who huddled around the radio listening to Joe Pyne because the rest of the news was secretly run by Jews and/or Commies.

Admittedly somewhat cartoonish, but you get the idea.

But now consider how violently into the wingnut infrared the political spectrum has shifted in last 30 years.

With the exception of Bernie Sanders, there is almost no one of any prominence on the Left I can think of anywhere in elected or appointed office at the federal or state level who has even a poppy seed of Teh Socialist stuck between their teeth; in a dim room after a couple of beers, most Liberals and Progressives in serious politics today would be virtually indistinguishable from the Rockefeller Republican of a generation ago.

Locally and anecdotally, I know maybe one gen-u-ine “Das Capital”-quoting Marxist. He wears a suit, owns property and cheerfully works with both unions and conservative company owners in a spirit of pragmatic equanimity; whatever he reads at night, by day he is in the getting-shit-done business and is very well-respected.

Now consider what an exponentially ever more degenerate and depraved arc the Right has been hurtling down during that same period. How many Republicans of the First Water are now anti-science bigots? Bible-thumping idiots? Wreckers? Stooges of the oligarchs?

How many of them are either racists, or are cravenly willing to pander to racists in exchange for power?

How many of them hate this country? Really, really hate the complexity of it? The diversity? The built-in checks and balances? The premeditated secularism and tolerance burned right into our motherboard?

How many of them applauded as Bill Clinton was slandered and destroyed because he was in the wrong Party? How many cheered when Newt Gingrich gave the order for Republicans to grab every microphone in the world and scream “Liberals are Traitors” in unison year after year?

How many of them sent every dime they could scrape together to Christopathic hateporn merchants like James Dobson and Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?

How many of them creamed their Ronald Reagan Underoos at the thought of the Cheney Torture Administration flossing their ass-cracks with the United States Constitution?

Millions of them, that’s how many.

As this country was put up on blocks and stripped down to the rivets, millions of them applauded. And bellowed. And jizzed themselves blind.

Millions and millions of people who hate this country so much they’ve seceded from it in everything but name. Hate it so much they invented their own Wrathful Swine God who has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ, but everything to do with feeding their own rage and ignorance back to them tarted up in cherry-picked scripture.

Hate the unbearable Liberalism of reality itself so passionately that the billionaires who underwrite their fascism invented a whole new and ludicrously biased media which exists solely to externalize and echo back to the pig people the voices in their heads.

And then we have the Professional Centerists of our Elite Media, for whom (I wrote four years ago and through the proxy of Tom Friedman) the…
…Universe is carefully divided into Conservatives – who are wrong – and Liberals – who are somehow, mysteriously and equally wrong all the time and in equal numbers on every issue. And only Captain Obvious, frolicking across the few lonely yards of sand on his Isle of Reasonableness, can see the truth.

It does not matter how many millions of miles the Shining Path Republicans drag the “middle ground” to the Right.

It doesn’t matter that the Party of Lincoln is now infested crotch-to-crown with maggoty Segregationists.

It doesn’t matter that Nixon looks like a fucking Socialist compared to the positions now being advocated by the GOP today.

However far into the Armageddonist Abyss the wingnuts charge, Captain Obvious will dutifully pace off half that distance back towards where the Left (the band formerly know as “Rockefeller Republicans”) happened to be that day, drive his little stake into that shifting ground and declare that THIS is where the treasure of Comity and Reasonableness is buried. And that everyone on either side of his little islet is equally and oppositely wrong.

This is the reality that ultimately tangles up my wiring when it comes to pinning on labels. Because in a world where you can get tagged as an "extreme leftist" by the Right for, say, disagreeing with Bill O'Reilly over torture…or by the GOP for believing Social Security shouldn't be gambled away in the stock market…or by the Fox News Teabaggers for believing tax rates should be put back to their Clinton Administration levels...what does any label mean anymore?

Which brings us in my long, winding way to the second point: setting the context within which I'll try to answer the “Whither Andy Sullivan” question.

Because the context here really is vital.

I agree that Andy Sullivan has written many things over the years that, if judged blind-submission-writing-contest-style, are perfectly fine, and with which I concur. The problem I have with Andy and several other chastened-by-recent-history Conservatives is that, in writing about culture and/or politics, shearing content from context is virtually impossible.

Sullivan and many others, make their daily bread writing about politics and culture.


They are in the business of taking fierce positions and defending them aggressively.


But in the world of politics and policies, those opinions are not sofa-bound, five-finger-exercise. In the world of politics and policies, people play with live ammunition, and so however sincerely angry and articulate as these apostates are -- and I will gladly stipulate that Andy Sullivan is plenty of both -- the question people like me will keep demanding of them for the rest of their public lives is this:
“OK, well then where in the fuck have you been for the last 30 years?”

This from Wikipedia:

One of the most common charges Sullivan addresses is that he is inconsistent, that his views on certain policies (such as the desirability of invading Iraq) and people (such as George W. Bush) change considerably over time.

And this:
Though Sullivan was very strong in his praise of George W. Bush immediately after 9/11, he has recently called such views "stupid and premature" in retrospect. He has similarly since characterized the president as a "shallow, monstrous, weak, and petty man."[42] In response to suggestions by Sullivan that Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld may have intentionally refused to support the Iraq War effort (during occupation), conservative blog Ace of Spades did a parody of Sullivan's Daily Dish site.”

Three cheers for seeing the error of one’s ways and all, but notice how virtually every one of Sullivan’s eleventh-hour epiphanies are put in harness in the service of the greatest and most dangerous Conservative Dead Ender delusion of all: that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with Conservatism itself.

How else except by building his ideological bunker under a mile-thick ablative shield of diamond-hard delusion could an openly gay man throw himself energetically into pimping for a party and movement that openly built its power base on the foundation of hating gays and working tirelessly for their extinction? How else but through the mesmerizing power of masochistic delusion does a drug libertarian spend his adult life carrying water for the Party whose corrupt leader launched the disastrous War on Drugs and declared drug abuse to be "public enemy number one in the United States” 38 years ago?

Like so many others of his kind, Sullivan maintains his career (and quite possibly his sanity) by hiding out in a meticulously-constructed fantasy-land. Bolted together out of leftovers from the Book of Genesis, it posits a righteous, sinless, pre-Fall "Real Conservatism" that apparently flickered in and out of existence like some exotic subatomic particle (two parts lepton to one part moron) sometime between 7:00 and 7:03 A.M. GMT on March 9, 1981.

Then a buncha stuff happened. For about a quarter of a century. During which time Andy Sullivan remained a staunch defender of the Wingnut Faith.

Then quite!suddenly! Sullivan noticed – OMFG! – the Movement had somehow been betrayed!
“… [c]onservatism is a philosophy without a party in America any more. It has been hijacked by zealots and statists".

By some guy named George Bush! (from the video)

“…the Bush republicans – who are not Republicans, not real Conservatives. They’re actually Leftists and Socialists when it comes to economic policy…”

But of course since Sullivan’s Real Conservatism was never anything more than a sham to begin with, Dubya wasn’t Conservatism’s aberration; he was its apotheosis. Or, as Glenn Greenwald put it here in his generally-favorable assessment of Sullivan’s writing and thinking:

"Conservative principles" are marketing props used by the Conservative Movement to achieve political power, not actual beliefs. Sullivan's principal argument that the Bush presidency never adhered to conservative principles is true enough, but the same can be said of the entire American conservative political movement. That is why they bred and elevated George Bush for six years, and suddenly "realized" that he was "not a conservative" only once political expediency required it.

And with his relentless failed-cult-leader twaddle that the Glorious Movement was just seven flavors of caramel-covered awesome until it was mysteriously hijacked and gutted during the middle of the Bush Administration by people who simply weren’t Reagany enough -- for all of his well-reasoned positions on issues from civil liberties to torture -- Andrew Sullivan is still spending his passion and talent proliferating a toxic delusion which should instead be sealed into lead-lined ideological sarcophagi and buried like Chernobyl.


Mel said...

Well done. And where can I get those Reagan underoos?

CapD said...

Bravo, Drifty.
Sully doesn't stand up for gay rights any more than Mary Cheney does. Both of them are perfectly willing to see gays marginalized and denigrated, as long as they personally can still keep collecting a paycheck from the people doing the marginalizing and denigration.

Anonymous said...

Most excellent post!

". . .buried like Chernobyl."
I know we can do better than that.

Oilfieldguy said...

But, as we all know, conservatism can never fail, people merely fail conservatism. Like, you know, dropping in the polls and losing elections, because they weren't "Reagany enough."

True conservatives must be able to tell America to go to hell in such a way we look forward to the trip.

Is that about right?

Steve Muhlberger said...

Sullivan definitely has the gift of gab, but he is a real lightweight. Reading his stuff is like eating cotton candy at the fair, and realizing that it is Harry Potter style snot-flavored cotton candy. And then realizing that always was.

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Naomi Klein for shoving Sullivan's snotty, condescending "centrism" right back in his piehole. Where, indeed, Andy, is this "true capitalism" of which you speak?

Fucking tool.


Anonymous said...

Bravo to Naomi Klein for shoving Sullivan's snotty, condescending "centrism" right back in his piehole. Where, indeed, Andy, is this "true capitalism" of which you speak?

Fucking tool.


Cirze said...


Yikes! I've changed my mind about that spot on the staff of the NYT.

You're too good for any of those guys.

And as I know you've said you wouldn't care to be the candidate to lead the charge, we've gotta figure out a way to put you behind teh throne. Like a Rahmbo but with a moral core (and true intelligence). Wonder when enough people will reach that point of recognition and be willing to take real steps to ensure their futures?

So, we await the final dropping shoe signifying the end of this con artist attempt to use the righteous anger of a dissaffected electorate to continue the game under a new banner.

And the only rational response comes from your castle.

Anonymous said...

God..I thought the first time I listened to this douchebag blame the global financial meltdown on the marginalized poor and middle class in this country...was bad enough.
With all respect to ms. kline (a valient effort) when Andy is on, Mahr should book someone who will reach over and slap the crap out him. Maybe Cher could reprise her role in Moonstruck: "Snap out of it you idiot!!" "You have wasted your life defending an ideology that hates you and everything you stand for!!"

Blader said...

I've run the calculations and rechecked my numbers. It would appear that today's Sully centrists are yesterday's secessionists. You can draw a straight line right back at 'em. Strange but true.

Blader said...

....and drifty, allow me to answer her question in another way: Sully is to "stand up guy" what internet porn is to a healthy bout of copulation.

IOW, sorta, but not really.

elementaljim said...

I'm no fan of "Andy". He gets excited and then he raises his voice which becomes so shrill that dogs begin to cry. He has really nice posture though.

Mr. Glass your post addresses some of the problems with conservatives and the GOP reminded me of the astute observations made by Janeane Garofalo on Olbermann..
"..some damaged people follow the right wing base and rally around hate & fear. The right wing base are not the most intellectual and not the most savvy and are quick to anger and quick to blame other people. it's a sad, sad thing and part of human nature of a personality type that tends to IDENTIFY as a republican or conservative"

Good stuff!

Anonymous said...

On that video, Sully whines that Americans are to blame for the economic crisis because they irresponsibly borrowed money and then he says "And their government never told them they couldn't". Um, isn't the whole idea of conservatism the government doesn't tell people what they can and can't do?

RedSonja said...

Posts like this are why I have a giant blogcrush on you, drifty. Great job!

Anonymous said...

Well done! It's one the reasons why I have you and Digby as the only blog saved in my favorites. Keep up the excellent writing!

Anonymous said...

Well, all that plus a nasty case of Clinton Derrangement Syndrome and a very public fixation on circumcision.

StringonaStick said...

Greenwald has a post up today explaining that Reagan would be considered a goddamned leftist by today's rethuglican party. They just worship the image they've created of St. Ronnie, not what he actually was. Kind of like modern pigpeople Christianity in that respect.

Batocchio said...

Good question, and great response. I'm glad you posted that interchange with Klein. It came up in a discussion on another blog as proof that while Sullivan is right on some issues, such as torture, he's still very much a conservative and can be a real wanker, too.

K said...

Well, I must admit that I am more of an academic or a policy wonk (and an Economist by profession.)

As I have sorta said before, I am a lifelong card-carrying, campaign contributing, precinct walking Democrat who advocates for civil rights, workers rights, and equality for all. (And, so are both of my parents, but my father is notably more liberal than me. HI DAD!)

As such, I have been very active with EqCa and HRC for about a year and I really appreciate it when there are Republicans and/or conservatives who are willing to stand up for LGBT rights. I was looking at some of Andy's books on marriage equality at Borders the other day, and they seem really informative.

It is sorta ironic that a party which is supposed to stand for limited government wants it out of our checkbooks and into our bedrooms and doctors offices. (And until DHS started looking into who might be the next Timothy McVeigh, wanted the government monitoring our internet usage and library queries.)

The labels of "conservative" and "liberal" have lost their traditional meaning and are now just used almost as slurs. To paraphrase Twain, the liberals of one century are the conservatives of the next. I think most poli sci scholars would define conservatism to mean limited government and self reliance. However, Republicans are really not like that at all.

Getting back to LGBT issues, not all LGBT people are politically to the left on other issues, they just happen to have been born gay. As someone who really wants marriage equality from coast-to-coast, it doesn't matter to me if the person has an R or D behind their name as long as they vote FOR marriage equality. Ultimately, the only way we are going to get this done is if we get Log Cabin Republicans and some conservatives to convince their constituencies that this is really in their interest. I can guarantee you that registered Republicans distrust us so much that they'll dismiss anything we Democrats say out-of-hand.

Working in politics has gotten so partisan it’s disgusting. The Senator I was working for, a Democrat, introduced a bill to study the effects of free-trade. It used the EXACT same language as a bill a termed-out Republican introduced the previous session. When the Republican introduced it, all the Reps voted Aye and the Dems voted Nay, when we introduced it all the Dems voted Aye and the Reps voted Nay. THE SAME DAMN BILL!!!! It's just a game anymore - and it’s disgusting.

I am beginning to think George Washington was correct.

"However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." -GEORGE WASHINGTON

Sorry for the long winded post, I take after my dad. I appreciate reading your blog ... my dad's been telling me about it since I was in college. HUGE fan. :-)

Anonymous said...


-- mac

res ipsa loquitur said...

Remember also that Andy spent years -- years -- moralizing and hectoring gay people for having too much sex or the wrong kind of sex ("hedononistic" "soulless" blah blah blah bullshit), only to be revealed as running around doing exactly what he was telling everyone else they shouldn't be doing. Sullivan is a goddamned hypocrite. That's his problem at his core.

res ipsa loquitur said...

Jesus Christ. I just watched that video. There he goes again -- hectoring and moralizing and being thoroughly dishonest. It's incessant. And he tells Klein not to interrupt him after he's interrupted her about ten times.

Great. Now I'm angry.

Distributorcap said...

it is posts like this that make me stop and pick my jaw up

that was so good and right on.

let the times have brooks and friedman (yuk). we know where the real brains are.

ps - i always thought sullivan was just a disengenous (sp?) windbag.

Anonymous said...

There are quite a few people in the LGBT community who for religious reasons are against "hedonistic sex" and are tired of everyone thinking that people parading down Castro Ave in assless chaps are somehow representative of the entire community. So, having a gay guy criticizing these things is not really that ironic.

Mr. Natural said...

When I started reading this, Dr. D, I had no idea who Sullivan was, but the vid clip hipped me to him. He is just another greed-run-fuck you-I got mine, bankrupt republican mother fucker. The people who were sitting in thier affordable mortgages until they got a visit from some criminal representative of some asshole mortgage broker who sold them some pie in the fucking sky DEAL, are the ones I truly feel sorry for. The folks who wanted a piece of the fucking housing bubble and bought several (often more) condos or houses to FLIP for a profit, I do not feel for. THOSE people, while deluded by the republican crime machine, were plenty smart enough to KNOW what they were doing...this fucking Sullivan asshole appears to be saying two or three different things in the same paragraph, all of which show us how very very clever and brilliant he is so that he can continue to be paid for the drivel that runs out of his mouth.

Drifty, I think this is one of your best, snarkiest, most succinct beat down of the right and 'center' (FUCK A CENTRIST IN HIS GODDAMNED CENTER!) yet. Thanks so much for being there and sharing your twisted gifts with us.

libhom said...

The thing about Sullivan that really bothers me is how someone who is much more conservative than most of us queers was put forth as our spokesperson. It's part of the narrowing of political discourse in the corporate media to right of center views.

Daro said...

Evolution is unstoppable and despite whatever society we all strive for if you draw a line along all the dots over the last 60 years then it seems that we are destined to end up living in an "Escape From New York" society. Maybe nobody wants it and we'll all push against it but the average of all our actions just seem to push us remorselessly closer day by day. Time to go join the Amish.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding post, Mr. Drifter.

Professional Left Podcast #690

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