By David Beilstein
The stumble into ripe cack happened on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos. Sullivan, appearing pessimistic and unduly emotional — yet again — said “if Virginia and Florida go back to the Republicans” the electoral map would look like the confederacy.
Conservative pundit George Will countered. He arrested a dramatic U-turn from a ludic Sullivan who maintained he was not chalking this possible — more likely probable — turn of events into a racial issue. Sullivan is too intelligent to be so intellectually dishonest. Having gone to Harvard Andrew Sullivan knows what memories and emotions the confederacy turns up in voters’ imaginations.
He intended a racial tone. When called out he retreated into a cowardly chalet.
It should be noted the Republican Party — while perfectly imperfect — destroyed the Confederacy under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln. By providence, the GOP ended slavery and set in motion a century of civil rights leadership. It was Republicans who slowly but surely helped dismantle the edifice of institutional racism — while Democrats, especially progressives like Woodrow Wilson and red neck Dixiecrats — helped empower racism and black subjugation.
Democratic Progressives and Dixiecratic southern red necks were not, classically liberal, i.e., conservative. More to the point, historically, progressives of the early 20th century were no friends to American blacks. Contrary to media hot gas, it is classical liberal formulations that set in motion the parameters by which civil rights legislation and improvement of American Negro quality of life (and equality) expanded and germinated in.
It would also do Sullivan well to understand geographical alignment with the confederacy does not mean ideological agreement. It is an immense fallacy. The racial animosity against blacks brimming among white voters died with the Dixiecrats. President Jimmy Carter was the last Democratic President these voters trapped in their racism voted for — in 1980 — and they voted for President Carter over Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.
Sullivan’s weasel-esque panegyric is ahistorical — a conflation of simplistic dimensions suited for schoolyard bullying.
It did not seem to lurk somewhere in Sullivan’s fertile brain that it could be — could be! — parts of America simply do not think Barack Obama has done a very good job. Obama scored 365 electoral votes picking up a handful of southern states, too. George W. Bush — whiter than snow and from Texas failed to perch on even 300 electoral votes.
Was the country jaundiced toward a Texan — a white man?
Sullivan is beautiful when honouring Pascal’s theological insights, explaining Frederich Hayek and opining on the benison light of Michael Oakshott’s classical liberal exegesis… but the Iraq War and the quagmire of the Afghanistan sump created an obnoxious sentimentality to Sullivan’s contrariness. Move on over to the fundamentalist elements rutting in Republican ranks and Sullivan had all he needed to not only become curious about the plank — but to dive off it.
I have large sympathy with much of Sullivan’s explication of classical liberalism — and that the GOP is not a good preserver of it. In fact, many elements in the GOP smack against classical liberalism…
But President Obama is no classical liberal either.
President Obama perpetuated fiscal insanity further than George W. Bush could have dreamed. And Obama’s leftist policies increased — not reversed! — the regulatory state miles past Sullivan’s own acknowledgement of what conservatism should be. Further still, the top to bottom need for the Democratic Party to intrude upon what people eat and drink — a rank paternalism — isn’t any kind of classical liberalism I’ve ever heard of.
But Sullivan loves Obama!
It would be easy to say simply, Sullivan is no longer conservative. This is more true than wrong but does illumine an interesting change of tack. What is more likely is Sullivan has converted to a rank progressivism in rebellion to social or cultural conservatism rooted in naked fundamentalism.
A Goldwaterite of strong convictions, I have large sympathy with Sullivan here (politically speaking). But a view of the modern Democratic Party as a classical liberal inducing agent should not be an option to a man or woman seriously eyeing classical liberalism with a lover’s devotion.
Sullivan used to be a deep thinker. He once echoed loudly unconventional wisdom and a creative impulse to political commentary. Unfortunately, Sullivan appears to have given up the ghost on that honourable chore to join a band of punditry hacks — constantly preaching on the glory and beauty of bigger and more intrusive state power.
Something Andrew Sullivan used to routinely — and wisely — malign.