Sunday, December 6, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: Leaving the Right

I’ve always enjoyed listening to Andrew Sullivan.  While I often disagree with him, I respect his integrity.  For this article, I owe a Hat-Tip, a big thank you, and a {{hug}} to Lisa G.  She left the URL to this article in a comment yesterday.

sullivan_andrew ...The relationship of a writer to a party or movement is, of course, open to discussion. I understand the point that Jonah Goldberg makes that politics is not about pure intellectual individualism; it requires understanding power, its organization and the actual choices that real politics demands. You can hold certain principles inviolate and yet also be prepared to back politicians or administrations that violate them because it's better than the actual alternatives at hand. I also understand the emotional need to have a default party position, other things being equal. But there has to come a point at which a movement or party so abandons core principles or degenerates into such a rhetorical septic system that you have to take a stand. It seems to me that now is a critical time for more people whose principles lie broadly on the center-right to do so - against the conservative degeneracy in front of us. Those who have taken such a stand - to one degree or other - demand respect. And this blog, while maintaining its resistance to cliquishness, has been glad to link to writers as varied as Bruce Bartlett or David Frum or David Brooks or Steve Chapman or Kathleen Parker or Conor Friedersdorf or Jim Manzi or Jeffrey Hart or Daniel Larison who have broken ranks in some way or other.

I can't claim the same courage as these folks because I've always been fickle in partisan terms. To have supported Reagan and Bush and Clinton and Dole and Bush and Kerry and Obama suggests I never had a party to quit. I think that may be because I wasn't born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British - I'm a loyal Tory.  But my attachment to the Anglo-American conservative political tradition, as I understand it, is real and deep and the result of sincere reflection on the world as I see it. And I want that tradition to survive because I believe it is a vital complement to liberalism in sustaining the genius and wonder of the modern West.

For these reasons, I found it intolerable after 2003 to support the movement that goes by the name "conservative" in America. I still do, even though I am much more of a limited government type than almost any Democrat and cannot bring myself to call myself a liberal (because I'm not). My reasons were not dissimilar to Charles Johnson, who, like me, was horrified by 9/11, loathes Jihadism, and wants to defeat it as effectively as possible. And his little manifesto prompts me to write my own (the full version is in "The Conservative Soul"). Here goes:

I cannot support a movement that claims to believe in limited government but backed an unlimited domestic and foreign policy presidency that assumed illegal, extra-constitutional dictatorial powers until forced by the system to return to the rule of law.

I cannot support a movement that exploded spending and borrowing and blames its successor for the debt.

I cannot support a movement that so abandoned government's minimal and vital role to police markets and address natural disasters that it gave us Katrina and the financial meltdown of 2008.

I cannot support a movement that holds torture as a core value.

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.

I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.

I cannot support a movement that sees permanent war as compatible with liberal democratic norms and limited government.

I cannot support a movement that criminalizes private behavior in the war on drugs.

I cannot support a movement that would back a vice-presidential candidate manifestly unqualified and duplicitous because of identity politics and electoral cynicism.

I cannot support a movement that regards gay people as threats to their own families.

I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.

I cannot support a movement that sees climate change as a hoax and offers domestic oil exploration as the core plank of an energy policy.

I cannot support a movement that refuses ever to raise taxes, while proposing no meaningful reductions in government spending.

I cannot support a movement that refuses to distance itself from a demagogue like Rush Limbaugh or a nutjob like Glenn Beck.

I cannot support a movement that believes that the United States should be the sole global power, should sustain a permanent war machine to police the entire planet, and sees violence as the core tool for international relations... [emphasis added]

Inserted from <The Atlantic>

Seldom have I seen anything that even approaches the clarity and quality of this analysis of today’s GOP.  It’s almost shameful to our side that it came from a conservative, but I welcome it.  Thanks again, Lisa!


MadMike said...

I'm with you TC! This is the best I have seen and I travel all over the blogosphere. Thanks Lisa G!

Lisa G. said...

Always happy to help - and when Charles Johnson of LGF (Little Green Footballs) leaves his own blog, you know they've gone off the batshit crazy train and created their own train for the truly psychotic. Half those teabaggers (yeah, I'm still calling them that) don't even know what they're protesting. And the funniest part is that they now have two entirely separate movements who won't even speak to each other. They're splinters of splinters! Bwahahahaha - how freakin' funny is that!

Stimpson said...

Smart conservatives should be saddened by how the likes of Andrew Sullivan and George Will (yes, him) have been greatly overshadowed by ignorant clowns like Limbaugh, Palin and Beck. I don't agree that people who speak against social progress 'serve a purpose' (or whatever other mindless liberal phrase one wishes to use), but I can respect thinking conservatives for at least giving some good, hard thought to their positions rather than reflexively grasping rationalizations for sickening inequities.

Stimpson said...

On second thought ... Instead of "mindless liberal phrase" I probably should have said "mindless 'homespun' wisdom" or something like that. I was just trying to express how I disagree with the common assertion that people expressing regressive, hateful opinions "serve a purpose", as if they are somehow helping. I'll defend the right to express A-hole viewpoints, but I won't go so far as to say A-holes are "useful" except as examples of how not to behave.

TomCat said...

Thanks, Mike. Lisa is clearly a gem.

Lisa, you're so right. I posted a video a while back about a fellow punking them by speaking against Europeans and they joined right in.

Stimpson, honest intellectual conservatives are hard to find these days, and I have no problem with them. We can disagree, argue with mutual respect, and be friends afterwords. On the other hand, I've been known to refer to left wing extremist ideologues as "tin foil hats". The only purpose these GOP wing-nuts serve is to give America something to vote against.