May 25, 2013
Daddy’s Boy: Andrew Sullivan’s Presidential Crush
Posted on Jun 5, 2012
By Scott Tucker
The fact that so many liberal and conservative intellectuals dismissed that distinction between separatism and solidarity tells us much about the limits of their own ideas, but very little about the politics of radical women of color. Unless each of us jumps out of our skins and into the ether, no one will escape some kind of all too human identity. That is our fate so long as we live on earth. But when the figures emerging from the national background were not white, or heterosexual, or middle class, many intellectuals (both liberal and conservative) grew alarmed. If the national project is explicitly capitalist, then it is quite true that some of the early proponents of identity politics were explicitly socialist. So the cause for alarm was not strictly academic, but already involved a collision between two kinds of class consciousness.
In the ideal republic of Schlesinger, Sullivan and Company, the ideal citizens would likewise strive to be raceless and sexless in the public sphere. As for class consciousness, a “centrist” corporate state would settle that question as well on the plane of ideological good will. When all such “accidental” elements are stripped away from a person, all that is left is a pure Platonic entity, a disembodied Logos. Of course, no such creature has ever existed on this earth, not even in the editorial offices of The New Republic, The Nation and The New York Times.
Sullivan, so far as I know, has never had any sympathy with the class-conscious politics of socialism. His version of the Christian social Gospel is influenced by his Catholic faith. The view that charity ought to replace class consciousness “on earth as in heaven” has real substance in the lives of the saints, but is otherwise one of the high-minded dodges of the ruling class. That view may be good religion, but remains bad politics. To be quite clear on this subject, the fraction of Christians who live out their lives and the Gospel message among the poor command respect. Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement was among their number. Long ago in my youth, I met her at an anarchist conference and argued with her after she had made a speech condemning usury, abortion and sodomy. We agreed only on the subject of usury.
Those who already live a kind of millennial witness against the powers of this world command respect but not political agreement, precisely because the communion of saints can never be a class-conscious policy of struggle against the corporate state. Sullivan is well aware that any social Gospel truly drawn from the Bible would spell condemnation to the practices of many conservative and fundamentalist Christians. Weaving a seamless garment from the words of Jesus Christ and the words of Adam Smith would be a long and laborious lie. Sullivan has not yet abased his talent to that level, while corporate politicians such as Mitt Romney and Barack Obama just declare a straightforward faith in both God and the free market. Republican politicians do so more often and more vehemently, but a Democrat in the White House now does so with more judgment of the moment and with more finesse.
Sullivan has been articulating his own brand of entrepreneurial politics over the years in his books and blog posts, and he was quite right to argue on “The Colbert Report” in January that Obama first ran for president as a political centrist. The talk of hope and change was just the kind of mood music many “progressives” had to hear before they could vote by rote, but centrism in foreign and domestic policies is what Obama promised and delivered. Of course, the meaning of the word “centrism” is peculiar in a political system dominated by a neo-fascist party so deeply indebted to Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman, and by a neo-liberal party only distantly acquainted with Franklin Roosevelt and John Maynard Keynes.
Sullivan also told Stephen Colbert’s audience that Obama’s health care reform was largely borrowed from the Heritage Foundation, and that “the individual mandate came from the right.” I am glad to give credit where credit is due, and I agree with Sullivan’s summary of Obama’s health care plan. But Sullivan did not stop while he was still in the realm of reality. Sullivan claimed on the same show that Obama “passed universal health care” and “won the war in Afghanistan.” The studio audience cheered.
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