#30 -- The internal contradictions of Sullivanism
Not a ‘Deep Dive’! A few quick points about Andrew Sullivan's latest essay, a yearning, crowdpleasing anticipation of a Trump landslide defeat:
1. Sullivan argues a Trump shellacking would have a big impact. "Bush’s loss to Clinton, in turn, solidified the hard right’s control of the GOP from Gingrich through to Trump." Huh? The Republicans’ next four nominees were Bob Dole, George Bush's son George Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney. None are hard right. A Trump debacle might easily encourage some sort of sloppy regression to the mean in the 2024 primaries.
2. Sullivan seems to entirely blame Trump for "tribalism" and "polarization," which is why Trump needs to be expunged and cauterized etc.. Trump certainly hasn't cured those problems — or even tried — but given the Democrats' inability to come to terms with his 2016 victory, their immediate full-on opposition, their ongoing attempts to reverse the election’s result— plus the pre-Trump ascendance of Critical Race Theory (critqued most accessibly by Sullivan himself) and the eruption of Black Lives Matter protests (against police brutality, not Trump's policies), it seems as if at least some percentage of the blame should fall on Democrats who'd feel vindicated by a landslide.
3. "[Trump] has worsened social and economic inequality, when a reformist conservatism would seek to ‘level up’ a society wracked by hyper-global capitalism." But this ‘leveling up’ is exactly what was happening until the pandemic hit this year, with wages at the bottom rising faster, than the wages of higher-paid Americans, thanks to both tight labor market (helped by restrained immigration) and minimum wage hikes in many states. The pandemic probably reversed these gains, and maybe Trump's partly to blame for the pandemic. But it's hard to say he needs repudiation as an innate enemy of ‘leveling up’ when he made things better for 3 years.
4. "A landslide matters because it gives Biden a much bigger mandate to govern from the center.” Really? Compared with, say, a narrow Biden win that suggested voters were wary of leftish Dem ambitions? Seems like wishful Brit leader-writer thinking to me. It’s much more likely that a big win would give the left a bigger mandate, no? -- a mandate to end the Senate filibuster, add states, pack the Supreme Court, to name the current hotly discussed changes. Also to use any new procedural leverage to help pass an ambitious health care plan, a "card check" program of unionization, various cash programs that approach a UBI, added race-preference mandates, etc. Not saying these are all necessarily bad things, but they ain't centrist.
5. Andrew approves Republican populism:
The Republican move toward defending the unskilled, protecting working families, guarding entitlements, resisting urban wokeness, checking free trade absolutism, restraining overseas intervention, and curtailing mass immigration is one that need not be abandoned. Its time has come.
Hard to square this confident hope in the future of Trumpish policies with Sullivan’s claim that a landslide “would say to posterity: we made this hideous mistake, for understandable reasons, but after four years, we saw what we did and decisively changed course.” Hideous mistake or “time has come.” Pick one.
More practically, curtailing mass immigration won't be possible if Democrats succeed in passing something like the old Gang of 8 bill that would double legal immgration, legalize virtually all current illegal immigrants, and practically invite a new influx of economic migrants posing as "asylum" seekers to overwhelm our legal system. Sullivan’s landlslide — giving Democrats conrol of the Senate — is what would enable Democrats to very quickly do this, shaping the electorate for the rest of American history and thereby making many of Andrew's other, anti-woke goals, unattainable. You’d think he would face up to this.