#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.
Maybe I'm unlike your other commenters in that I don't dislike Andrew's writing and typically find his pieces insightful or at least thought provoking. But when it comes to Trump and the election in November he most often sounds like a battered spouse imploring his children to behave better so father doesn't get drunk and beat them again. The far left has so thoroughly infected every institution that the Democrats and the media are barely recognizable to moderates and centrists any more. This has been a long time coming, long before Trump. But rather than stamping it out, Andrew advocates appeasement. Far from returning us to the center, a Biden election will cement the extreme left. Trump is a hard guy to vote for, but anything -- even Trump -- is better than voting for today's version of the Democrats.
I like some of Sullivan's points; I dislike others. He is not always consistent. So what? He's just human.
I think a Biden/Democrat landslide (taking the senate too) would be a disaster. The Dems are already talking about how much they want to do. They will run riot for 2 years then get pasted in 2022 (maybe losing the House but probably not the Senate).
My fear is that the Dems could go beyond granting amnesty...they could allow non-citizens the ability to vote in Federal elections. That was legal in the past; they don't need to pack the Supreme Court for that. But some of their other likely actions will need an activist court to survive. They could mandate easy voter registration and outlaw purging voter registration lists. They could mandate ballot harvesting. They could pass laws to restrict political activities and fund raising by disfavored groups (and rely on the establishment bureaucracy to ignore violations by Dem groups). If they succeed, they will turn the US into a one party state.