Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rebels and Revolutionaries

Yglesias writes about Crazy Andy's new book:

Which brings us to the real problem here, such as it is. Though billed as "one of today's most provocative social and political commentators" on his book jacket, Sullivan's substantive views are almost frighteningly banal. Far from "bold and provocative," Sullivan offers up an unusually colorful expression of what is, in fact, the bland conventional wisdom of the Anglo-American elite. In foreign affairs he's hawkish, chastened by Iraq but not so chastened as to revisit any of the empirical or theoretical premises that led America into its current quagmire. In economics, he's disdainful of European social democracy, a supporter of balanced budgets and sound money while dismissive of concerns about inequality. On cultural matters, he's generally progressive, but doesn't much care for feminists. He loathes academic postmodernists but doesn't seem to actually know anything about them.

These elite consensus views have, in the way that only an elite consensus can, an enormous amount of political power behind them already. What the elite consensus lacks is what it's always lacked -- a serious electoral constituency -- the very problem that led it to increasingly ally itself with the very forces of more populist right-wingery that Sullivan deplores. This, though, is hardly a new story; from the Red Scare and McCarthyism to Nixon's Southern Strategy, "respectable" conservatism has long found a need to ally itself with base demagoguery to obtain power. As a gay man, Sullivan finds the current configuration of this alliance unusually obnoxious, to an extent he doesn't seem to have minded, say, Ronald Reagan's implicit appeals to segregationist sentiment. So far as that goes, good for him. But the conservatism of doubt -- which is to say the conservatism of elite complacency -- as a mass political movement is an impossible dream, and always will be.

This elite-consensus-without-a-constituency is also what's behind all of the various third party, above the fray, unity presidential ticket notions. They blame the existing political parties for somehow failing to cater to their personal politics, which they imagine to be so unquestionably right as to not require actually obtaining a consensus.

Weird people.