Andrew Sullivan and the Online Activist Class

After noting the influence that liberal bloggers and activists have had on the Democratic party, Andrew Sullivan urges those same folks to ratchet up the pressure on Obama, who is now frustrating the left by not pushing hard for a public option:

What part of "we" in "we are the ones we've been waiting for?" does the Beltway still not understand? And why has it taken this long for the Obamaphiles to tackle their leader? He's the follower, for Pete's sake, remember? The people who voted for him are the leaders. 

So make him.

You might think that this would signal that Sullivan approves of online activists who push their party toward greater adherence with its core principles. Just a couple of posts prior, however, Sullivan linked to this AtlanticWire report on the antipathy displayed by conservative activists and bloggers toward the idea of Newt Gingrich running for president, The title of the post was "Newt is Now a RINO," and it read, "I told you it would get worse before it gets better."

Sullivan's idiosyncratic political leanings and ongoing passions—at various times during last year's election, he was strongly attracted to both Ron Paul and Obama—make him one of the most interesting and impossible-to-classify political bloggers on the Internet, and I'm a tremendous admirer of his work and the way he's shaped online political discourse. As a journalistic force of personality, few are more consistently fascinating than Sullivan.

But those passions also produce inconsistencies like what we see above. In the space of just a few hours, he went from rolling his eyes at the efforts of the Republican base to push its party's leadership away from the easy, negotiated center to urging the Democratic base to do exactly that. What's wrong with one and not the other? As far as I can tell, the only difference is that Sullivan is more sympathetic to the personalities and particular goals on the liberal side.

Seems to me that if you accept the rise of the liberal online activist base as a good thing, you must also accept, or at least expect, similar structural changes on the right. I don't always approve of the tone or the particular policy goals of either the conservative or liberal base, but the growth of this sort of base-centric political engagement and activism, on both sides, strikes me as potentially useful—and as the sort of development that Sullivan ought to like: It takes power away from Washington's mushy middle while discouraging lazy compromises and poll-driven political timidity. And, as the liberal base has proven over the last year, it can sometimes push legislators to be more policy focused and less parochial.

Yes, increasing the influence of the activist class will result in a national politics that displays a greater degree of polarization, wilder swings in mood in temperament, and more boisterous, vehement rhetoric on both sides. It makes politics louder and more passionate. But to put it another way, it simply makes for a national politics that more closely resembles Andrew Sullivan's. Is he now so idiosyncratic that he's against that too?

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  • ||

    Weakest. Alt-text. EVER!

  • John Tagliaferro||

    +1 insightful

  • ||

    Holy cow, that is pathetic. I can see that it's Andrew Sullivan, guys.

    The appropriate alt-text is, of course, "And on the gripping hand. . . ."

  • ||

    " don't always approve of the tone or the particular policy goals of either the conservative or liberal base, but the growth of this sort of base-centric political engagement and activism, on both sides, strikes me as potentially useful—and as the sort of development that Sullivan ought to like:"

    You clearly don't understand Sullivan. Sullivan has no princples beyond that it is good be him and everyone ought to do what he says and thinks is right. He does and should hate the rise of online activists on the other side for no other reason that they are a sign that someone besides him might have a say in something.

    Sullivan is the vilest writer in public life today.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Dude, come on. He is not the "vilest writer in public life" at all.

  • ||

    Yes he is. The man is digusting at every level. I don't know of any other writers in public life who are old perverts obsessed with female politicians OBGYN records.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Gay guys have leeway with that kind of thing.

  • ||

    No they don't. I know a fair number of gay guys and none of them are like that. Sullivan is just a pervert. Being gay has nothing to do with it.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Fine. I still appreciate the guy, though.

  • Papist Avenger||

    All gays are perverts, but some perverts are not gay. Basic logic.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Nice, bro.

  • ||

    You're a cunt. And a pervert.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Worse than either Maureen Dowd or David Corn?

  • Traditional Marriage||

    Maureen Dowd's prose isn't AIDS addled.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    You SugarFreed your link.

  • Traditional Marriage||

    Must be teh AIDS!

    Fuck, it's that damn squirrel that broke the comments.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    There's no such thing as being too idiosyncratic.

  • ||

    at various times during last year's election, he was strongly attracted to both Ron Paul and Obama

    People eat chocolate-vanilla-strawberry ice cream all the time. Why should I have to love just ONE man?

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Totally.

  • Skid Marx||

    Tramp!

  • @||

    "we are the ones we've been waiting for"

    We've been waiting for...ourselves? What?

  • T||

    I thought we were waiting for Godot. Was I wrong?

  • Ska||

    More like waiting for Guffman.

  • ||

    Sullivan's idiosyncratic political leanings and ongoing passions—at various times during last year's election, he was strongly attracted to both Ron Paul and Obama—make him one of the most interesting and impossible-to-classify political bloggers on the Internet, and I'm a tremendous admirer of his work and the way he's shaped online political discourse. As a journalistic force of personality, few are more consistently fascinating than Sullivan.

    My grandfather is at the point where the degree of solidity of his feces is completely unpredictable. That doesn't mean I'm brimming over with fascinated anticipation when I head into the bathroom and can smell that he forgot to flush.

  • ||

    The people who voted for him are the leaders.

    So, when they guy (or gal) he votes for in the next election loses, he'll just sit back and take it in stride that he's not a 'leader' but a 'loser?' Only the people who voted for Obama get to pressure him?

    I get what he's saying, but I don't think Sullivan gets it.

  • ||

    I don't think Sullivan gets it either.

  • ||

    That picture is as creey as the naked one of that comedien the other day.

  • Skid Marxs||

    Both cropped from the same pick.

  • ||

    Sullivan? Yawn.

  • Death Panelist||

    But those passions also produce inconsistencies like what we see above.

    Those inconsistencies are because Sullivan doesn't use logic to come to his conclusions. He makes a decision on a subject based on who-knows-what and then twists logic to justify it. The fact that he sometimes falls ass-backwards into truly logical conclusions doesn't make him a great thinker.

  • Harpoon||

    In other words, he reasons like a woman.

  • ¢||

    Dude, come on. He is not the "vilest writer in public life" at all.

    Got another nomination?

    Sullivan has no thoughts, only interchangeable mad-lib moralist denunciations, he has White House buddies get him out of drug charges, he's lost in a dark and endless tunnel of terror re: the Palin family vaginas, and, as his insanity escalates, he's getting more and more into hating The Jews.

    Who else is in "puiblic life" is such a fucked up shit?

  • ||

    Perez Hilton?
    Of course, nobody thinks of Perez as a "serious writer" in any way, shape, or form.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    (Perez rocks.)

  • Marc||

    Teh Krug?

  • ||

    You're an idiot

  • web hosting in india||

    I understand the motive behind this, but I don't think Sullivan gets it.

  • Warty||

    If you ever find Andrew Sullivan on your side of an argument, it's time to reexamine your premises. Fuck that guy.

  • ||

    Sullivan was once an interesting thinker, but he's degraded into just one more hysterical pundit blowhard. The few intelligent things he still has to say get lost in a sea of hysteria.

    Plus, he has a beard, and is therefore from the Mirror Universe and is evil.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    He has a beard? Sort of a waste with that open gay marriage of his isn't it?

  • ||

    No dude, only goatees are from the Mirror Universe. Beards are from the Grizzly Bear Universe.

    *Very* different universes.

  • ||

    Well, you would know, you furry Trekkie slash fic fan.

  • ||

    Sullivan has no perceptible logical faculties or principled positions. He seems to operate totally at the level of emotion, and has to be one of the most irrational commenters with any kind of forum today. His violent flip-flop on the WOT was, perhaps, defensible. His bizarre obsession with the Palin family genitalia is beyond embarrassing.

    More of that, we don't need.

    And why am I unsurprised that Mr. Suderman finds him fascinating and admirable?

  • ||

    Look at the bright side: he doesn't call himself a libertarian.

  • Skid Marx||

    Shallow minds think alike.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    No wonder Sullivan doesn't allow comments. Responding to the actual issue, Newt's being attacked from the right because he's argued that Upper New York State Republicans ought to be allowed to pick their own congressional candidates. Since the right wing (and some libertarians) seem to have it in for bearded, balding homos, Sully's backing Newt. Maybe not a perfect consistency, but there is that hobgoblin of little minds thing.

  • ||

    No one is saying the can't pick their own candidate. The woman in question is on the ballot isn't she? They can pick their candidate and conservatives are free to vote for a third party which they seem to be doing.

    And there is nothing wrong with bearded balding homos (beyond the whole can't grow it on their heads so they grow it everywhere else thing but that has nothing to with being gay). But there is everything wrong with Sullivan. His obsession with Palin is no different than if he were a birther or a truther. In fact Sullivan's obsession is even stranger.

    Beyond that Sullivan is completely incapable of writing with any intellectual consistency or integrity. As RC says, he writes on emotion and feeling alone.

  • Qualis Artifex Pereo||

    Yeah, I agree that the hatred for Sarah Palin is really obnoxious and the more one dwells on her the less I take that person seriously. Same with Glenn Beck. I don't care if that dude cried or not, I want to talk about something real.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I just made a connection here.

    Beck cried.

    Sullivan is probably the receiver in anal sex fairly often.

    Are Beck and Sullivan the same person?

  • Nemo||

    Only in Cavanaugh's masturbation fantasies.

  • Paul||

    few are more consistently fascinating than Sullivan.

    Or inconsistent?

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    He's consistently fascinating and fascinatingly inconsistent.

  • KingTaco||

    Man, I hope the get-out-the-wetnap praise was cover owing to Peter's fiancee working at the Atlantic.

    Sullivan's game is bringing in eye's/click's to websites. He apparently does this well. He does no achieve that feet with high-powered, intelligent insights. Sullivan's game is to find a niche that can be profitably cultivated, and work it like Jack Lalanne. His first incarnation was as an over-the-top Righty attack dog, he played the gay-left heretic the National Review set loved to love. Then his personal life took him in orbit with a group which made his niche a (personal) liability, so quick as a flash he found a new one: The partisan left-liberal who likes to pretend their completely moderate. Credit to Sullivan, that's a good niche to work. See: NPR. Sullivan does a good job driving traffic, but just a cursory glance of his material and anyone can see his intellectual chops pale next to most his Atlantic co-writers.

    Praise from strong intellectual writers to Sullivan underlies one of the great forces of the web, 'Be cool with the cool kids'. I can dig that, but let's not subscribe to some fiction that Sullivan is a pioneering statesman. He's PBS - Middlebrow CW-herder with an overblown veneer.

  • ||

    Totally. His hysteria definitely pays the bills for the Atlantic.

    Sadly, a lot of blogs depend on him for links (*cough cough*) and so his wild inconsistencies and appalling ignorance of economics doesnt receive as much public scorn as it should.

  • Skid Marxs||

    But those passions also produce inconsistencies like what we see above.

    Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of large minds.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I always did prefer the Hobgoblin to the Green Goblin. He has a cooler costume.

  • Skid Marx||

    Damn. I can't get my fucking name right today.

  • ||

    AS is a fascinating train wreck. I use his blog to keep up with the "other side" - instead of challenging my views, he usually confirms them by accident. His love of thoughtless moralizing is irresponsible. He seems to be more about the personalities. He was most interesting inbetween his love affairs with Bush and Obama. He almost had original thought when he wasn't so busy being the tool of either.

  • ||

    He's hardly a tool of Obama. He's been a persistent and wise critic.

    What are You People (tm) looking for, anyway? Ideological purity? That shit went out with Ayn Rand.

  • Jim Treacher||

    What are You People (tm) looking for, anyway? Ideological purity?

    Common sense, and perhaps remembering what he's written from one day to the next.

  • ||

    Ray,
    If you think his criticisms of Obama are persistent, then you are easily impressed. He'll have one post mildly criticizing Obama for a relatively minor issue, then he'll spent the next few posts praising Obama's "long game" or some other BS. Intectual consistency has nothing to do with it. Its just obvious the guy is in the tank for Obama, which I don't find very interesting...

  • ||

    "I'm a tremendous admirer of his work and the way he's shaped online political discourse. As a journalistic force of personality, few are more consistently fascinating than Sullivan. "

    You can't be serious or a serious person.

  • Paul||

    I don't follow Sullivan very closely, but I'm beginning to think he's a political prankster.

    He was attracted to Ron Paul because he hoped it would siphon votes off from the conservative.

  • Doug||

    The people who voted for him are the leaders.

    Both lefties and righties seem incapable of understanding that they don't choose the leader. All lefties and righties do is cancel each other out. Ultimately leaders are chosen by independents, moderates, and other "mushy middle" voters. When elected leaders flounder around, they're just serving the desires of those who chose them.

  • Isaac Bartram||

    And the two or three percent of voters right in the middle who tip the scales in each election are not so much voting for the winner as they are voting against his opponent.

    The notion that any of the presidents elected in the past few elections can make the absurd claim that they have some mandate for making grand sweeping changes to every part of people's lives is absurd in light of the absurdly slender margins of their 'victories".

  • PR||

    sullivan flip-flopping within a few posts? that never happens.

  • Jim Treacher||

    As a journalistic force of personality, few are more consistently fascinating than Sullivan.

    What kind of horseshit is this?

  • ||

    Steaming fresh?

  • Geoff in DFW||

    Wow. Now I remember why I don't come here often. This is horrific.

  • Geoff in DFW||

    Wow. Now I remember why I don't come here often. This is horrific.

  • ||

    Wow! Sometimes I turn over a rock like this one to see what's under there. No thanks!

    Sleep tight, you morons!

  • bubba||

    Sullivan is an internet troll. There's nothing fascinating, or even remotely novel, about that.

  • JB||

    The guy is loony toons.

    Who knows what the cause is, but he tends to be a hypocrite of the highest measure and that is why he fits so well with Leftists.

  • Herr Dude||

    I think Sullivan and Michael Savage are the same person. Has anyone noticed that you nver see them in the same place at the same time?

  • ||

    These comments are really enlightening as to the readership of Reason. These comments illustrate vile bigotry towards gay people nothing else. I won't be back.

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