Monday, October 08, 2007

Sullivan Plays Quixote, Battles Against Polarization

Andrew Sullivan has taken up a cause which I fear will only leave him feeling frustrated and helpless. He is on a tear against polarization in American politics. Sullivan positively dreads the prospect of a Hillary Clinton/Rudy Giuliani ticket. I suspect it is because he can not tolerate the neoconnish attitude taken by Giuliani, but neither can Sullivan put aside an ingrained hatred for anything Clinton inherited when he joined in the rights campaign against the President in the 90's, and after.

Here is what Sullivan, who now decries polarization, said in the aftermath of 9/11: "Through the dust clouds of September 11, and during the difficult task ahead, one person hovers over the wreckage - and that is Bill Clinton."

Believe it or not I sympathise with Sullivan on polarization. It would be fantastic if both sides of the great American political divide would figuratively turn their swords into plowshares. I agree with him that these highly charged politics are harmful to American interests.

Yet, as the administration apologists say whenever they are cornered on Iraq policy, we are where we are. And I think that for him to be taken seriously on this that Sullivan should at least recognize his own role in getting us here, and admit that his new found infatuation with political harmony is a new tune for him. In fact it is a tune which he may not be playing at all, as I will discuss later.

To be sure, Sullivan has already provided mea culpas for his role as cheerleader in the drive to war in Iraq. But his reflexive anti Hillary stance reminds me of Sullivan's own role in polarizing the nation and getting us to where we are now. It is as if he has realized that if Hillary wins the nomination he will be forced to reprise his anti Clinton crusader role, and he wishes he did not have to go there.

Sullivan has come to see President Bush as a failure, and the Iraq war as a particularly nasty mistake... leading to Sullivan blasting this administration with some very polarizing commentary of late. How do you suppose the average Republican feels about having a picture of the President labeled "War Criminal" posted on Sullivan's site? His deeply held convictions in support of traditional American values and human rights leads to some quite inflammatory denunciations of President Bush. Just check the title of his newest column: "Bush’s torturers follow where the Nazis led". Sullivan's realization that he was part and parcel of a deceptive drive to war which was detrimental to American interests and the overall war on terror has also led him to issue many hot headed denunciations of Bush on Iraq.

To be sure, yours truly agrees with Sullivan whole heartedly on these issues. The main difference is that when I blast away at the President I do not turn around and denounce partisanship in all of it's ugly forms. In fact I recently labeled myself a Polarazi, and I rather like that term. (I would define Polarazi as one who attempts to widely expose for scorn the hypocrisy and general wrong headedness of the other side.)

The realization that Bush is a disaster also leads Sullivan to fear the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani gives all the vibes of continuing Bush's reign of jingoistic idiocy. Sullivan calls Giuliani "Cheney without the humility and grace". Sullivan sees the ascendancy of Giuliani and considers another 4 years of anti neocon polarizing broadsides on his blog, and does not want to have to go there.

Sullivan is between a rock and a hard place if the coming election is Giuliani V Clinton. By his own example, we will have the ultimate in polarizing campaigns, and he wants no part of it, because he's already declared jihad on both sides. The only thing left to do is decry the polarized state of affairs in national politics (which state of polarization Sullivan played a role in creating) and pray that Barack Obama and or Ron Paul pulls off a miracle. Sullivan would be well served to not place too much hope in the unifying power Paul or Obama would bring this nation. Obama in particular has been the recipient of a deluge of vituperative rhetoric from the right. The notion that they will see the light and start playing nice if he wins the nomination is far fetched.

If Sullivan continues his war on polarization I expect him to eventually throw up his hands in frustration and either walk away in disgust or accept the inevitable and join in the fray on one side or the other. I don't see the polarization ending, because the right wing of this nation has proven time and time again that they will demonize and smear their way to election victory. Once in power the right has demonstrated a mastery at alienating anyone who does not agree with their point of view. The left is starting to combat rhetorical fire with fire, and can not tolerate having America authorize torture, or using our military to occupy an Arab land resulting in quagmire and harm to American interests.

I can only speak from my perspective on the left, which perspective Sullivan has agreed with more often than not of late. The thought that liberals would drop the polarizing and vituperative denunciations of this President is truly a pipe dream. Sullivan must know this because he is echoing us, or we him, when it comes to the myriad issues which distinguish Bush as the worst President ever. I for one will continue polarizing whoever reads this obscure little blog because I can not be silent about this disaster of a President.

I suspect Sullivan will not be silenced either. He will be grandiose in his call for the grand unification of national purpose in our politics even as he rails against President Bush and alienates the right. Then, if Hillary is elected Sullivan can start railing against her and take up where he left off circa early 2004: alienating the left.

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