Andrew Sullivan Conservatism

by Sonny Bunch on December 5, 2012

Has anyone catalogued Andrew Sullivan’s various proclamations about what being a “real conservative” means? I’ve always found them to be mildly amusing, if only because “being a real conservative” typically means “believing whatever Andrew Sullivan happens to believe on any given day.”

The most recent example of this trend is his discourse on steroid usage, which he at first defended because “The new male is here to stay. And that is largely because it’s hotter. Get used to it.” MEOW, Richard Cohen! Take that! Real men love abs: GET USED TO IT. Then, realizing that he is probably not well served making his argument this way, Sullivan fell back on an old trick: No, you see, accepting steroid usage is totally conservative!

My point is that I truly do think it’s futile given the power of the substance and the impact it has on self-esteem, social power, and vanity. My own view is that a Burkean conservative starts by not deluding himself into thinking the state can stop – or should stop – a technological and social change that is being powered by far stronger forces than the law can throw at it.

Because, as we know, conservatism is the doctrine of rolling over for “change” and allowing/encouraging people to destroy their bodies with chemicals.*

Lulz.

Anyway, I feel like this is a topic that can be updated pretty frequently. It’s a well he goes back to a lot. Real conservatives love steroids, really love weed, first vigorously support intervention in Middle Eastern nations and then viciously oppose the same interventions, and accuse women of faking pregnancies for political gain. I’m sure he’ll keep telling us how “real conservatives” are supposed to act going forward. My guess is that his suggestions will continue to mirror “whatever Andrew Sullivan happens to believe on any given day.”

Update: A couple of people have asked why I bother reading Sullivan if I find him so annoying. The simple truth is that I think he’s a great aggregator. There’s a ton of interesting stuff on his blog and he pulls together a lot of different stories I otherwise never would have read. He’s also undeniably smart and a gifted writer. All that being said, it’s worth pointing out that he can be remarkably silly at times, and that said silliness is a result of his trying to cram all of his various beliefs into some fatally flawed notion of “conservatism.”

*Yes yes, you can use steroids healthily and they’re great and blah blah blah.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chad December 5, 2012 at 11:24 am

Andrew’s steroids post (and follow-ups) were unintended self-parody, the blogger as (lurid) performance artist. Yet I continue to read him largely for the same reason you do (although I find his aggregating less useful/interesting as of late, for whatever reason).

I would only add that his “remarkable silliness” is not *exclusively* the “result of his trying to cram all of his various beliefs into some … notion of ‘conservatism’”: one would also have to include both his adolescent inability to conduct a civil argument, as well as his tired “blogging-in-’real-time’-is-hard-y’all!!” mea culpa whenever he posts something unhinged.

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Gabriel December 5, 2012 at 11:43 am

The greatest trick Andrew Sullivan ever pulled was convincing people who couldn’t pass an ideological Turing test if their life depended on it that Burkean/Oakeshottian “doubt” is not skepticism about social change but skepticism about the rights of the majority to impinge the autonomy of the individual. It’s like political philosophy three card monte where Burke goes under the cup but by the time he reveals it, it’s now Mills.

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SkinsFanPG December 6, 2012 at 8:49 am

That’s the funniest and most accurate Sullivan comment ever. ” It’s like political philosophy three card monte where Burke goes under the cup but by the time he reveals it, it’s now Mills.” pure genius.

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Max December 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Best summation of the maddening phenomenon known as Andrew Sullivan ever. He is a walking “no true scotsman” joke.

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