Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on Frank Rich: A Tory President Triumphs via DADT

Andrew Sullivan's response to Frank Rich re: centrism is telling for all kinds of reasons.  First, it's interesting that A. Sullivan considers it important to counter Rich.  I suspect that, in doing so, he's reflecting a centrist preoccupation of sectors of the mainstream media, which deem it necessary to marginalize what they judge to be the left wing of the Democratic party.  And which continues to consider it worthwhile to try to offset any critical influence that what they see as the left wing of the Democratic party might attain.

Second, it's interesting that, in countering Rich and defending a "pragmatic, liberal reformism" enacted by a cold-blooded (Sullivan's phrase) president with ice running through his veins, Sullivan ends up with a Tory Obama.  Evidently, what we're to find most alluring about this president's cold-blooded pragmatism is that it predictably leans right whenever possible--despite the loud and clear preferences of his own base.  As with the tax-cut compromise or the health-care compromise or the Wall Street and banking bailouts . . . . 

What doesn't really appear on the table in Sullivan's essay, but is definitely on the menu in Rich's, is this: centrism--and the right-veering "pragmatic, liberal reformism" it promotes--are all about shielding the central economic mechanisms of our current system from searching critical inquiry.  In its desire for pragmatic balance, and its cold-blooded pragmatism, centrism is all about assuring that we don't recognize, talk about, or above all change the economic inequities on which our system thrives.  Along with the exploitation of those at the margins . . . .

Interesting, too--and this is also on the table with Rich but not Sullivan--that Rich zeroes in on how the centrist club controlling the beltway media is essentially an old boys' network.  It's a network in which Mr. Cabot talks only to Mr. Lodge, in which the Anglophile habit of American ivy league universities--Sullivan talking to Dreher talking to Jenkins talking to Coates--carries over into all the penchants and practices of the club.  So that it is and remains an old boys' club intent on keeping women and other threatening outsiders at bay.  Since the viewpoints and critiques these refractory outsiders might bring to the center, if they were allowed inside,  have the potential to unsettle the economic arrangements on which the club depends for its existence.  And which it was organized to maintain and protect.

I'm with Rich here.  And I also very seriously doubt that the abolition of DADT had much to do with the president's vacillating and unprincipled pragmatism.  I think that  DADT's eradication was ultimately an unexpected consequence of a vacillating and unprincipled pragmatism that was never intended to move this or any other human rights issue forward.  The ending of DADT has everything to do with the courage of a few principled political leaders--including but not limited to Patrick Murphy, Dan Choi, and Geoff Farrow--and not with the silent homophobia of Messrs. Obama, Emanuel, and many Congressional Democrats.

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