I am not a regular reader of Andrew Sullivan, mainly because I find him to be too Paul Begala-ish. I would have analogized him to Rush Limbaugh, but Rush is (self-admittedly) an entertainer. Sullivan has a powerful mind, however, and a incisively insightful pen, but far too often that wonderful horsepower is wasted on rationalizing and apologizing for Bush, who is completely above critique in his worldview. It's only when Sullivan has something to say on other topics, like blogging, or gay rights, that he rises above his partisan instincts.
This is why the recent attack piece on Sullivan at warbloggerwatch interested me. It illustrates the limitations of blind ideology, using Sullivan as an example.
The main point is that after 9/11, Sullivan was quick to do his part to forestall and stifle legitimate critique of the Administration, by broadly labeling the "Blue States" (ie California, and other Gore-eaning states) as a potential source of a Fifth Column:
"The middle part of the country - the great red zone that voted for Bush - is clearly ready for war. The decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead - and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column."
(sorry - no online link available, i cut and pasted from notes. Please inform me if I misquoted)
Contrast this with his findings from his survey of visitors to his blog:
"I was also struck by the fact that California is our biggest state; and that we're very blue-state heavy. I guess the site attracts blue-state dissidents or simple skeptics, or it reflects the often ignored fact that large numbers of people in the blue states are not knee-jerk liberals."
Sullivan's expressed surprise is not just disingenous, but almost insulting. Hello, ever heard of Los Angeles? It suited Sullivan's political goals to label the "decadent coast" as a traitorous mass and now he is shocked, simply shocked! to find enclaves of hardscrabble True Americans living there as well?
I live in Texas - a red state - in which it was so useless to vote for anyone other than Bush that I decided to swap my vote. But to simply paint the state as a monolithic political entity ignores the fact that a Democratic candidate may win the givernor's mansion. In fact its purely the result that we have winner-take-all in the electoral system that we have such broad strokes being applied - and Sullivan is surely intelligent enough to know that.
Salon has posted a great article further analyzing Sullivan's jingoistic tendencies, some time ago, which is well worth reading. And Spinsanity has a great analysis of how this trend to label the dissent "traitorous" served to embolden Ashcroft in his famous remarks that "those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty" are aiding terrorists.
The principle here is that politics, like religion, is a spectrum, and those who insist on occupying a single end and solidly refuse to be budged are going to have a distorted view of reality. The danger of this with respect to pundits - and Administrations - is that their worldview is then foisted on the rest of us to our detriment. As David Talbot pointed out in Salon (long before it became unreadable ;), open and vigorous debate is the cornerstone of our strength as a society.