Andrew Sullivan on the Post-Ideological Presidency

by Reihan Salam

The following is by my friend Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast:

Obama’s record is so non-ideological he all but screams at you in his pitiless pragmatism. He tried to be boring, he adopted Republican ideas (tax cuts in a recession, the healthcare individual mandate, cap-and-trade) but the right simply cannot tolerate being governed by the other party. At all. When one party essentially nullifies the actions of another and commits solely to defeating the other candidate without any interest in the compromises that are necessary for this system to work, it is emphatically not a reasonable response to reward it, and then claim Romney’s a boring bring-people-together pragmatist. His platform is the most rigidly ideological of any candidate since Goldwater.

If you want actual boredom, i.e. an interest in making government work, in reaching compromises with the other party, in trying to find a middle ground while the other side ratchets up its hysteria like a nine year-old … then Obama is the only choice. Electing Romney would vindicate the politics of total war and obstruction. And the results would be anything but boring: massive new debt through huge new military spending and more tax cuts for the very wealthy, while hollowing out America’s infrastructure and gutting programs for the sick and poor.

I think it’s a good thing for NRO readers, most of whom are right-of-center, to get a sense of what people outside of conservative and libertarian circles believe. Many of the scholars and thinkers I draw on most heavily don’t think of themselves as right-leaning, and that’s never been an issue for me. But close readers of this blog will know that I’ve offered a somewhat different take on how to understand the tax measures in the 2009 stimulus law, whether the fact that an idea is or has been endorsed by Republicans makes it a sound idea (I say not necessarily), the logic behind various entitlement reform proposals, and the interests and design principles that shape infrastructure spending. I tend to focus on ideas that most other people find boring, e.g., “Organisation vor Elektronik vor Beton.” This reflects the fact that I’ve long been more interested in granular ideas (pay on performance bonds, course-level choice in K-12 education, the design of progressive consumption taxes) than more colorful controversies (like whether or not a Mitt Romney victory will vindicate the politics of total war and destruction), but of course this is a not a universally held preference. And I cherish this diversity in the blogosphere. 

The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.