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Illustration by David Smith 

On the right side of the political spectrum, different types of conservatives, libertarians, classical liberals and independents exist and thrive. Yet in this modern age of political shape-shifting and quasi-ideological viewpoints, some attempts to fit political cogs into right-leaning wheels end up being miserable failures. As a case in point, look no further than Andrew Sullivan. 

Sullivan has a decent resumé. He has written five books, is a former editor of the New Republic, and is currently a columnist for the Sunday Times. He's also been a blogger for Time, the Atlantic and currently the Daily Beast. It would therefore be farcical to deny Sullivan hasn't a following in print journalism and on the internet. 

Even so, it's important to try to understand what the roots of this attraction are really all about. Is it because he regularly speaks his mind, or is it because he claims to be a conservative regularly speaking his mind? If it's the former, it would hardly make him a unique political commentator. If it's the latter, Sullivan is misrepresenting his position because he's often bereft of principled conservative ideas.

The so-called blogger extraordinaire certainly supports some sensible economic policies, including small government, low taxes, and more private sector initiatives.  He even wrote a piece in the New York Times magazine back in 2000 in favour of a flat tax — and to his credit, continues to defend it.  

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May 6th, 2012
11:05 AM
I seldom get too upset about political labels anymore. Was Sullivan ever a conservative -- who knows? Should anyone care? I think part of the problem for conservatives like Michael Taube is that the tent is now so big that everyone save hardcore Marxists can find a place to stand. Sullivan is really no different than David Cameron or Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper (who Taube worked for). Neither leader is a conservative, strictly speaking, but both have chosen parties with that label as a mechanism to get to power and advance their own progressive agendas. Cameron is basically a liberal: Harper appears to be a libertarian ("appears" because he is so purposefully misleading). Consequently, the disquiet about Andrew Sullivan is probably misplaced -- it is more a reflection of the intellectual sloppiness that attaches to the word "conservative" than to anything else. That said, Taube is correct in one thing, namely that Sullivan is now a vastly over-rated writer. I think that is very unfortunate. Sullivan is more a tragic character than anything else. Consumed by his "gay-ness", the judgement and the cleverness he displayed in his writings in earlier years has slowly disappeared. He is now little more than a polemicist, and his views are almost always predictable. He was, for example, an early sufferer of Bush derangement syndrome, where all the ills of America were chocked up to George W. Bush. One certainly grew tired of such simplistic argumentation and I resented reading his blog and articles, and eventually I stopped. What happened to the Sullivan of the mid-1990s? People can of course change their opinions over time, even their whole approach to politics and/or life. But one gets the impressive with Sullivan that he is rather like a candle at the end of a long dinner -- a small flame still burns, but no one is interested in looking at it and the likely fate of that lump of wax that is left is to be discarded.

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