Andrew Sullivan, a political commentator and blogger for The Daily Beast, discussed what he sees as the perversion of conservatism in mainstream politics in a lecture at the Institute of Politics on Thursday.
“I think it is not controversial to say it is in some sort of crisis,” Sullivan said of American conservatism in the annual Theodore H. White Lecture on press and politics.
Sullivan, who is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and also holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, criticized the Republican Party for not representing true conservative ideas. He explained his more philosophical definition of conservatism, which focuses on the problems of the human condition and questions government’s ability to adequately address them.
“The state is a danger, a danger because a few people can get a hold of it and just a few ideas can wreck the subtle, beautiful lives of many,” he said.
He also pointed out the possible harmful effects of large corporations and bankers, as, like government, they can represent the accumulation and concentration of power.
Sullivan noted the discrepancy between the conservatism he studied at the Kennedy School and the modern perception of conservatism.
“The conservatism I speak of seems unrecognizable to the students of today,” he said, going on to explain that he considers President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton better proponents of conservative values than George W. Bush.
Sullivan identified two current issues—the debt crisis and the on-going tension between Israel and Iran—as examples of the necessity of this type of conservatism today.
Although they expressed doubt regarding some of Sullivan’s ideas, many audience members said they found Sullivan’s view of conservatism interesting and more appealing than the mainstream definition.
“All concerned college students who care about their political society or world politics should hear his view of conservatism,” said Ibrahim A. Khan ’14.
Ben S. Raderstorf ’14 said that Sullivan’s ideas represented a more rational view of conservatism.
“Even though I personally disagree on some of the fundamental questions, I think that his viewpoints are very solid and very respectable,” Raderstorf said.
Ending with a comparison of modern America to the biblical Tower of Babel, Sullivan claimed that greed is responsible for many of America’s problems and is not likely to go away soon. Yet, Sullivan expressed some optimism for America.
“Reason will win in the end. If I did not believe that, I would not believe in liberal democracy.”