Wednesday, December 09, 2009

December 2009 Book Club Selection: The Conservative Soul, Andrew Sullivan

Andrew Sullivan offers chicken soup for the conservative soul

It's no great secret that Andrew Sullivan really dislikes Sarah Palin. His aversion to Palin has proven to be extremely embarrassing for Sullivan himself -- he was one of the originators of the "Bristol Palin as mother of young Trig" travesty -- but even audiences that may be expected to approve of his critical attitude toward Palin have tired of it.

But reading The Conservative Soul, it isn't hard to figure out why Sullivan would so dislike and distrust Palin.

In the book, Sullivan writes a great deal about fundamentalists, and the negative impact they've had on conservative political thought. Sullivan defines fundamentalism as the belief that one knows absolute truths about the world and intends to act upon them.

Palin's recent unfunny encounter with the chronically-unfunny Mary Walsh gives a good example of Palin's political fundamentalism. She tells Walsh, appearing as Marg Delahunty, to "have faith that common sense conservatism can be plugged into Canadian politics".

Sullivan wisely warns conservatives that the true nature of conservatism is one that comes with a healthy element of doubt: the proper conservative doesn't believe they know all the truths about the world, and dedicates themselves to the search for the truth.

Likewise, Sullivan warns conservatives to beware of anyone -- conservative, liberal or otherwise -- who claims to have all the right answers. The historical record of such individuals is far, far from encouraging. When such individuals do not produce folly, they produce tyranny instead.

Andrew Sullivan's Palin-related antics aside (and, naturally, fully considered), The Conservative Soul should, nonetheless, be considered vital reading for any political thinker, especially conservatives.


  1. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. In that sense, anyone in politics has some kind of principle, some answers to what plagues the world.

    I just find it so interesting that he seems to have the answers about fundamentalist Christians. Wouldn't you know it.

    One cornerstone of belief of conservative Christianity is precisely that human beings (being fallen creatures) *do not have all the answers*. They can't. There are actually very few Christians that claim they do. They show a lot of doubt and suspicion towards their elected officials.

    That's why conservative Christians tend to be strong proponents of small government and freedom. Because government SHOULDN'T have all the answers.

  2. Sullivan doesn't merely talk about religious fundamentalism in the book, he talks about fundamentalism as varying dogmas, religious, political and otherwise.

    Government will simply never have all the answers. It couldn't possibly.


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