Andrew Sullivan apparently received a “torrent of abuse and mockery” for his statement yesterday that he was considering voting Democrat.

Why can’t a grown-up have a complicated position? I’m a fiscal conservative, social/cultural liberal and foreign policy hawk. Neither party provides a comfortable home for people like me.

Fair enough. Of course, as Sully notes, any of the Democrats would likely spend even more than Bush. The fiscal responsiblity issue is a therefore a wash; it comes down to what you’d like to go into debt for. So it comes down to deciding whether choosing a president marginally more in favor of gay marriage–an issue over which presidents have about as much control as they do over, say, steroids in professional baseball–is worth dumping one whom you vastly prefer on national security. Especially given the polling data Sully cites in the next post?

Noting that both Glenn Reynolds and Matt Welch disliked parts of the SOTU, he remarks,

Is the blogosphere turning against Bush? A little, I’d say.

I’m pretty sure Atrios is leaning toward the Democrats, too. Seriously, as Sully notes, people with complicated thoughts on politics are are unlikely to support a given politician 100%. Do I dislike any of the silly domestic initiatives listed in the SOTU–many of which won’t actually become public policy–enough to vote for John Kerry, John Edwards, Wes Clark, or Tarzan? No. And neither does Glenn Reynolds.

Michael J. Totten, Jeff Jarvis, and Roger L. Simon are also on the fence. Jarvis coins the term “metropolitical” for the phenomenon. Heh. Totten feels liberated:

This time around I’ll actually get to decide. I’ll actually make a choice. It isn’t predetermined by anybody, not even myself. Democracy is all about choice, and those who are rigid party supporters don’t get to know what that feels like. I feel more powerful having a choice, like what I say and think actually counts. I can think for myself in ways I only thought I could before. No one feeds me opinions with a spoon. No one I care about insists that since I believe X I must also believe Y. It was lonely for a while, but now it’s nice. I like it. I’m free.

But we’re all free. I’ve voted for a handful of Democrats for statewide offices and even voted for Howell Heflin for the Senate once. (My apologies for Heflin; I was young. He would have won anyway.) It’s just that the choice has always been rather easy for me. The presidential elections in my years of voting eligibility:

    Reagan vs. Mondale
    Bush vs. Dukakis
    Bush vs. Clinton
    Clinton vs. Dole
    Bush vs. Gore
    Bush vs. Any of the 8

I wasn’t enthusiastic about Dole and even agreed with Clinton on some important issues, but believed Clinton had to go. Their foreign policies were essentially identical, Dole was slightly preferable on domestic policy, and he would have likely appointed judges that I’d have been happier with.

In all the other cases, the contrast was rather stark. It wasn’t close. Had the Democrats picked, say, Sam Nunn in 1988 or 1992, I’d have given him serious consideration. Ditto a Zell Miller or even a John Breaux. Similarly, if the GOP ever nominates a Pat Robertson, I’d vote for almost any Democrat that’s up against him. But the nominating electorates of the two parties generally make it pretty easy for me.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. bryan says:

    I think Sully is going to be reduced to a single issue – gay marriage. As much as he talks about national security and fiscal conservatism, he’s really focused on a single issue. And that’s the way you become a caricature.

  2. James Joyner says:


    I hope not, although that seems to be the trend. I can understand why a gay man would be fixated on the issue, but it’s not the only thing in the world that’s important. But Sully is too insightful a commentator to be getting this single-minded.

  3. That’s funny to hear, because Sully’s been getting so much criticism from the lefty blogosphere for the last year for being too obsessed with the War On Terror, and giving Bush a pass on everything else. The poor guy can’t win.

  4. James Joyner says:

    UH: It’s mighty lonely out there on the fence!

    Honestly, I used to read Sully all the time but have done it intermittently of late. More the last few days because he’s apparently pinging Weblogs now so that his blog shows updated on my ‘roll. But it does seem that virtually every time I’m over there, he’s going on about gay marriage.

  5. Norbizness says:

    I think that instead of focusing on candidates, maybe the best tonic is to vote for divided government.

  6. James Joyner says:


    I’m with Rush (the 1980s singing group, not the radio guy) on this one: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

    Checks and balances are enough uncertainty to me. I’d prefer to have a political party in charge and responsible.

  7. Norbizness says:

    Well, good luck!

  8. “Metropolitical,” bah. Independents! They’re independents, not beautiful and unique metropolitical snowflakes.

    I’m also perplexed about the way Sully flirts with voting Democrat on gay marriage, since he professes a desire that marriage be voted on by each individual state and comes out (pun not intended) in favor of federalism on the issue. Is that not largely Bush’s position — no FMA unless judges try to nationally impose gay marriage (a development Sullivan says he opposes)?

  9. Brian says:

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with it if the guy has truly thought through the main issues and realizes, “Hey! Even though I wouldn’t normally vote for __, he’s the one that’s closest to my world view.”

    What really drives me up the wall are those people who run around p*ssed at Bush for one thing and vow to vote for someone who is diametrically opposed to their views on just about everything else. They just don’t think.