Andrew Sullivan is a conservative political writer and commentator and one of the pioneers of political blog journalism. He was born in England, where he attended Magdalen College, Oxford, but moved to the US in the 1980s to pursue a Masters in Public Administration and a PhD in Political Science at Harvard. He has remained in the US and has focused his writing on American political life.
In 1991 at the age of 27, Sullivan was appointed editor of The New Republic, over which he presided for 250 issues until he resigned in May 1996. Sullivan's tenure at TNR was often turbulent, controversial, and pioneering. The magazine expanded its remit beyond politics to cover such topics as the future of hip-hop, same-sex marriage, and affirmative action in the newsroom. TNR also published the first airing of 'The Bell Curve,' the explosive 1995 book on IQ, and 'No Exit,' an equally controversial essay that was widely credited with helping to torpedo the Clinton administration's plans for universal health coverage. In 1996, Sullivan was named Editor of the Year by Adweek magazine.
Sullivan is openly gay and has been a key figure in the public discourse on such issues as gays in the military and same-sex marriage. His 1993 TNR essay, 'The Politics of Homosexuality,' was credited by the Nation magazine as the most influential article of the decade in gay rights. His 1995 book, 'Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality,' was published to positive reviews, became one of the best-selling books on gay rights, and was translated into five languages. He followed it with a reader, 'Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con,' and testified before Congress on the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. His second book, 'Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival,' was published in 1998 in the United States and Britain. It was a synthesis of three essays on the plague of AIDS, homosexuality and psycho-therapy, and the virtue of friendship. Sullivan tested positive for HIV in 1993, and remains in good health.
In the summer of 2000, Sullivan became one of the first mainstream journalists to experiment with blogging and soon developed a large online readership for his blog The Daily Dish. He has blogged independently and for Time.com, but in February 2007 he moved his blog to The Atlantic Online where he now writes daily.
Question: How can anyone call himself a gay Republican?
Andrew Sullivan: You know, I used to say, we have to stay in these parties because certainly gay people do not want to become a Democratic Party constituency that is totally taken for granted, which is, of course, what has happened. When you have no leverage over the party, they don’t do anything for you—except take your money and invite you to cocktail parties, which is all that’s happened really in two years under Obama with two houses of Congress.
But at the same time, you know, this Homocon thing... it was in someone’s apartment. I mean the idea that this has been any genuine meaning out there for most people, there are plenty of gay people; many, many, many more I think than other minority groups actually, who would love a party of limited small government, prudent, strong foreign policy, balanced budgets, live and let live, like the British Tories. And if the Republican Party ever becomes that again, I think there will be plenty of places for gay people in it.
But to do so and join a party on condition that we oppose our own civil rights and our own basic civil equality seems a non-starter for me. I mean, it’s... there’s something quite nauseating about it actually. And you see even, like, Chris Barron who is the head of Homocon, or whatever they are calling themselves, GOProud, having to say that when Jim DeMint goes on and says that no gay person should be a school teacher, which is to the—which Ronald Reagan rejected in 1978—where are you left? I mean, it’s also important to remember that the Republican Party is now a Southern party. So the old Republican party, which had a balance of different regions and was based also in the Libertarian West—and remember how Goldwater ended up—and of course many elite Republicans, by which I mean a lot of people in Washington, are completely comfortable and accepting of gay people, and support our right to marry and our right to serve our country without lying about ourselves, which are just the two non-negotiables. But they are cravenly incapable of either understanding the importance of that or taking us as serious human beings.
I mean, I’m sorry, but Dick Cheney is not going to pass Mary Cheney, who is organizing to get a Republican majority that will make sure that gay people never serve openly in the military. And support a Republican Party in her own state that will strip her even the most basic contractual rights with her wife and children. At this point, I’m sorry, but no.
Question: So how should gay conservatives vote—against their political beliefs or against their rights as humans?
Andrew Sullivan: They have to vote for whichever candidate they think is the least worst option. And not... and of course we don’t just vote on our sexual orientation. And on the critical issues, the critical issue of marriage, it’s fundamentally a state issue anyway, although DOMA remains you know, a terrible blight on our national federal equality. So, I’ve never been a partisan, I’ve never been a Republican, I’ve never been a Democrat, ever, which is why I was very frustrated being called a gay Republican when I never attached myself to that. You just have to keep going. I mean I think our job, my job, is to keep articulating that I exist and that there are lots of people like me exist and we just have no home.
But if temporarily we seek a home with Obama, or with people who are less hostile to us and we are not also too opposed to their other policies, then that’s the compromise that we all have to make.
Recorded on October 12, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller