I commented last week that "true conservatism" to Andrew Sullivan means Andrew Sullivan's conservatism and that's not very conservative at all.
Let me first say that I agree with just about every single one of df's criticisms of how the Republican Party has behaved in Washington, especially since George W. Bush became president. Yes, fiscal responsibility has been non-existent (on this issue I agree with Sullivan too). Yes, President Bush was foolish to sign McCain-Feingold, probably in the misguided belief that the Supreme Court would strike down it as an obvious, unconstitutional limit on free speech.
However, remember that the GOP wasn't doing all of this over the objections of Democrats in the Congress. df mentioned Social Security reform -- something that people my age and younger are going to get the shaft on a couple of decades down the road -- that failed because of the demogoguery of the Democrats and some RINOs.
On fiscal issues, we need to elect more John Shadeggs and Mike Pences and fewer Ted Stevens's.
Back to Andrew, he is fiscally conservative, but that's about it.
On the issue of judges, state's rights and the rights of a democratic electorate, Sullivan is a liberal. I think it's safe to say that most conservatives are fans of Antonin Scalia and his brand of constitutional analysis -- originalism. That is, what did the people who approved the document understand they were agreeing to?
I don't think a conservative case can be made that any legislator, at the time any state constitution was amended to offer "equal protection" -- leave aside the federal constitution for the moment -- believed that those two words implied a right to gay marriage. (If anyone can come up with evidence to the contrary, you've got a scoop and you should write it up for sale to the New York Times op-ed page.) However, Sullivan believes that judges re-interpreting that term to include a right to gay marriage -- because it's found in the Constitution -- is a conservative action. Take a look at the recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision in which the court ordered the legislature to provide the state's residents gay marriage -- though it left it up to the legislature whether or not to name it marriage. Sullivan would apparently prefer the public vote to extend the right of marriage to gays, but he's perfectly willing to toss that belief to the side if he can get it any other way.
This is not conservatism.
Sullivan has also been worked up lately over the "torture" of terrorists. I don't want to suggest that torture is a conservative issue, but what Sullivan's complaining about -- aggressive interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation, temperature extremes and even waterboarding -- isn't what most would consider torture. In fact, Sullivan is so worked up over this issue that today he came up with this gem: "Your vote tomorrow is about more than politics. It is indeed about values, American values. A vote for the Republicans is a vote for torture."
When it comes to Sullivan's position on national security and dealing with terrorists, he's not a conservative -- he's a suicide-pacter. Sullivan's definition of human rights is so far to the political left that he would rather thousands of Americans die than a terrorist undergo waterboarding. Sullivan likes to claim that "torture" never works -- maybe it doesn't. But that would make waterboarding "not torture" because it reportedly worked on Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- resulting in useful information in the fight against terrorism.
Basically, to my way of thinking, Sullivan is not a conservative, but a libertarian. He's in favor of fiscal discipline -- and everything else should be allowed.
For those of you interested in Sullivan's theology, I encourage you to check out Mark D. Roberts' series (not yet complete) on Sullivan's "retrofitted Christianity."