The big unanswered question about Sullivan’s business model is how the economics are going to play out. He seems to have brought in about $100,000 today, from loyal readers — that’s about 4,000 subscribers off the bat. But that $100,000 is going to go fast. Sullivan is coming off a fat contract at NewsBeast, signed when Tina Brown was flush with lots of Barry Diller cash. He almost certainly couldn’t get her to agree to replicate that contract when it came up for renewal, so it’s hard to know how much money he’d receive if he stayed at the Beast. But my guess is that Sullivan wants the staff of seven, including two paid interns, to earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $750,000 a year between them, plus benefits. Add in what Sullivan lumps under “legal, technological and accounting expenses”, and you’re well into seven digits. So while today’s haul is impressive, Sullivan is going to have to keep those subscription revenues coming on a pretty steady basis, and he’s surely targeting a paying subscriber base of at least 50,000 — about 5% of what he calls his “unofficial staff of around a million unpaid obsessives”.
Unsurprisingly amazing writing.
Back in the 1980s, conservatism was a thrilling empirical, reality-based challenge to overweening government power and omniscient liberal utopianism. Today, alas, it has become a victim of its own success, reliving past glories rather than tackling current problems. It is part secular dogma - no taxes, no debt, more war - and part religious dogma - no Muslims need apply; amend the federal constitution to keep gays in their place; no abortions even for rape and incest; more settlements on the West Bank to prepare for the End-Times. Although there were inklings back then - Stockman was right; Iran-Contra should have been a warning - they were still balanced by empiricism. Reagan raised taxes, withdrew from Lebanon, hated war, and tried to abolish all nuclear weapons on earth. The first Bush was an under-rated deficit-cutter and diplomat, a legacy doubly squandered by his son.
Now it’s Levin-land: either total freedom or complete slavery and a rhetorical war based entirely on that binary ideological spectrum. In other words, ideological performance art: brain-dead, unaware of history, uninterested in policy detail, bored by empiricism, motivated primarily by sophistry, Manicheanism, and factional hatred.
If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector’s in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don’t think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist.
The point, it seemed to me, was that politics isn’t all there is to life, there is something slightly off about those who think it is, and that political ideology has come to define us culturally and personally far too much. So this wasn’t an angry rally for the alienated Democratic left; or even a joyous rally like last fall’s March for Equality; or a desperate and frustrated rally like the Tea Partiers. No one was demanding their country back; they were just demanding, well asking, for a little less polarization, and a little more mutual understanding. It was an Obama rally that didn’t want to be an Obama rally. And it was only an Obama rally sotto voce because he seems currently the only adult in Washington with any interest in compromising with anyone.
Sitting here watching the speech I have been thinking that something is wrong. My first thought was that he is talking too fast. Then it dawned on me: he knows what he is talking about and expecting me to keep up. After eight years of being talked to like a child (or an idiot), my president is speaking to me like I am an intelligent adult. This is going to take some getting used to.