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Andrew Sullivan says America's democracy is at risk because citizens can't compromise

Andrew Sullivan on separating politics and life
Andrew Sullivan says America's democracy is at risk because citizens can’t compromise 01:26

The United States' democracy is in trouble, says conservative author, blogger, and editor Andrew Sullivan. Too many Americans can't separate their politics from their lives, he says, and refuse to debate and compromise – the critical elements the authors of the U.S. Constitution had in mind when they designed the framework of our governing system.

Scott Pelley interviews Sullivan for the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.  

Sullivan, a journalist and editor for more than 30 years with strong opinions and a penchant for controversy, says there's nothing new or even bad about the pointed political battles roiling our society. 

"That's healthy," he says. "What's not healthy is when that isn't just retained and kept in the political area but becomes personal, becomes something you bring to the supermarket… Thanksgiving dinner… permeates everything."

"And that separation between politics and life is what we're losing. And that's a terrible thing to lose," he tells Pelley. 

The reason it's so terrible, says Sullivan, is that without that separation, America's democracy can't function the way its authors designed it to. They wrote the Constitution for "reasonable" people, he says.

"The American Constitution was set up for people who can reason and argue and aren't afraid of it, and then reach compromises, the whole thing is designed that way," Sullivan says. "If you're in a tribe, and all that matters is the victory of your tribe…You can't make it work."

The results of such one-sided thinking were horribly displayed on January 6, he says, and America is in for more rough times if change doesn't come.

"This country came to the point where we had violence in the usual peaceful transfer of power. That is a huge warning to how unstable our system can be if we remain tribalists in a system that's supposed to be designed for reasonable citizens," Sullivan tells Pelley. "We're flying from reality. We're inventing abstractions and ideologies. We're fighting each other. We're demonizing each other. The system can still work. It's we who are broken."  

Sullivan was born in Britain and later became a U.S. citizen. He says he developed his open mind early in life when he realized he was gay, conservative and Catholic. He began his career in U.S. magazine journalism, rising to the editor of The New Republic and a senior editor at The Atlantic.

He has written or edited several books, including "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back," "Virtually Normal: An Argument About Homosexuality" and "Out on a Limb: Selected Writing, 1989–2021."

He's blogged on and off again for 20 years. It's now called The Weekly Dish, and Sullivan also hosts a podcast. He has often attracted criticism from the right and the left for his controversial positions. In the wide-ranging interview with Pelley, he addresses some of his most high-profile criticisms. 

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