January 1, 2012

Ron Paul

Paul's candidacy creates tremendous cognitive dissonance. Digby, in this VS A-Z clip, explains one source for this cognitive dissonance; he isn't really a libertarian so much as a states' rights tenther. A libertarian would focus on the "people" part, rather the "states" part of the clause. Moreover, the 14th amendment considerably weakens the "states" part; the Amendment is about the Federal government protecting individuals from oppressive state governments. So Ron Paul is a statist libertarian, or a libertarian statist. Confusing.

Glenn Greenwald and Matt Stoller write about a different kind of cognitive dissonance, the kind that is infesting discussion that are on the "left" or, rather more accurately, are taking place among rank and file Democrats.

Glenn notes that there's a problem when an odious candidate advocates policies also advocated by progressive activists--opposition to wars of choice, bloated defense budgets, unwavering support for Israel, torture, warrantless detention, an unaccountable president, a disastrous war on drugs et alia.

That problem is parallel to the problem of a good, well-meaning leader who happens to engage in odious policies:

The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations withdrones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has wagedan unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.
This is very confusing. To combat the confusion, many progressives fall back on issues where they agree with the President, and disagree with Paul, which happen to be issues around social policy, and involve more visceral, tribal issues like the right to choose and civil rights. They deride people like Glenn as saboteurs, trying to undermine our last, best hope to stave off the evil depredations of conservative governance. And they bring up the Courts, both the Supremes and the Federal Circuit. It's hard to write about this clearly, but it's even harder to think clearly--the dissonance is internally deafening.

Stoller points out that there is conflict in the liberal commitment to a large Federal government that does good because a large government can also do evil:

Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature. And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism doesn’t really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism going back to the 1930s don’t work.
The other source of dissonance is within the media's reporting. As Stolller notes, part of the current issue is that there really are very few movement liberals among the elected officials of the Democratic Party. The party is dominated by a mix of centrists and establishment Democrats who are uninterested, if not actively hostile to movement liberalism. There is a natural fit between the political centrist and the media's love of centrism. Both groups love the idea of an unelected elite making tough decisions behind closed doors. This is especially the case with respect to foreign policy, where there is a bi-partisan consensus, shared by the Village, for US policy that involves frequent military interventions, and support for non-democratic regimes that serve America's vital interests.

Ron Paul exists outside, and in opposition, to that foreign policy sphere of consensus, as he demonstrated in a 2008 interview with Tim Russert. So he is invariably marginalized, treated as a lesser candidate, even though by any objective standard, he should be receiving much more coverage.

It's also interesting that the issues that marginalize Paul in the Village--opposition to brutal foreign policy, to an increasingly intrusive security state, run by unaccountable banksters--are also the issues that motivate and marginalize the Occupy movement. On the left, these grass roots issues are represented not by any one leader, but by a mass movement.

These are grass roots issues that are simply are not on the table. Without the Occupy movement, and, yes, without Ron Paul, they also would not be part of our political discourse.

At all.

No comments: