A fairly common parody of libertarians is that they’re anarchists willing to let people with lots of money call all of the shots. While this is a convenient caricature for the intellectually slothful, it’s far from how libertarians actually view the role of government in general. Nobody wants dirty air, polluted water supplies, and poisoned land, so trying to act as if someone does is dishonest at best. Instead, we simply view it through the lens of property rights, something that can be tangibly enforced. John Stossel and Ron Paul offer views on how exactly the environment is protected under a libertarian model.
Glenn Greenwald has spent a lot of time calling for more intellectual honesty from alleged progressives during this campaign season, and rightfully so. After putting all of their anti-war and pro-civil liberties fervor into a candidate that has proven to be the polar opposite, they’ve engaged in some serious contortions to try and justified their continued unqualified support of now-President Obama. While a few brave souls (including both Greenwald and Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow) will express their disgust at warrantless GPS tracking, indefinite detention, and escalating militarism, the vast majority of progressivedom instead choses to ignore, justify, or tepidly disapprove of these actions. Greenwald summarized the honest justification for continuing to support Obama over someone like Paul thusly:
Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.
On the surface, this seems to be an accurate portrayal of a “lesser of two evils” scenario, but I think that perhaps Glenn hasn’t accurately portrayed the reality of a Paul presidency. Yes, Paul would absolutely slash federal programs with aplomb, maybe even many of which you heartily approve. Ask yourself, however, if this really does mean the end of the programs. It is highly likely that many, if not all, states would continue entitlement programs as a replacement of the eliminated federal ones. With the elimination of those federal programs and many federal laws, the Supreme Court wouldn’t have as much sway in our political discourse, much of it, again, being left up to the states. If Greenwald’s argument is accurate, it’s not a simple “pick which half is most important to you” argument.
And even if it is, which half matters most in a President? While you can most assuredly tackle the issues with entitlements and abortion and civil rights, etc. at the state level, can you do anything about targeted assassination of American citizens? What about warrantless wiretapping? Or a war with Iran to replace the “winding down” (if you can call it that) of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan? Those are all issues which you either fix at the federal level or not at all. But social issues and entitlement spending? Even blood red Utah is likely to keep some of them around. If we were keeping score, Paul would fulfill a lot more of your requirements for the office of the presidency.
If you crunch the numbers and still believe that Obama is a better choice for you, that’s perfectly fine. All I’m asking is that you exercise some honesty and soul-searching, ditch the tribalism of unwavering support for a Democratic president no matter how neo-conservative he may be, and choose who actually best fits your views.
Just a few things about Iowa.
- It was hilarious to watch people say that Iowa only matters if the “right” person wins. Most of them were actively talking about Ron Paul as the “wrong” person. The logical contortions required to take this position, that the result dictates the relevancy of the result, are astounding at best.
- Speaking of Ron Paul, he didn’t exactly “lose”. He scored as many delegates as Romney and Santorum and got more supporters elected to party positions than the other folks. He has a lot of caucus state ground game, and that matters when the “real” delegates get selected.
- Rick Santorum is the new Mike Huckabee. He pandered to evangelicals, has no money or ground game outside of Iowa, and will likely fade out after a few more states. I give him no longer than Super Tuesday before he drops out after many dismal showings. The idea that a good showing in a single early state can create momentum is laughable at best. There’s 49 other states, dude, and you’ve done nothing in any of them.
- Romney is calling this a “win”, but let’s consider a few facts. He’s been more-or-less campaigning constantly since at least 2007, spent a crapton of money, and won by just 8 votes over a guy who can’t come up with a campaign message beyond “I hate gay sex and abortions”. To have such a dismal showing in a state where ground game matters should be considered an unmitigated disaster. Consider that Romney has been stuck at a 25%-ish ceiling for most of the race and is counting on a crowded field to split up the Not Romney vote. Bachmann has just dropped out and Perry isn’t far behind. If Gingrinch continues to tank and Santorum falters, that can put a quarter or more of the vote back on the table, or roughly the entirety of Romney’s support. This should be scaring the crap out his campaign and supporters, but they seem to take for granted that Mitt can just coast to victory.
Note: This is not a post on whether or not you agree with Rep. Paul’s policies. It is only about the viability of his candidacy, so let’s keep the comments on-topic, please. Any discussion on policies should be through the lens of the primary voters he needs to court.
The current field of Republican candidates for president largely leaves a lot to be desired. The field is crowded with a lot of candidates with little public recognition or differentiation from their competition. Heck, we even have a few political has-beens that got run out of their previous elected positions trying to make a go for it. I think most of them will get shaken out, but it may create a situation where it comes down to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
I’m not a fan of the Tea Party and haven’t been for some time. As Jon Stewart put it, most of them are moral majoritarians in tri-tipped hats. It’s hard to see how they differ from the Ralph Reed disciples that stormed into the Republican Party in 1994. That said, it seems like what has become just a mouthpiece for the more outrageous elements of the GOP had some roots in something worthwhile. It’s just been thoroughly co-opted by the establishment for their own purposes.
So how did it all start? Way back in mid-2008, Ron Paul’s campaign for president was winding down and the newly energized campaign volunteers were still all kinds of riled up. They were sick of the constant centralization of both government and economic power, and sickened by the power structure of the parties that only allows “annointed” candidates to advance to elections. A coalition of libertarians, fiscal conservatives, and reformers were ready to challenge any and all party structures that did business as usual. So what happened?
Well, those in power in the parties didn’t get there by being stupid. They saw the wave coming and knew they had to nip that sucker in the bud, and what better way than pulling a reverse infiltration? Almost immediately, the same people who had been a part of the problem started loudly singing the praises of the Tea Party, carefully steering it into an attack dog of the Republican Party, not a near-partyless populist mob demanding more from everyone. In Utah, the problem was particularly bad as the organizers chose to invite elected officials to come speak to crowds, hardly the kind of thing a reform movement should want. It only took weeks or months to quell the uprising and get the media to label the newly-formed beast as a group of angry zealots whose rage was fueled by racism, misogyny, xenophobia, or whatever ugly thing could be attached to it.
What got botched was a trans-partisan populist movement to fight against centralization of power, public and private, that has lead to rampant crony capitalism, impenetrable political party power structures that exclude any kind of insurgent candidates from the process, and the reigning in of an out-of-control pattern of federal spending perpetuated by both parties. All of these are laudable and arguably popular goals. Unfortunately, they’ve been buried under a mountain of far-right social neo-conservatism with a very narrow appeal, obviously explaining the precipitous drop in popularity among the general populace.
Is there any hope for these much needed reforms to happen anytime in the near future? Maybe. It depends on if the lightning in a bottle during the first few weeks can be recreated, or if the original reformers have stuck around now that the real work begins.. Otherwise, I expect the same old story.