Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Matt Taibbi Explains It All For You

Though I was born in Iowa and my ancestors are from there (after leaving Ireland and Germany under apparent duress...) I have studiously ignored the Iowa Caucuses on this blog for the simple reason that they don't matter, politically, at all.

Matt Taibbi, one of the more insightful American news reporters (and media personalities) explains why:

It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year’s race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.

In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.


Many of the politics mavens of all persuasions and parties are almost desperately trying to make us believe that the "contest" under way (solely between Republicans, you may note) is somehow important or valid or meaningful. The media obsession with the Iowa Caucuses has been embarrassing, or it would be if more of the media were able to utilize even a hint of critical thinking.

None of the candidates have anything to offer outside the rigid barricades that the Ruling Class has erected around their government.

Cocktailhag makes a similar point:

Last week the New York Times bothered to run a two-page foldout on the preposterous “policy positions” of the candidates, which are, except for Ron Paul, exactly the same. None believe in Climate Change, and all fall over each other endorsing policies that will radically exacerbate it. All would further cut the absurdly low taxes on the rich while cutting programs for everyone else. None would produce anything that approximates a balanced federal budget, though they all risibly claim to be fanatically opposed to runaway “spending.” All are opposed to Obama’s mild and incremental health care reform and see socialism lurking in the pathetically weak Dodd-Frank banking law. All are opposed to environmental protection of any kind, and on social issues, all are somewhere to the right of the Taliban. All, except Paul, are in favor of war with Iran and increasing our destructive support of an increasingly belligerent Israel. All, except Paul again, think torture is the greatest thing since high-fructose corn syrup, of which they naturally are all in favor, too.

And I'd go farther to point out that Ron Paul is simply a con man who's been running his con for decades, and what he has to say is politically meaningless. That's why he is allowed to say it. But not, you may note, ever act on it. Ever.

Yet for days now, a good deal of the leftish blogosphere has been consumed with the quadrennial Ron Paul Wars, apparently inspired by something Matt Stoller wrote about liberal hypocrisy and/or hysteria about Ron Paul -- I don't know, I haven't followed Stoller for years. But the whole idea that somehow Paul should be taken seriously by liberals and progressives because some of his "positions" are "right" is absurd on its face. If liberals/progressives aren't making the "right" arguments about the issues, Paul and his ilk are not germane to fixing it. Shifting political allegiance to Paul because of some "position" or other he holds is somehow "left" of the progressive/liberal establishment is even more absurd.

Ron Paul is a con man, like pretty much ever other politician. His "positions" are as meaningless as any other politician's. And the quadrennial Ron Paul Wars are meant only to fragment the oppositional base.

I heard last night that attendance at some of the Iowa caucuses was orders of magnitude greater this year than in 2008, though why that should be so is anybody's guess, because there is nothing, really, for the caucus-goers to decide. They don't get to vote on policy, only personality.

Let's ignore the farce and get on with the Revolution.


  1. Boy, those Ron Paul wars can get tiresome, especially when everyone's after our dear Glenn Greenwald. To my mind, all GG was saying was that Paul's positions ought to be heard, not that he would vote for him, yet over at Balloon Juice (and elsewhere) they think he's walking around in an "End the Fed" sandwich board or something....
    Personally, I like the fact that Paul forces the righties to go full-on Dr. Strangelove to a war-weary nation. Anything that makes Republicans look toxic is okay by me (and probably by Obamabots as well...), but as you note, none of it matters; we have a choice between shit and some pretty bad-smelling Shinola.

  2. (Ah, cocktailhag, why have I neglected to read your blog for so long — your prose is always such a treat to read.....)

    Hey, Ché, I just plugged your blog on the nascent open-source social network Diaspora. Without your permission, damn me! Let me know if you object, and I'll remove the post.

  3. Shame on you, Arren. "Without [my] permission" indeed. We'll see how it goes with this Disaspora Thing. Do you have a link or something? Gracias.

    Yes, Hag has long been one of Blogistan's literary treasures.

    As for those Ron Paul Wars, I still haven't read Stoller's instigatory piece, and I doubt I will, but the upshot I gather from elsewhere is an erroneous assumption -- or presumption if you will -- that "Ron Paul is the only one" saying the right things about war and empire and civil liberties and so forth, and that's just not true. It has never been true. It will (we hope) never be true.

    For one thing, there's a man named Gary Johnson who's been on the stump for quite a while now who pretty much says the same things Paul does without all the errant baggage. On the other hand, there are plenty of liberals and progressives who have long been making the same points about war and empire and civil liberties. No, they aren't running for President. So is that the only platform from which these points can be made? I think not.

    I think Greenwald and others get caught in their own little traps (I've done it to myself, too) they set for their quarry. "Hypocrites" and "tribal loyalists."

    The notion that Ron Paul is saying what liberal/progressive candidates should be saying -- and that somehow makes "left of" liberals and progressives makes no sense. His positions aren't "left" of anyone. They don't come from that ideological perspective at all; they are unrelated to it and antithetical to it. Those who promote Paul as saying things the left believes in and should be saying are either being bone stupid or consciously deceptive.

    But truly, I think Americans are close to the point in our political lives where it doesn't matter; the Presidency is not all it's cracked up to be, for one thing. For another, Americans are realizing that we actually do live in a police state, and that our votes have no effect on policy decisions made by people we mostly don't even know the names of.

    No one in the Big Chair is going to save us. And nothing that is said in a campaign -- by any candidate -- is to be taken literally or at face value.

    If salvation is to come, we have to do it ourselves. Ron Paul, like all the other con men running for office, is ultimately irrelevant in that context.


    Bear in mind that, although supposedly public posts such as these should be visible to anyone on the 'net, Diaspora is still in that difficult Alpha stage where nowhere close to everything functions as it should.

    As for Ron Paul, though I agree with most of your points, I posit that a third possibility exists besides "bone stupid or consciously deceptive": jaded and desperate..... though some willful ignorance (or stupidity) is still required to grasp at the isolationist straw Paul offers the anti-war citizen.....

  5. Ché,

    Hope is well and good for you in the new year.

    IMO, where Glenn and Matt jumped the shark is in saying, explicitly and implicitly, that no criticism of Ron Paul by progressives can ever be valid or about his positions. It can't be about that, ever. It's always just fear of facing their own dark side, their own demons, which Saint Paul apparently forces them to do, and they hate that.

    Hence the anger. Apparently, as far as GG and Stoller are concerned, there is a closed, critical loop that no progressive can escape from. If they criticize Saint Paul, it can only be out of fear of the mirror he apparently thrusts in front of their faces. Obama and the Democratic establishment's failure to address wars and imperialism, etc. etc stares back at them like Nietzsche's abyss.

    GG and Stoller apparently are now practicing psychoanalysts and have put progressives on the couch.

    A key section of his article:

    "As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception."

    I left my loose affiliation with the progressive camp a couple of years ago. But I don't like motives-trolling, no matter who is involved.

    . . . .

    Take care --

  6. Taibbi doesn't consider Paul to be a serious candidate, never has. However, he's sees him as an important type of American political figure, a principled crackpot. The crackpot part is what Taibbi thinks of him as a serious political figure, but the problem we have in politics is that few successful politicians have any principles at all. Paul, from his speeches, wants to end the wars and end the Empire. What that means is I can't see him as a real Republican presidential candidate.

    It's only because the (chortle, snicker) "Left Wing" candidate Obama is so awful that people who hate War and Empire are pinning their hopes on Paul.

  7. Interesting developments over there at the Diaspora site, Arren; thanks for the link.

    As for Paul, well...

    From my perspective, the error is in putting so much emphasis on the presidential candidates and declaring everything and everyone else unimportant and irrelevant. Because Paul runs for president, he is therefore -- by default -- "important". Apparently, no one is aware of anyone else but the presidential candidates.

    This, to me, is like a category fault.

    There are others, such as Gary Johnson (who I happen to like on a personal rather than political level) who have taken pretty much the same positions as Paul and have done so without Paul's immense negative baggage. No, I would never vote for Johnson, for any office, but he is definitely a much better advocate the Libertarian position that Paul has ever been, and he's principled enough to actually kiss the Republican Party g'bye if that's what it takes. To promote Paul as if he were the "only one" making the points in question, when there are plenty of others who don't have Paul's nastiness and ultimately contemptible baggage, is to me a backhanded way of discrediting the very positions (on civil liberties, war and empire, for example) Stoller, Greenwald, et al, are supposedly trying to promote.

    The fixation on Ron Paul doesn't make sense to me.

    The notion that there are no "liberals/progressives" who have correct positions on civil liberties, war and empire (like Paul does!) is absurd on its face. Rocky Anderson, anyone? That's just one. There are many others.

    Plenty of people on the so-called left can easily use the platforms they already have to promote their perspectives on war, empire, and civil liberties on their own merits without reference to Ron Paul at all. He doesn't have anything to do with the liberal/progressive perspectives on these matters. They are independent of Paul in the liberal/progressive political context. Those positions may ultimately be similar, but they come from a very different philosophical/intellectual basis, and promotion of Paul's neo-Confederate rejectionist/isolationist basis instead of the open and humanitarian basis on the (supposed) left is in my view high level malpractice.

    The only way it makes sense on the (alleged) left is if you're just stirring the pot.

    Because it can't be serious.

    This is perhaps related to the notions regarding the overriding "necessity" of some on the so-called left to destroy the Democratic Party. For only then, goes the reasoning, can a "True Progressive Party" emerge.

    I disagree vehemently. It's actually a completely backwards approach. Democrats are the real conservative party in this country. The Rs are a radical (rightist -- becoming fascist) party. Destroy the conservative Dems, and you have a monopoly on political power in the hands of the radical-fascists. This is argued as a "good thing" because only then can you have a Real Resistance, and only then will a "True Progressive" Party emerge.

    It doesn't work that way. When you give a monopoly on political power to a radical party, you no longer have the option of an alternative political construct. In a tightly controlled police state -- such as the United States is becoming -- you don't have the opportunity to build a "real" political anything.

    You have literally slit your own political throat.

    No, if any party needs to be destroyed, it is the radical-fascist one. But when I make this point, it's usually met with a stunning level of negativity. "You CAN'T do that! There will always be a Rightist Party! It's only NATURAL! You can't destroy them! Only the Democrats must be destroyed!"

    Oh? Really?

    But I digress...!

  8. Paul doesn't even want to be president. He's running primarily to push propertarian beliefs, and bamboozle another generation like Ayn Rand did.

    I find his philosophy truly vile and disgusting, and want no part of it. Not even to acknowledge that his stopped clock gets a few things right by accident.

    Hating the Federal government will do that. There are things to hate, obviously. But that hatred also includes the social safety net, any checks on corporate or business power, any acceptance of humanitarian aid, climate change, the separation of church and state, or any help when it comes to stopping the power of the individual states.

    Paul is more a tenther than a libertarian, as is evidenced by his despicable We the People Act.

    His close association with Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard, along with his decades long friendship with the John Birch Society should be a deal breaker for anyone on the left. Rothbard and Rockwell, pushed or not by Paul, attempted one of the most rat-like of pandering operations, designed to appeal to white supremacists on behalf of Paul. The language used -- I know, this breaks the Godwin Law -- would make Hitler proud. Its open hatred for all things left should be enough to end the progressive love affair with Paul, even without all the rest.

    I truly do not get his appeal. And on top of it all, he's a whiny, bratty little creep who doesn't think anyone has the right to question his past or present.

    I hope the Randian revolution dies with him. But I doubt it.

  9. Good to see you here again, Cuchulain, it's been a while! I can understand your dislike of the pseudo-psychoanalytical approach. Or maybe it's the Old Testament Prophet approach. Whatever the case, the Big Dems have their own reasons for doing what they are doing and for following the path they have chosen. It's not that hard to comprehend. They are the conservatives in the context of our government; they are not populist, and they are definitely not radical. They certainly are not shamed by someone like Paul. The idea is nonsense.

    Dems don't believe they have to respond to popular pressure from any quarter. They will, of course, respond with alacrity to pressure from the Elites. Because the Rs represent the Elites, they respond to the Rs!

    Ultimately that means the People don't have any political representation, only the simulation of it.

    The People, therefore have to take matters into their own hands; they can't leave it to politicians or political parties of any stripe to do the right thing on their behalf. Na gonna happen.

    The question is whether the political system can be made responsive to the People by any tactic at all, or is it too late for that?

    I think we're going to find out pretty soon!


  10. I agree with you about the two parties. One conservative. One wildly, dangerously radical.

    It makes more sense for the prpertarian wing of the GOP to split off and leave the neocons to their own devices. They both actually share the same Randian, Rothbardian economic views. But one is isolation on foreign policy. The other loves American imperialism via the military.

    (Both, of course, love American imperialism via business interests.)

    I was hoping OWS would make a difference, but I'm beginning to think it's too late.

    It was the only think that gave me a shred of hope last year, politically speaking, but I'm worried going forward.

    . . .

    Have embarked on a serious new study of Zen Buddhism and hope to be practicing it religiously this year. Fighting the Ron Paul wars is a setback for me. I need to move on . . .

    Again, hope all is well --

    Take care ---

  11. I'm sure you'll be able to laugh at the Ron Paul Wars in due time; the Zen way provides so many opportunities for laughter it's a wonder everyone isn't sitting in contemplation.

    As I say, no liberal/progressive needs to argue doing the right thing by reference to Ron Paul -- at all. He's such a bitter, contemptible old man in any case. But even if he weren't, there would still be no necessity to invoke him -- at all.

    So the periodic obsession with him on the so-called left puzzles me. Well, actually, it doesn't. I'm pretty sure I know why they do it, I just dispute the premise of doing it.

    I don't know what will ultimately come of the Occupy Movement -- my suspicion is it will be transformed. It's already had an effect on the political system; but things are really too unpredictable to anticipate anything in the future.

    In the meantime, I'm just trying to keep the notion that there will BE a Future alive...

    It's kind of tough right now, but one reason I put up those Nostalgia posts about family and place is because the Future -- and a better future at that -- was very much a part of who they were and where they were (and where I was as a child in SoCal). The lesson in part is that it didn't work out all that well; on the other hand, it worked out differently than they or anybody could have anticipated, and in some ways, that's an even better outcome.

    I'm more optimistic about the Future than I have been in quite a while, but I'm preparing for it to be nothing like I expected.

    Take care of yourself, and let the laughter come!