How Liberalism Came to Suck

I set out to write a very short post on the fascinating conversations going through the inter-tubes about the support on the left for Ron Paul.

While this support may be due to his opposition to endless war, torture, assassination of American citizens, and bank bailouts, etc., it has become increasingly clear that the fracas is not really about Ron Paul at all, but about liberalism, and why it came to suck.

Of course, this being no easy matter to unpack–goodbye short post, and hello long linky one.

Matt Stoller got it all going with his argument that support for Ron Paul exposes deep contradictions in American liberalism. According to Matt, liberals have an affinity for centralized war financing, and links the Democratic Party with support for war, empire, and banking.

Of course, this didn’t go over well at the more mainstream Democratic outfits, and so we got David at Digby’s Hullabaloo, calling bullshit.

Noted political scientist, Corey Robin, says the debate over Paul reveals what’s not being said on the left in its discussion of these grave political issues.

Glen Greenwald, the Constitutional lawyer and noted Bush critic argues that while it’s true that no politician on the left is making these critiques, more importantly, that these policies opposed by Paul are the priorities of the Democratic standard bearer–President Obama.

All this raises a larger issue, one that I have been wrestling with since I became politically aware. What the hell happened to American liberalism and how did we get such a shitty Democratic Party?

Historically one can argue that American liberalism foundered because the New Deal coalition was made up, as it were, of disparate partners with different goals and expectations, and was always destined to fail. Perhaps the crack up of the New Deal coalition was caused by LBJ extending civil rights to African-Americans, as Rick Pearlstein posits in his wonderful Nixonland. Perhaps it was the failures of Keynesian economics, revealed by 70’s stagflation. Or perhaps it was the demise of communism and the threat of an alternative to capitalism.

I favor a more trenchant analysis: That the liberalism FDR enacted was a trade off between “taming capitalism and taming the radical attacks on capitalism.” Rather than a “disguised socialist attack on the free market,” as his detractors allege, President Roosevelt saved capitalism with his reforms after it almost destroyed itself. Also, with the Great Depression raging, he was prodded into these incremental reforms by the threat of worker revolt, communism, and policies occurring at the state level–see Huey Long. Similar to the vitriol President Obama received from the bankers after bailing out the “to big to fail banks,” FDR was loathed by those he saved. His enemies even tried to stage a coup and depose him.

Here we are now, with American liberalism represented by the Democratic Party and President Obama. His critics like to label him a Muslim, Socialist, or Kenyan Communist, but me, I’m not so sure.

Like “Glennzilla,” I can see that Ron Paul’s stances on foreign policy, war, drugs, and the Federal Reserve have forced liberals to confront some uncomfortable truths. And while there is no one on the left raising these issues, more ominously, on numerous vital issues President Obama is just as bad or worse than the Republicans.

Look, Republicans are dicks, I get it. They have fully embraced endless war, torture, tax breaks for the wealthy and corporation with savage austerity for everyone else.

There is a push now in American politics for a third party. I would be happy to have a real second party. What we need is an alternative that better represents the rest of the American people, not a Democratic Party whose mantra seems to be “Vote for us because were slightly less dick-like!” Especially repellent is their claim that they don’t want to do these same evil things as conservatives but they have no choice.

These are amazingly complicated topics that I will revisit. Definitely follow the links.

And while I don’t support Ron Paul, I’m glad he is raising these issues, and I hope this causes more debate among the left on how to go forward in these perilous times.

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