Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ron-Paul-And-Progressives Brouhaha. Yves Smith Joins In.

The brouhaha over recent articles on Ron Paul and his possible progressive values has intensified. As I wrote below in a comment, the brouhaha is not created because several writers argued that we should take Ron Paul's anti-war agenda seriously and ask why other politicians, including the Democratic president, are not running on that part of Paul's agenda.

No. The brouhaha is based on something much sneakier, something akin to the Oppression Olympics debacle we went through during the 2008 Democratic Primaries. Those articles don't just talk about Paul's anti-war agenda. They also ask us to put those in one cup of the justice scales and to fill the other with Paul's views on race, women, the environment, health care, education and so on.

The implication is, as I wrote before, that we are asked to do deals with the devil. Those deals will reveal how much we really care about dead Iraqi children or dead Afghani women! Or conversely, how much we really care about whether Americans can be freely discriminated against, paid less, denied access and so on, as long as it's not the government which does it, although the federal government will ban abortion and stop regulating the environment.

So show me your real values! Let's do the ten kilometer hurdles in the Oppression Olympics! The fun thing about those hurdles is that the writers, in general, are not expected to run. They/we can just sit in the audience and cheer for the runners they have selected.

The outcome of all this is to create rifts among the liberals and progressives. That the question of wars is very important and well worth debating has receded into the background. And so has the apparently forgotten fact that Obama was touted as the anti-war candidate in 2008, even getting the Nobel Peace Prize for pretty much just his pre-election agenda. Noticing that he turned out to be something quite different should make any writer on this topic take Ron Paul's arguments with a biiig pinch of salt. Or snuff.

Add to that the very high likelihood that Ron Paul will NOT be the Republican candidate for the president of the United States of America. Then ask yourself what the real point of these debates is.

If it is to get an anti-war movement going again, great. If it is to point out that the Democratic Party is almost exactly as bound to corporate interests as the Republican Party, great.

If it is something like this*, not so great:
It should not be controversial to point out that the Democratic party uses identity politics as a cover for its policy of selling out the middle class to banks and big corporate interests, just on a slower and stealthier basis than the right. And we’ve seen the identity card used in a remarkably dishonest manner in this Ron Paul contretemps.


Ah, the gender baiting card! No women or non whites have anything nice to say about Ron Paul! That’s patently untrue, but identity bigots like Pollitt apparently can’t wrap their minds around the notion that many people see themselves as citizens first and their demography second, and can and do have nuanced views based on how they weigh multiple political considerations: class, concentration of power, rule of law, civil liberties, and gender/race/sexual orientation. I’m not a Paul booster, yet I applaud his effort to curb the Fed, which has circumvented Constitutional budgetary processes to support a predatory financial services industry, as well as his criticism of Iran war-mongering. The fact that I ran a piece on how Paul is inconvenient to liberals meant I support this view, but Pollitt omits anything that undermines her tidy Obama-defending narrative.
But most important, I object to the presumption of the Pollitt position, that right-thinking women of the left-leaning persuasion must of course agree with her. I find myself appalled by the culture, such that it is, of soi-disant progressives in DC. That isn’t to say that there aren’t many talented individuals laboring to make things better. But from what I can tell, their efforts are too often at odds with and deliberately undermined by a puerile, often vicious style of discourse that values petty conformity over substantive contributions. And the sacred cow of petty conformity is political correctness (well, unless you are a “progressive” woman, that makes is OK to yell “white male oppressor” when you run out of arguments).

Strong, eh? Yves Smith is a woman who writes under a male pseudonym. That information is necessary to understand that she tells us she doesn't have identity politics herself, that she is not an identity bigot.

I find the term "identity politics" an interesting one. It's a euphemism, of course, intended to label certain individuals' views as based on nothing but selfishness. That all politics is based on one's identity, to some extent, at least, is ignored. Think of the "We Are The 99%" slogan. That's about identity. Belonging to the middle class or not defines part of one's identity. Being a pacifist or not defines part of one's identity. But it's only certain types of identity that the term "identity bigot" could possibly apply to.

Then of course the Republican Party uses identity politics (defined in the sense Yves uses it) All The Time to disguise the robbing of everyone but the 1%. It's just identity politics with a very different smell or reek, focusing on Them (the east coast elitists, the commies in the White House, the illegal immigrants, the terrorists, the abortionists, the atheists, the uppity women).

It is impossible NOT to do identity politics. If we are to remove any demands for fair treatment of women and minorities from the political arena, the outcome will not be some kind of neutrality. The outcome will be that the other side's identity politics will prevail. And I very much doubt that what we could buy with those concessions would be a world without war.
*Yves is responding to this article by Katha Pollitt. Pollitt and Greenwald discuss the issues at Blogginheads. The discussion is well worth watching. Pollitt apologizes for getting Greenwald's stance wrong in her article and the two hash out the issues in a friendly debate.