Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Third Rail

So last night I was called a 'miserable fuck', a 'fascist', and (most insultingly to me) a Ron Paul endorser for having the audacity to suggest that Ron Paul's anti-war, anti-empire, and pro-civil-liberties stances were commendable, especially given the political climate. That climate being one in which the same people decrying George W. Bush for being a friend to plutocratic capitalists, oil interests, a sprawling military-industrial complex, and surveillance fetishists now give Obama passes for those same activities. It's a strange time where people obstensibly to the left of center demand you remain in lockstep with the party, and not criticize the president for fear of showing weakness to the 'other side.'

The other side being the Republican party, who aside from being vocally opposed to social reform is not substantively different from the Democrats. Yes, I recognize it was a Democrat who ended DADT, and passed a reform to Healthcare*, and proposed sweeping changes to student loans. This is also the president who opposed Guantanamo Bay, telecom immunity, indefinite detention legalized via the NDAA, and suggested with great fervor that he would prosecute Wall Street within an inch of their gilded gristle, and we know how all of those went.

I'm not looking forward to this upcoming general election, because it'll be the same tripe as it has been for years. Two goons being financed by literally the same people will make a big show of how different they supposedly are (“close the borders!” “no, let's find another way” etc.) when ignoring that they are in complete agreement on deeply important issues such as unfettered capitalism and how we engage militarily with the world at large. Then the party loyalists will scream for complete fealty on both sides of the aisle, as I learned last night.

There's a strange thing about the social justice blogosphere. For as much as they are willing to be aggressive in confronting the issue of their raison d'etre (Tim Wise, for example, is about as diplomatic as a freight train), when it comes to party politics they fall right into line. “But Mike,” they crow, “by suggesting anything wrong with Obama you're aiding the other side, and that is bad. You are a fascist and ruining the party. Get with the program.” Because what is of the utmost importance is getting our guy (not yet girl, unfortunately) to win, because there is meager flotsam of success in a presidency otherwise teeming with corporate handouts and the curbing of civil rights that these party-line types will shove in your face in an attempt to shame you.

This is why I wish Ron Paul was the Republican nominee. Not because I like him – dear God, no, the man is an Ayn Rand character brought to life, acting out the weird horrorshow of her stilted worldview – but because he would hold up a mirror to the ugly realities of our supposed 'progressive' president. That while he has wound down troop commitments abroad he has ramped up a campaign of drone warfare that targets people who were are told are terrorists. Anwar Al-Awlaki, for example, who I have been told by countless people with no proof or explanation was a “bad guy” and deserved being killed, despite that he was an American citizen and entitled to the due process of the law**. That neo-fascist policies have been put into law with Obama's alleged reluctance (yup the kind of reluctance to sign a bill allowing for the imprisonment without charge of anyone the president says is a bad person, rather than veto it). That a racist and classist drug war continues unchallenged under his watch, which in concert with a massive and unregulated private prison industry is one of the major assaults on the freedom of people of color today?

Paul would raise these issues, and it would make for a more intellectually honest debate. Yet to raise this issue is to be as bad as Paul himself. This fallacy is a great tool of silencing dissent, because it shames the dissenter with associations to the candidate's entire platform, and forces the dissenter to regain their favor and credibility with the party. Ron Paul's views on race, sexuality, women, and the economy are insane and despicable. There is no question to that in my mind. But how does this discredit areas in which he happens to be correct? It doesn't. But it's a convenient strategy of intellectually dishonest people to pretend it does.


The two party system is a titanic failure. It does not accurate represent the amount of social and political diversity in the United States, which is more broad than I assume any of these Democrat loyalists like to accept. The two-party narrative is a false, but attractive notion; that it's US against THEM, and the dreaded OTHER PARTY will destroy everything we have tried so hard to work for. It's a simpler and more immediately gratifying experience, rather than recognizing the plurality of voices in America with their own individual needs and problems.

What it does is simplify ideology and platforms. It ignores the intellectual coherency and voices of the socialists, communists, libertarians, syndicalists, anarchists, social democrats, among others. Embracing the notions of the 'big tent' party only serves to dilute specific ideology into the concerns of game theory and political brouhaha, and allow for a conslidation of money and power into those who espouse myopia and fear. It creates a false set of alternatives, where you could vote for the conservative capitalist or the semi-liberal capitalist.

What gets me is the reluctance with which the social justicers among us take in tackling capitalism as, if not a direct cause of, an enabler of social inequality and oppression as way of dividing those who would otherwise have common interest in working towards economic justice and equality. I hate to be so glib as to suggest that truly is no war but class war, but these times are definitely rallying towards that invective. Economic injustice is the blight in the roots of the tree of human dignity; patriarchy, nativism, racism, and others are the eventual atrophy and death of the leaves.

So that's why it's frustrating to see people like Tim Wise – who has written important works on being a white ally in the struggle against racial oppression – treat any criticism of our entrenched political system and our president who currently presides over it as tantamount to treason against progressive politics. For people who are erstwhile graceful and insightful, this demonstrates a frustrating lack of nuance for political thought and operation in our country. I feel a lot of them has bought into the lie of the two party system, and as a result none of them will ever represent real change. It's alienating and kind of a bummer to be called fascist because I think a Ron Paul nomination would provide for honest examination of our national character vis-à-vis military and homeland security concerns. But my appreciation for areas of Paul's politics where I agree is apparently the same as gassing six million Jews, because god dammit you are undermining Barack Obama and see kid it's an election year and you need to get with the program.***

So I guess this is my final break-up with the Democratic Party, that great lumbering beast of lukewarm social progressivism and economic regulation.

Because to play party politics is to ignore the real diversity of political thought and to reduce yourself to the narrowest of narratives – the Us vs. Them. It ignores that we really have the power to organize and reject the system as it is, as Occupy Wall Street was doing and will hopefully continue to do (as pessimistic as I am getting w/r/t them), and that we as people can agitate for something better if we make the groundswell too large for the plutocrats to drive safely around. It is up to us, not Barack Obama or Mitt or Ron Paul. This is social justice – not voting in Democrats with the blind hope they'll pass the ERA or the DREAM Act, but recognizing that neither party will ever have our interests fully in mind, and that no party worth our salt ever will until the system is plundered and retooled to actually represent the totality of our nation.

*Which, fascinatingly enough, was identical the Republican proposals in the early nineties, and the Massachusetts healthcare program as passed by, yup, Mitt Romney.

**As is anyone accused of terrorism on American soil, a fact that would be bandied about with more enthusiasm if a Republican was president right now.

***Last night on Twitter somebody literally told me to get with the program w/r/t/ supporting Barack Obama. It was bracing.


  1. For what it's worth, Mike - New Zealand moved from a two-party system in 1996 to a system that allowed minor parties to flourish.

    What's ended up happening though, is that most voters are still gravitating towards the two major political parties from before the change, and those parties are still trying to court the votes from almost the entire run of the political spectrum. Splintering off might allow some personalities (with their supporters) to remain more ideologically pure, but most people drift to what is familiar - a large mishmash of a party that has no real ideological backbone.

    And... now I'm depressed about the state of our nation.

    1. How do you do your elections, there? Is it a plurality system, or do you do run-off voting, etc.? I really should know this but Americans aren't exactly raised to be citizens of the world =/