Thursday, January 05, 2012

Rachel's Ron Paul Blind Spot

Rachel's fascination with Ron Paul and his cultish, steady-state fanatical support is obdurate and frankly reason-defying. This latest foray into Paulieland could be the most fantastical yet for the normally well-grounded Rachel. Perhaps it was Michael Steele's studio presence trailing his high octane partisan bullshit and misinformation vibe that fueled Rachel's baffling flight of fancy. Her Cliff Notes outline of Ron Paul’s purported policy differences with Rick Santorum, the right wing's latest anti-Romney alternative, is at best superficial if not conveniently misleading. The stubborn Ms Maddow keeps trying to fit a Ron Paul square peg into a round hole. Or banging her head against a wall. Maybe she'll stop when the headache begins.

Being against abortion is “the one and only thing that these two Mitt Romney alternatives agree on,” Rachel argues. “But on every other policy issue of substance Rick Santorum and Ron Paul are total opposites.” Really? Let’s take DADT. Rachel frantically clings to the Ron Paul fig leaf that he would not “work to overthrow” it. But as Paul explains it, “rights don't come in groups. We shouldn't have gay rights. Rights come as individuals. If we have this major debate going on, it would be behavior that would count, not the person who belongs to which group.”

For “Dr. Paul” as Rachel obsequiously refers to him in her best incantation of a star-struck Pauline who left her intellect in a jar by the door — sorry to break this to you, Rachel, but “Dr.” Paul has been a practicing politician for decades — this means something quite different from the Cliff Notes headline version served up to make Rachel’s “opposites” thesis work. Ron Paul 2012 is not the phantom obstetrician of Rachel’s dreams but the homophobic, racist politician who yelped “queer, queer” in his 2008 “Bruno” role and failed to provide a rational explanation for the virulent racism of his 1990s newsletters. While the other candidates sought the media spotlight in the last day’s campaign, Paul avoided it, hopping a small plane to his final Iowa campaign stops. What’s he got to hide?

Rachel can only square Paul with her benign counter-intuitive argument that the two fringe candidates of an increasingly right wing party are radically different by cherry-picking their records and policy positions. Rick Santorum's extremist and weird anti-gay views are well-known. How different are they from Paul's 2003 opposition to the SCOTUS decision striking down the Texas anti-sodomy laws in its Lawrence v. Texas ruling? Paul wrote:
The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment “right to privacy.” Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states' rights — rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.
In Lawrence v. Texas, the Court struck down sodomy laws not just in Texas but in 13 other states, thereby decriminalizing same-sex conduct. While Paul scoffed at the the 14th amendment's “right to privacy,” it was in effect the right of a class of citizens to not have their constitutionally protected due process under the law violated by repressive state laws. We fought a civil war to resolve the parameters of states' rights under the 14th Amendment passed as one of three post-war Reconstruction amendments, in 1883, initially to protect the citizenship rights of newly freed slaves. Southerners like Mr. Paul pretend the Civil War never happened and 600,000 Americans didn't die. Further, while the man who yelled "queer!" may say sodomy laws are "ridiculous" he would never question the states' rights to legislate it. Or slavery. Or polygamy, for that matter.

Rachel may choose to dismiss Ron Paul's anti-abortion stance as a nod to “orthodoxy” and “a given” in the Republican Party as understandable or self-explanatory; some sort of litmus test to be a viable Republican candidate. But to call it “the one real exception to Ron Paul’s ideological purism” is inaccurate and flies in the face of the homophobic, racist man of principle in Rachel’s distortive proposition — like, he just had to embrace the party “orthodoxy” of so-called “social conservatives” and “evangelicals” in the right wing fringe of the Republican Party because, well, it’s an article of faith with them. That's the excuse Paul uses to explain away his extremist affiliations and it's just not credible. Funny, but I thought “orthodoxy” was the very definition of “ideological purism.”

Rachel, face the facts and get over your infatuation with Paul. If you want to understand the Paul appeal to a certain age group, consider the political history of the last 30 years, in their lifetimes, and that Paul supporters may not know or care to study any other. They are the product of the Orwellian dystopian fantasy created by the actual Big Government Republicans who waged two wars off the books, enriched beyond measure their crony capitalist pals, and crushed the middle class and unions. Ron Paul cast a vote against the Iraq war. So did Ted Kennedy. Barack Obama spoke out against it and brought our troops home from Iraq inside of three and a half years.

What do the Paul supporters want, a return to the gold standard? What do they want “freedom” from: Access to decent medical care; guns without regulation; the social safety net that kept their grandparents from falling into poverty; wars without a draft that compels them to fight; black and latino welfare recipients, but not white; affordable government-backed student loans; the GI Bill; repeal of the 14th Amendment; xenophobia, by limiting legal immigration and militarizing our borders; what?

There’s plenty of overlap in the extremist positions of Paul and Santorum. Ron Paul is a freedom-loving “small government” ideologue in the Pat Buchanan nativist mold — notice how Pat’s racist screeds picked up where Paul’s newsletters left off — a neo-fascist who promotes freedom for white people at the expense of everyone else. It’s the shrinking pie argument that assigns blame to the poor, the elderly, people of color, those least able to defend themselves from the marginalization of their social status. It’s a variation on an ugly theme and undercurrent of 19th and 20th century American and European history.

As for Michael Steele's political bloviations, they’re literally indistinguishable one from the other. One day after Ron Paul finished third instead of first or second in Iowa, Steele went from revising his forecast a day earlier with Chris Matthews of understated Paul numbers to telling Rachel he's not a serious factor in Republican electoral politics. Steele tailors his GOP establishment propaganda message as he goes along, and according to conditions on the ground. If one were to do a word map of Steele’s gaseous cloud, the biggest word would be “politics” and biggest phrase variant, “the Democrats do the same thing.” One is meant to dismiss the moral bankruptcy of his party, and the other to postulate, without facts or sourcing, the false equivalency lie.

My question remains: Why the fuck do we have to put up with such obnoxious political hackery, unadulterated spin, GOP talking points?! Michael Steele's most revelatory moment was justifying his embrace of the racist Republican Party with anecdotal bellyaching on the Reverend Al show about what terrible things LBJ’s “Great Society” did to his community. No facts, no evidence; NADA. This guy doesn’t work from facts, and of course, they just let him skate at MSNBC. Well, here’s a factoid for you Michael. Joe Califano, a distinguished Democrat who served under LBJ and Carter said: “From 1963 when Lyndon Johnson took office until 1970 as the impact of his Great Society programs were felt, the portion of Americans living below the poverty line dropped from 22.2 percent to 12.6 percent, the most dramatic decline over such a brief period in this century." The percentage of African Americans below the poverty line dropped from 55 percent in 1960 to 27 percent in 1968.

IT WORKED. The demise of the middle class coincides with the rise of the Republican Right and Ronald Reagan, rolling back the gains made in the 60s and 70s to end poverty and expand the middle class. Now Steele makes the MSNBC rounds to bemoan his party for not pushing some wingnut prescription of his about economic “empowerment” of the urban poor. As if his white racist pals have any interest in eliminating the underclass they created and run against. Michael and Rachel, denial’s not just a river in Egypt.

Reminder for Rachel: Gene Robinson is a journalist and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Michael Steele is neither. Trotting him out to trash a major presidential speech while not disclosing that outside his role as purported "political analyst" he's been advising Republicans on how best to defeat the President is like, well, trotting out a multi-millionaire lobbyist to offer "color commentary" on the party in opposition's plans to defeat his client's project. In a word, it's unethical. I thought you knew that.

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