Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ron Paul and liberals

So... about Ron Paul challenges liberals?... Go read the conversation yourself, because I'm not going to respond directly to it.

One of the most difficult decisions in my life was to abandon my self-identification as a liberal (in the modern, social sense) and a member of the Democratic party. Because I want to exercise what little power I have, I still vote (which irks many of my communist friends), but I don't consider the electoral system to be particularly important. Without the partisan self-identification, I no longer really buy into the apocalyptic visions of what will happen if the other guy actually wins. Sure, I think Barack Obama is a better President than John McCain would have been, but the country did not descend into permissive chaos because Obama won, and I don't think the country would have been a totalitarian dictatorship if McCain would have won, nor do I believe it would if Romney (or, heh, Gingrich) wins in 2012.

I don't accept the narrative of intervention. In the abstract hypothetical, I think that intervention can be right, but I think that modern states in the West are interested only in interventions that will enhance the power and prestige of one or another of the factions of the ruling class; the supposed moral benefits are at best a happy accident and at worst — and usually — a cynical lie.

Before the scales fell from my eyes, I was a liberal, but the Democratic party has abandoned all the reasons I personally was a liberal. I don't need Ron Paul to tell me that. That Ron motherfucking Paul could challenge liberal ideology is astonishing. Really: do we really need Ron Paul to challenge the War on (some) Drugs (used by some people)? Do we really need Ron Paul to challenge indefinite detention without trial of American citizens on US soil, a (barely) covert war in Iran, assassinations, censorship, massive government secrecy, etc. ad nauseam? Apparently we do, because no other candidate for President (and come on, the Presidency is where the action is) is talking about these issues. If Obama were a Republican (and thus white), but doing all the same things he's doing for all the same publicly stated reasons, I can't see but that the Democratic party intelligentsia would be up in arms.

Part of self-identifying as a revolutionary communist is the idea that I can no longer tolerate the choice between getting worse quickly and getting worse a little less quickly. The first rule of sales is that you do not try to coerce the prospect's decisions. Instead, you frame the questions so that you benefit no matter what the customer decides. You never say, "Buy this product!" You never ask, "Would you like to buy this product?" You always ask, "Would you prefer the basic or premium version of our product?" or, "Would you like the product in red or blue?" If you're in the showroom with a good salesperson, you will buy something no matter how you answer the salesperson's questions. The only way to escape without buying something is to break the salesperson's frame. The entire idea of republican "democracy" (democracy by elected trustee representatives) has been, in both theory and practice, to frame the question of governance so that the common interests of the ruling class are always preserved. When those common interests are fundamentally contrary to the interests of the people, the interests of the people will not be a viable electoral choice.

Of course, I don't think Ron Paul really is breaking the underlying frame. He simply represents a marginal faction of the capitalist ruling class that does not want to use particular measures (centralized government finance, foreign intervention, and a drug-war-justified racist/misogynist police state) to advance and secure its interests. Instead, I think, Ron Paul and the faction he represents prefer centralized private finance outside even token public control, isolationism, and a poverty-justified racist/misogynist police state. Ron Paul is not, I think, challenging the modern ruling-class narrative that we should have some sort of police state, but challenging even the present justification for the police state seems profoundly uncomfortable.

I don't think liberals in general are in favor of a police state. I think, however, they are willing to tolerate a police state, as long as police and military oppression doesn't much affect people like themselves. They will tolerate a police state as long as the dominant conservative/Republican faction of the ruling class doesn't use the police against the liberal/Democratic faction, as long as the police state is used only to maintain the common interests of both the liberal and conservative factions, i.e. remaining the ruling class. Of course, the intelligentsia of both factions are not above using the other party's "police state" tactics as a rhetorical tool, but it's apparent that concern for civil liberties is, as far as the intelligentsia is concerned, only that: a rhetorical tool, not an actual principle of governance.

I abandoned liberalism not because I stopped holding liberal principles, but because I saw all too many self-described liberals apparently supporting — or not condemning — politicians who did not hold my liberal principles. I don't think that's because liberals are bad people, but because the liberal intelligentsia is part of the ruling class and their middle-class supporters. I don't think they're terribly bad people because of that, but I'm not going to play that game myself anymore. I am opposed to the ruling class in general, so worrying about my insignificant part in choosing a faction of the ruling class is a waste of my time.

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