And so it begins.
With the Iowa caucus taking place last night, the election season is officially upon us. Prior to Rick Santorum somehow, someway, inexplicably running to the head of the Republican pack that doesn’t want to elect the Johnny 5 candidate, I was actually dealing pretty well. Twas all fun and games when it was the crazies acting crazy and I could laugh (or cringe) and halfway pay attention to their crazy knowing they were just crazy people trying to drive me crazy.
And then it started…..
The MSM pundits partied like it was 2007, giving us the lowdown on the Kentucky Iowa Derby. Facebook perked up. And Team Obama kicked it into high gear. Fired up and ready to Go Grill!! (best Christmas gift I got this year by the way). And it hurt my soul because, yes, I expect more from the non-crazies and because I hold out this never ending hope that liberals will actually push Mr. POTUS (and the rest of the Democratic Party for that matter) to be…how should I put this…progressive? Instead….
Status Update: “Barack Obama is a candidate for whom I choose to vote. He is even-keeled, well prepared, and respectful. He is not looking for personal fame or glory.”
Or better yet, there’s this beauty shared on FB…
Clearly this is technically true if you read the fine print (hint: private sector jobs), but it is entirely misleading as the assault on public sector jobs has been severe and sustained and is actually hurting the Black population disproportionately.
And yes, I get it…
…this is what he has to do
…the other guys do it too (my favorite explanation of them all)
But that doesn’t stop me from reaching for the Pepto.
Now I realize I’m approaching third rail territory amongst Black people and many Democrats by even mentioning that there are ways that Mr. POTUS could better represent and execute my beliefs. So……..
…let’s talk about Ron Paul instead.
Thank goodness Ron Paul didn’t win the Iowa Caucus. I’m the first to say that he’s a man with many Randian cultish beliefs which are ridiculously anti-progressive in theory, if not in practice. Oh, and did I mention, as Kanye West would put it: “Ron Paul doesn’t care about Black people.” And, yet, at the same time, much as in 2008, he has ignited a liberal blogosphere discussion about the state of liberalism. If he had won…there might have been a civil war that broke out within the Democratic Party. Bullet dodged. Sorta.
Matt Stoller started it off with a post stating that Ron Paul’s challenge to liberals wasn’t really about Ron Paul’s ideas himself, but more a reflection of “contradictions within modern liberalism.” Glenn Greenwald followed up by stating that despite his racist baggage, having Ron Paul in the race was a net plus, not because he wanted him to be President, but because it would help illuminate the shortcomings of the Democratic Party in addressing cause celebres of Paul such as being opposed to imperialism, opposed to the war on drugs, opposed to the secrecy of the Federal reserve and opposed to the erosion of Civil liberties. Then, finally, Ta-Nehisi Coates brought it home by comparing Paul’s supporters’ apologia to how Black people rallied around Louis Farrakhan in the 90s.
And they all have a point. Ron Paul’s popularity is, in many ways, a byproduct of the lack of anyone presenting a legitimately plausible alternative in the Democratic Party. That may be because as Stoller posits, that modern liberalism is confused and has lost direction. That may be because, as Greenwald sates, that Democrats have not held their own accountable for not holding to their ideals on these key issues. But it is undoubtedly because, as Coates puts it:
As surely as Ron Paul speaks to a real issue–the state’s broad use of violence and surveillance–which the America’s political leadership has failed to address, Farrakhan spoke to something real, something unsullied, which black America’s political leadership failed to address, Both Paul and Farrakhan, in their glamour, inspired the young, the disaffected, the disillusioned.
But while both Paul and Farrakhan are flawed messengers, with flawed motives that call into question everything that comes out of their mouths, that doesn’t make what is ailing and alienating their supporters any less real. Black people in the 90s felt like whatever gains they had fought long and hard for were under attack and soon to be reversed. And no one was stepping in front of the runaway train to stop the onslaught. And they were right. Similarly, Ron Paul’s supporters feel like they are losing their freedom to an ever increasing surveillance state shrouded in secrecy which works with impunity on behalf of the 1%, not just in this country but worldwide. And again, no one is stepping in front of the runaway train to stop the onslaught. And they are right also.
So for all those liberal Democrats ringing their hands about Ron Paul being racist or crazy and, therefore, lamenting his popularity. Well, we should look in the mirror first. We made him. Because if liberals were being liberals in the historical moral sense and not the current neo-liberal sense, Ron Paul would be a nobody on the national stage. So while we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it appears Mr. Libertarian will not become Mr. POTUS, it would be a shame to lose sight of what’s at stake here.
Long ago, my mother taught me a lesson that I wasn’t supposed to just look around the room and be better than whoever else was there. She said that my goal should be to be the best I could possibly be regardless of who’s in the room. Right now, Mr. POTUS, and many of his supporters, do not appear to be following my mother’s advice. The crazies are crazy. That’s why they’re called crazies. It’s not hard to look sane, even-keeled, respected or well prepared when in the same room with them. If all you are interested in is winning, it’s great to rejoice over the possibility that Rick Santorum of all people is the potential sacrificial lamb to Obama come November. But if you care about liberalism and progressive ideals more than just winning, it requires more than praying that the crazies remain crazy. Instead, at the very least, it requires continued demands and pushing and prodding of Mr. POTUS to adopt the kind of policies that would make Ron Paul the fringe candidate he always should have been in the first place.