While I Get Back Up to Speed… Greenwald and Robin on Paul

Hi, everyone. Happy New Year. If it’s not obvious by now, let me say it explicitly: I’m alive.

I’ll be returning to my history of DemocraticUnderground and other original writing shortly, but in the meantime, here’s a very interesting read, in my opinion, from the always interesting Glenn Greenwald, citing a supporting opinion from Corey Robin, on the merits of Ron Paul, which has earned Greenwald, at least, some opprobrium from his peers in the Left media (all emphasis in the original):

[I]t’s hard to believe that these distortions are anything but deliberate — deterrence-driven punishment for the ultimate Election Year crime of partisan heresy: i.e., suggesting that someone is uniquely advocating important ideas even though they lack a “D” after their name – given that (a) I expressly renounced in advance the beliefs now being attributed to me and, more important (b) the point I was actually making was clear and not all that complex. Here’s Political Science Professor Corey Robin explaining it:

Our problem—and again by “our” I mean a left that’s social democratic (or welfare state liberal or economically progressive or whatever the hell you want to call it) and anti-imperial—is that we don’t really have a vigorous national spokesperson for the issues of war and peace, an end to empire, a challenge to Israel, and so forth, that Paul has in fact been articulating. . . . But he is talking about these issues, often in surprisingly blunt and challenging terms. Would that we had someone on our side who could make the case against an American empire, or American supremacy, in such a pungent way.

This, it’s clear, is why people like Glenn Greenwald say that Paul’s voice needs to be heard.  Not, Greenwald makes clear, because he supports Paul, but because it is a terrible comment—a shanda for the left—that we don’t have anyone on our side of comparable visibility launching an attack on American imperialism and warfare. (Recalling what I said in the context of the death of Christopher Hitchens, I suspect this has something to do with our normalization and acceptance of war as a way of life.) . . . [Paul] reveals what’s not being said, or not being said enough, on our side.

One can agree or disagree with it, of course, but there’s simply no way to fail to understand that point (or, worse, to distort it into something it isn’t) absent a desire not to understand it. The probability that Ron Paul will win the GOP nomination or ever be President is, in my view, non-existent. Whether one should support his candidacy for President or whether he would make a good President is completely irrelevant to the argument I (and Stoller) made; the point is exactly what Robin describes there. And that’s just obvious (for an excellent examination of Paul’s debate-enhancing benefits, see this video clip of a discussion about Paul from Glenn Loury and John McWhorter).

The one addition I would make to Robin’s summary of my position is that the problem isn’t merely that there is nobody else with a national platform besides Paul making these arguments on issues that are vital, not secondary. The problem is worse than that: it’s that the national standard-bearer of progressives, of Democrats — Barack Obama — is largely on the opposite side of these questions. More important, his actions are the antithesis of them. Given that the presidential campaign will dominate political discourse for the next year and shape how Americans understand politics generally, it’s impossible for these views to be aired by confining oneself to cheerleading for the Obama 2012 campaign because the President is an opponent of those views. Thus, the only way these views will get an airing is by finding some other tactic, some other means, for having them heard.

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