Thursday, January 17, 2008

Regressive Progressives

Kevin Drum nails it with respect to the Ron Paul racism controversy.

It's plain that Paul knew what was being published in his newsletters. It's plain that he was familiar with the well-developed strategy that inspired the early-90s turn to racist demagoguery. It's plain that he knew it was a key part of his fundraising appeal. Paul can weasel all he wants, but it's plain that he endorsed a strategy of overt appeals to racist sentiment in order to build support for his political career. If he's given all that up since then, it's only because he no longer needs it.

This whole affair highlights one of the reasons that I wish everyone would stop swooning over minor candidates who play the part of bold truthteller. When you have no chance of winning and therefore nothing to risk, it's cheap and easy to stick to your guns. But as Ron Paul has shown, back when it actually mattered he was willing to do whatever he needed to raise money and rekindle his political career. I don't doubt that he'd do it again if anything serious were on the line.

I wrote about this here, in light of the irony of so-called progressives flocking to Paul because of his "bold [truth telling]" about Iraq (and, inevitably in the penumbra of Iraq, our alliance with Israel). There have always been self-styled progressives who are really reactionaries, favoring isolationism, conspiratorial superstition and the scapegoating of Jews, among other intellectual pathologies. French socialist suspicion of Leon Blum and the Jews in the lead-up to war with Hitler is a good historical analogue. Cognate forces were at work prior to American involvement in World War II, and now the Iraq War has again separated regressive progressives from their comrades of better conscience and driven them into alliance with the far-Right fringe they mirror.

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