Thursday, January 05, 2012

Primary analyses: An American Tragedy

Here are some analyses of the primaries that strike me as particularly perceptive, and worth reading. I provide a bit of commentary on each, but my basic reaction -- what a tragic thing to happen to America. (Special thanks to Keith C. for pointing out the Salon and Taibbi pieces to me.)

CLS of the Classically Liberal blog takes a very careful and thoughtful look at entrance poll data from the Republican caucuses in Iowa. I think he's exactly on target regarding Rick Santorum, and his interpretation of the Ron Paul results seems right to me. There's a real tragedy going on, IMO. The strong Ron Paul showing really indicates that there's a serious libertarian constituency: anti-war, pro-civil liberties, economic freedom, smaller government, opposed to bigotry and discrimination. Ron Paul is really the only candidate in the fight who could possibly appeal to it, but he's not a good standard bearer at all, because he's really a social conservative with libertarian leanings, and unfortunate ties to the Lew Rockwell cult, which he refuses to abandon.

Historians Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg expose the hypocrisy and ultimate irrelevance of Iowa's religious "values voters" in this Salon piece. They have a particularly insightful characterization of Santorum supporters: "You choose a president not because he is best equipped or qualified for the job, but because his 'family-oriented' positions make him the most qualified. As the nation’s chief executive, Santorum would keep Jesus in Christmas, and everything else good will flow from there." I think most of their essay is on target, although I disagree that "our values are disappearing..." or that the "Citizens' United" decision threatens liberty and democracy. A far, far greater threat is the just-signed National Defense Authorization Act, which, as Anthony Romero of the ACLU puts it, "It contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. And it has no time or geographic limits. It can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield." He correctly calls it "outrageous" and "unconstitutional and illegal." I think most Americans are disgusted with much of the mercantilism, increases and abuses of government power, losses of civil liberties, fiscal irresponsibility, and perpetual war that both parties are bringing us. But where are the "values voters" on these issues? Missing in action.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald takes progressives to task for their hypocrisy on many of these issues. He correctly identifies what is right and hopeful about the Ron Paul campaign, while sensibly recognizing its flaws. The Democrats have largely avoided looking bad of late, merely because while Republicans have been busy making making asses of themselves, the Dems have remained silent, except to criticize. Greenwald exposes the deep dishonesty behind their silence and posturing.

Finally, Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone makes a strong case case that this whole primary sideshow is a meaningless charade. As he puts it, "This caucus, let’s face it, marks the beginning of a long, rigidly-controlled, carefully choreographed process that is really designed to do two things: weed out dangerous minority opinions, and award power to the candidate who least offends the public while he goes about his primary job of energetically representing establishment interests." And "this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race." I think he's largely right. And the "huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle" suggest our values are not disappearing. Unfortunately, the Iowa religious voters do inject a measure of dangerous theocracy into the debates by promoting the likes of Pat Robertson, Mike Huckabee, and now Rick Santorum -- theocrats who would happily alter the Constitution to impose fundamentalist Christianity as the law of the land. "Values voters" have nothing to do with actual values; they are America's Taliban.

Of course, Der Spiegel had beat all of these to the punch by identifying the field asA Club of Liars, Demagogues and Ignoramuses. Largely correct, although I strongly disgree with the charge that Herman Cain and Mitt Romney were "job-killers." Preserving failing businesses and business models, creating negative value added (i.e. earning losses rather than profits), and the like are guaranteed ways to destroy wealth and jobs, not preserve them. How odd that Der Spiegel would actually anticipate and endorse Newt Gingrich's crazy and hypocritical economics.

But the bottom line is...the primaries: ugh.

Photo: The Republican hopefuls during a break in a recent debate?

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