A Letter about a Harper’s Magazine Write-Up on Ron Paul
From Jon Mozzochi
Michael Ames’ letter from Tampa (“The Awakening: Ron Paul’s generational movement,” Harper’s, April 2013) would wander less, and inform more, if it had a framework capable of making sense of what is on the surface a deeply contradictory political movement.
Ron (and Rand) Paul’s libertarian “revolution” Ames contends, is at once opposed to “modern war making and the evils of the corporate state” and the “forced redistribution of money from the young, healthy, and working to the elderly, sick, and poor…”
Are they Libertarian anarchists? Is this a new third force showing the way? Are these radicals with whom progressives can break bread? Unfortunately, Ames doesn’t adequately answer any of these three questions.
But I will. No, no, and hell no.
Ames is mostly on target when he identifies the Paulites as the only significant conservative youth movement since Goldwater. But I suspect he too easily dismisses white power skinheads (who, fair enough, are not strictly conservative) and, more importantly, the various campus-based projects championed by the scientific racists at American Renaissance and other paleo-conservative outfits.
Ames then waxes adulatory, referring–apparently in all seriousness–to Paul’s 2003 foreshadowing of the housing crisis as “Nostradamian.” Perhaps in order to inoculate himself against charges of cheerleading, Ames then makes a nod to Paul’s well-documented racist pedigree. He then veers to the casually dismissive, calling Paul and his followers a “cult”.
Elsewhere he is just wrong, as when he links the movement to American folklore (Woody Guthrie?) or claims the Paulites have “stirred leftist passions” and are “…the only remaining organized political resistance to what we used to call the System.”
Has Ames never heard of Occupy Wall Street? I would argue that the occupy movement played a central role in beating back the Tea Party/Paulites and helped change the terms of debate such that Obama could re-occupy the White House.
But that’s for another letter.
It’s difficult to make sense of someone else’s political movement if you are unsure what tradition you operate from.
In my opinion, Paulites are best described as American fascists in a movement phase. We don’t want to know what they are like in power. They must be opposed by a broad anti-fascist coalition. The fact that tea party/Paulite ideology and structures are ascendant within the GOP is cause for alarm; that they were as close to the American presidency as they were with Romney (not one of them, but seemingly at their mercy) means it’s time to act.
It’s important to be clear here: The Tea Party/Paulites operate within a conceptual framework of the MARS–middle American radicals. First identified by Donald Warren in his 1976 book “The Radical Center: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation” the core thesis of Warren’s argument (as it applies here) is that some white Americans construct a political self-identity through attacking the black and brown below them and the elite (1%) above them. This is how they are different from traditional conservatives, who won’t attack above.
The MARS resent and oppose the elite for their feckless casino economy and dangerous foreign adventures. They feel betrayed. They date the original betrayal–this is an Oedipal drama–to the founding of the Federal Reserve in 1913, continuing to the present through more esoteric financial shenanigans. These same elites are supposedly responsible for the coddling of the black and brown poor, forcibly redistributing (white) middle class wealth downward to an ungrateful, lazy underclass. This underclass is then charged with being a political bulwark against those patriots trying to wrest back the American Republic from the cultural and economic elites and their comrades in the slums.
When it’s restated that way, it’s clear the tea party/Paulites offer nothing for progressives. If Ames had a cogent political worldview he would say so, too.
Corte Madera, CA