Santorum and Romney

I’ve posted this three times now and today underlined why. There have been a slew of blogs, tweets and articles from ‘the left’ today about Romney and Santorum. There has been particular emphasis on the latter’s social views. It continues to unfold exactly as described in the article:

The worst attributes of our political culture — obsession with trivialities, the dominance of horserace “reporting,” and mindless partisan loyalties — become more pronounced than ever. Meanwhile, the actually consequential acts of the U.S. Government and the permanent power factions that control it — covert endless wars, consolidation of unchecked power, the rapid growth of the Surveillance State and the secrecy regime, massive inequalities in the legal system, continuous transfers of wealth from the disappearing middle class to large corporate conglomerates — drone on with even less attention paid than usual.

Because most of those policies are fully bipartisan in nature, the election season — in which only issues that bestow partisan advantage receive attention — places them even further outside the realm of mainstream debate and scrutiny. For that reason, America’s elections ironically serve to obsfuscate political reality even more than it usually is.

The views of candidates like Romney and Santorum on issues like abortion and gay marriage may be repugnant, but their importance is hysterically overblown because they are amongst the only issues of substance where liberals can put clear water between ‘their’ man Obama and the Republicans (and vice versa). You need look no further than the fact that Obama has yet to endorse gay marriage himself for an example of the politics of convenience at work here. There have been grumblings about this but no firestorm of condemnation such as that which has greeted every dodgy uttering from a Republican candidate.

Of course it would be preferable to have a socially liberal President. But what does that mean? As the article notes, in their haste to hate all things Republican many liberals find themselves supporting a candidate advocating many things they have previously found repugnant:

Whatever else one wants to say, it is indisputably true that Ron Paul is the only political figure with any sort of a national platform — certainly the only major presidential candidate in either party — who advocates policy views on issues that liberals and progressives have long flamboyantly claimed are both compelling and crucial. The converse is equally true: the candidate supported by liberals and progressives and for whom most will vote — Barack Obama — advocates views on these issues (indeed, has taken action on these issues) that liberals and progressives have long claimed to find repellent, even evil.

The article lists at length many actions of the Obama administration to illustrate this fact (seriously – read it) before noting:

Progressives like to think of themselves as the faction that stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, supports candidates who are devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality. All of these facts — like the history laid out by Stoller in that essay — negate that desired self-perception.

It then notes that on pretty much all of the issues listed, the candidate Ron Paul has been on the side previously claimed by the ‘progressives’:

His nomination would mean that it is the Republicancandidate — not the Democrat — who would be the anti-war, pro-due-process, pro-transparency, anti-Fed, anti-Wall-Street-bailout, anti-Drug-War advocate

In the demonisation of all things Republican, this view is pretty much nowhere to be found. Liberals across the globe fawned at the feet of Obama’s administration when Clinton delivered her trite ‘gay rights’ speech. They have had almost nothing to say about the administration’s passing of the NDAA. Greenwald notes that an honest support for Obama is perfectly possible if a progressive argues that they value certain liberal values over others. What he only touches on very briefly is that it is almost always liberal values surrounding reproductive rights and homosexuality which trump everything else. This is in itself problematic as it implies that none of these other issues affect these totemic values. This is an even greater problem when the focus is so frequently on the personal utterings of the candidates rather than what they actually do and, more so, what the consequences of their actions are. It can clearly be argued that much of the activity of the Obama administration has impinged on the rights of women and gay people both in America and around the world but this involves an analysis which looks beyond rhetoric; an analysis which more and more people seem less and less willing to engage in.

Who could blame them? Once you’re faced with the fact that ‘your guy’ is in many ways just as ‘bad’ or even worse than ‘their guy’, where do you go? Especially in American politics where the two-party system shows no signs of faltering. However this ‘all or nothing’ approach where you fully support one guy because at least he’s not the other guy just leads to a never-ending cycle of this. There need to be strong voices on the left holding Obama to account. We need to be just as appalled by his misdeeds as we would be by a Republican’s and start to approach politics in a manner which treats it as more than a football game. More than anything (and this applies here just as in America) we need to start to question a system which allows such meaningless and juvenile point-scoring to pass for political discourse. As individuals we don’t lose anything by holding every candidate to the same standard, demanding more from our politicians and our political system and striving for more. This isn’t to say that any candidate is going to be perfect but once you begin to ask why the ‘left’ is so mired in activities which you find repugnant then you open the door to a potentially revolutionary personal political journey. Despite what we are encouraged to believe, there is nothing inevitable about the way things are. Be realistic. Demand the impossible.

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