A Shotgun Divorce?

I’ve been following the increasingly acrimoneous Ron Paul-related blogspat between David Neiwert and Glenn Greenwald with great interest. Not particularly concerned with the substance of the dispute, though I will admit to being sympathetic with Neiwert’s position. With that said, as the battle lines continue to be drawn I believe there are broader implications at play.

From what I’ve read, Greenwald has always identified as a (left-leaning) libertarian, and to many libertarians RP represents the first viable presidential candidate since, well, the last time Ron Paul ran for the Executive. Still, the erroneous notion that Glenn Greenwald is a ‘liberal’ has become stone-set conventional wisdom among many on both sides of the aisle. Seems if one expresses a deep and abiding dislike for the Cheney Bush administration one might as well be a goddamn Commie (Pat Buchanan and Gary North: once far-right anti-Semitic isolationists, now objectively Maoist–just add 9/11.)

So, one shouldn’t be surprised to see Greenwald side with Paul in this particular dispute. Neiwert, a journalist who specializes in covering the USian far right, is an ardent proponent of Federal hate crime legislation. Greenwald, a former constitutional law attorney, is a genuine free speech absolutist (according to Wikipedia, white supremacist Matthew Hale was one of his more famous clients). Any affiliation Greenwald has with the USian ‘left-blogosphere’/netroots (read: partisan Democracts, though I wouldn’t place Neiwert in this category, either) should be considered a shotgun wedding of (in)convenience, much like that of Jim Henley or Arthur Silber, than indicative of a genuine ideological convergence (indeed, as Silber has noted, a number of USian progressive luminaries have been content to repeatedly play the useful idiot role on behalf of imperial Donkeys in Congress).

It will be interesting to see if Ron Paul proves to be the catalyst that hastens a schism among anti-Bush forces who share little in common besides a respect for civil liberties and the rule of law, along with a recognition of how much (perhaps irreparable) damage to civil society the War on Terror has wrought. As the specter of lame-duck Dubya (and Deadeye Dick) continues to fade, there appear to be a number of fundamental policy barriers separating liberals and libertarians that are, in all likelihood, insurmountable. At this point, it seems more and more apparent that, contra Markos Moulitsas, the ‘Libertarian Democrat’ will ultimately prove to be the jackalope of contemporary American politics.

One Response to “A Shotgun Divorce?”

  1. Mark says:

    Interesting and unique viewpoint on this whole debate (which I’ve also been following with great interest, remaining somewhat more sympathetic with Greenwald’s perspective). Up until now, I’ve largely been viewing the Paul campaign as the convergence of a variety of forces on the right who have grown disillusioned with the Bushies, reflecting a last-ditch effort to reclaim the Republican Party for paleo-cons and small-l libertarians. But… your comments here make me begin to wonder the extent the Paul campaign is starting to peel off the left-libertarians from the Democratic Party.

    If the left-libertarians and the right-libertarians were to join in a movement with the paleo-cons…..well, you would suddenly have a viable third party.

    This third party may or may not be the LP (my guess is on “not”, though). The reason the left and right libertarians have never united under one political banner is that the Republican Party turned in a much more libertarian direction (at least rhetorically) for about 25 years, beginning before the LP had an opportunity to make any inroads. As a result, right libertarians were generally willing to suck it up and vote Republican (or not at all, in the case of the anarcho-capitalists) during all those years, especially since the libertarian movement began largely as an offshoot of the Republican Party in the first place. Self-identified left libertarians on the other hand were always a smaller group within the libertarian movement, so I don’t know how their political affiliations evolved. Although the existence of Greenwald and Kinsley would suggest they wound up with the Dems.

    One other note- Ron Paul ’88 was not a successful or viable candidacy even by LP standards. Indeed, his nomination at the time caused a minor schism within the LP due to his official affiliation with the Republicans, amongst other things. He did far worse than the LP did in 1980, which was a year where there were two significant candidates (Reagan and Anderson) who had adopted quite libertarian rhetoric, and where the LP got its biggest share of the vote ever.

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