The challenge of Ron Paul March 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm
Matt Stoller has a fascinating article on Naked Capitalism, Why Ron Paul Challenges Liberals. Paul is a complex character, distasteful in many ways, but not without interest. As Stoller says
when considering questions about Ron Paul, you have to ask yourself whether you prefer a libertarian who will tell you upfront about his opposition to civil rights statutes, or authoritarian Democratic leaders who will … aggressively enforce a racist war on drugs and shield multi-trillion dollar transactions from public scrutiny… Ron Paul’s stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It’s quite obvious that there isn’t one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn’t be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate.
In other words, Stoller uses some of Paul’s policies as a tool to shame the US left; why don’t they have an alternative account of the role of US military power, for instance? Even if (like me) you don’t agree with all of Stoller’s position, he does make a good point there. Part of the problem of course is that the modern Democratic party is in no way a party of the left; arguably one wouldn’t expect such a critique to come from a centre right party, which is what they are under Obama.
It is the paucity of two party politics, then, that really comes out of this example. There’s no need for the Dems to be a party of the left; they just need to be left of the Republicans, and there is plenty of room there. The barrier to entry for new parties is so high that the Democrats are unlikely to face competition from the left: even the Greens, with long-established support, are not a serious challenge. This allows both Democratic and Republican parties to be corporatist and finance-friendly. It’s only the occasional maverick, like Paul, who evidences the narrow range of positions taken in American politics.