I said something critical of the crop of current GOP contenders yesterday (OK, I called them crooks, panderers, and liars), and someone immediately commented that I sounded like an “Obama fan.”
Such has long been the knee-jerk reflex of most Americans: Someone who says unkind things about a Republican must be a hardcore liberal, and someone who badmouths a Democrat must be an incorrigible rightwinger. The unalterable binary nature of our political system is presupposed by either side.
I see no real evidence that that’s changing, but if an article on the blog of The New Yorker is to be believed, I could be wrong. And for once, I’d be plenty happy about donning the dunce cap.
As both a fan of The New Yorker and someone who likes most of Ron Paul’s economic and political ideas (if not his complicity in this vileness), I suppose I imagined the two icons in separate spheres. The New Yorker is part of the politely-liberal East Coast intelligentsia. For all its brainy bona fides, the magazine rarely gives any indication that it understands the most fundamental ideas from the right or even the center of the political spectrum. Paul, of course, is the GOP candidate who wants to take away many of the playthings that liberals treasure, and who seeks to torch the overriding liberal notion that in matters of government, bigger is better.
It’s quite a jolt to the system to see that, inexplicably, the twain have met.
Writer John Cassidy argues (admittedly with a backhanded compliment) that Paul “isn’t just another right-wing nut,” and likens the man’s candidacy to Barack Obama’s, four years ago:
At this point in 2007, the young senator from Illinois seemed to many Democrats to be something thrillingly fresh: an independent-minded figure who would challenge a stale and corrupted politics. Paul doesn’t have Obama’s youth or his charisma, which was partly based on the anticipation of seeing a whip-smart black man in the White House. But a surprising number of disillusioned Americans find in Paul, for all his impractical proposals and extremist baggage, a similar hope for a new type of politics: one that isn’t beholden to the two major parties.
That is why Paul is important. Even a big victory for him next week [in Iowa] won’t necessarily tell us much about the ultimate outcome of the Republican race: the pundits are right about that. It is virtually impossible to see Paul emerging as the nominee. But his popularity tells us something deeper about American politics and the popular alienation that now attends it — on the left and the right.
Rogier is a Dutch-born, New-England-dwelling multi-media maven (OK, a writer and photographer) whose dead-tree publishing credits include the New York Times, Wired, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Reason.