Obama’s Right WingSubmitted by freewillobjector on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 13:43
To an outside observer, there may seem to be an emerging wing of the Republican Party that could accommodate the Obamacons—the one being built by Ron Paul; his senator son, Rand; and their confreres in the “liberty movement.” Obamacon Andrew Sullivan twice endorsed Ron Paul in the Republican primaries, heaping accolades on his character and lauding his honesty about America’s finances and wars. The Pauls lead a movement that detests Washington’s expansive foreign policy and looks at budgets through the greenest of green eyeshades. It has the advantage of being electorally relevant (in congressional contests, at least) while maintaining credibility with a subset of Tea Partiers and portions of the conservative movement itself.
For Gutzman, who has been deeply embedded in that liberty movement for years, there is little choice. “The fiscal situation is you’re going to have Ron Paul’s foreign policy now or later,” he says. “We’re going to give it away the way the British did, rolling back the empire willingly, or the way the Soviets did, you go bankrupt and Poland is free. I still wish it could be done through the political process, rather than being forced on us.”
Yet none of the other Obamacons volunteers Ron Paul or his movement when asked about sources from which political sanity might spring. “I admire Paul’s anti-interventionist foreign policy perspective greatly,” says Bacevich, “and in that sense his voice is an important one. On the other hand, I’m not a libertarian. When it comes to domestic issues, I found his views, not reprehensible, but not likely to serve as a blueprint for what American politics is going to be about going forward. And I think libertarians, to my mind, tend to be insufficiently sensitive to the evils that the market can propagate. I fully respect capitalism as far and away the most effective way to generate economic growth, I’m just not persuaded that economic growth is the be all and end all of society.”
One gets the sense that though these Obamacons find Paul’s voice prophetic, they have tired of politics as an exercise in doctrine, and they see in the Ron Paul movement the same zeal and dogmatism that ultimately corrupted conservatism. They often cite Edmund Burke as their intellectual pole star, so it is no surprise they hesitate to take up anything like the creedal politics of libertarianism.
But their objections to libertarianism may drive deeper. Bacevich’s caution about capitalism is shared by other Obamacons. For Bacevich, the concern is the way the free market erodes social and civic values. Bartlett is convinced that “the working class is getting screwed” and frames his criticisms in terms of American fairness and the depredations of the plutocracy, which he believes has captured the Republican Party.
“When you think of what you want to conserve, you think of the best aspects of your country, and for me it was the 1960s. If you strip away the radical social movements, it was a more equal country, economically equal. Less power to Wall Street and more power to the middle,” McConnell says. “Now we are developing an income structure like Brazil’s.”
If these criticisms of capitalism and plutocracy seem underdeveloped, they are. The truth is that these thinkers long for intellectual leadership.