Friday, November 16, 2007

Ron Paul and 'Centrism'

Paulapalooza continues, with a commenter leaving this quote from Carroll Quigley ("Clinton's Mentor", as if that's supposed to mean something to us), from Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time:

The chief problem of American political life...has been how to make the two Congressional parties more national and international. The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can 'throw the rascals out' at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy.
Which, of course, is a more scholarly expression of High Broderism--of disdain for ideological difference and party politics, of a yearning for some kind of high-minded bipartisan 'centrism' (which, of course, reflects nothing more than the preferences of the person yearning for it). All of which is very interesting and all, but it raises the question: what the hell does this have to do with Ron Paul?

Because of course Ron Paul is an extremist on every single issue except one (the one issue on which the establishment regards him as an extremist: the war in Iraq). On abortion, on Social Security, on immigration, on taxes, etc.: extremist. He takes positions that are extreme even for his extremist party. And yet here's this Paulista citing Carroll Quigley in a way that he thinks supports Ron Paul. And that passage is obviously important to the Paulistas--one of the other commenters cites it as well (without quoting, but it's obvious what he's talking about). And then there are other commenters describing Paul as "a candidate that unites people" and "far more educated on matters of domestic and foreign policy then you could ever hope to be".

And then it clicks: these Paulistas (or at least a significant subset of them) remind me of nothing so much as the Anderson geeks in 1980.

Fiscally conservative but socially liberal, Anderson was exactly the sort of 'centrist' Broder could swoon over. He wound up pulling a lot of Democrats disgusted with the conservative shift (from Vance to Brzezinski, in a sense) in Carter's foreign policy--and in particular, college students subject to Selective Service registration (I was one of those, but never supported Anderson). The single most annoying thing about the Anderson geeks was their sense of superiority, of being somehow above mere partisan politics.

Which, of course, we're seeing again with Ron Paul--to whom (for reasons that are beyond me) the would-be Anderson geeks are currently gravitating.

So Broder has his post-partisan 'centrist' candidate, the one who can pull equally from left and right. What Broder never envisioned is that he just happens to be a radical right-wing bomb thrower. That's a joke I can appreciate--as long as the joke is on Broder, and doesn't wind up being on us.