I’m gonna set your flag on fire

19 08 2013

Quick follow-up to yesterday’s post:

I wasn’t clear in defining “punishment”, nor in distinguishing that undefined punishment from a beat-down from one’s political opponents.

The ultimate punishment (for an incumbent) is, of course, to be tossed from office, and is the standard for any other concerns about punishment. For example, falling poll numbers might invite either a primary challenge or a better-quality challenger from the other party, which could result in losing one’s seat. Similarly, a beat-down from a political adversary could lead to softening poll numbers, which, in turn, lead challengers to believe the incumbent is vulnerable.

I also wasn’t clear in distinguishing between fear of losing one’s seat from fear of being hammered for an allegedly weak response. As with the issue of punishment, the fear of hammering is a second-order fear linked to the primary fear of election loss.

The difficulty for the incumbent representative or senator, or for either the incumbent or possible presidential candidate, is discerning whether one will be considered weak if one counsels a less-aggressive stance as well as whether one would be able to fend off any attacks in ways that, if they do not strengthen one’s candidacy, do not appreciably weaken it. In the United States, DO SOMETHING!!! is the default mode in response to provocation, so in the absence of other cues, taking a highly aggressive stance is likely the safest tactic.

There are other factors, of course. Pressure from party leaders and threats to withhold campaign funds or boot a member off a favorable committee can steer a wavering politician toward aggression. A sustained media assault can also erode one’s resistance.

Finally, the politician might truly believe that the most aggressive response is, in fact, the correct one, and as such, acts in accordance with his or her principles in voting for aggression.

Now, as to my hypothesis that the supposed problem with a softer response is actually a problem with an unclear response, well, because elections are rarely about one thing and one thing only, this is tough to test.

Russ Feingold was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT Act and laid out his reasons for doing so, and he lost his re-election; however, he had always had tough races, and lost his bid in the 2010 Tea Party surge. Rep. Ron Paul counseled and Senator Rand Paul counsel non-intervention; the father repeatedly won re-election and the son is popular enough with the base of the Kentucky Republican Party that Mitch McConnell is looking to him in his tough re-election bid. Yet it’s also clear that Rand Paul’s non-interventionism runs into strong opposition within his own party, and while he might be able to ensconce himself in his senate seat for decades to come, it might limit his appeal as a presidential candidate in the Republican primaries.

So, no clear lesson.

Except: to the extent that there is no clear lesson regarding the necessity of the most aggressive response, it is just possible that a sitting politician or a presidential candidate who strongly believes in a less-aggressive/non-interventionist approach could effectively inoculate him or herself against charges of being “soft on terrorism/crime” by crafting a strong and clear alternative and selling it as the most effective way of dealing with the problem.

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Mayan Campaign Mashup 2012: Mancrushing Ron Paul

11 01 2012

Katha Pollitt on lefties-for-Paul:

What is it with progressive mancrushes on right-wing Republicans? For years, until he actually got nominated, John McCain was the recipient of lefty smooches equaled only by those bestowed upon Barack Obama before he had to start governing. You might disagree with what McCain stood for, went the argument, but he had integrity, and charisma, and some shiny mavericky positions—on campaign finance reform and gun control and… well, those two anyway.

Now Ron Paul is getting the love. At Truthdig, Robert Scheer calls him “a profound and principled contributor to a much-needed national debate on the limits of federal power.” In The Nation, John Nichols praises his “pure conservatism,” “values” and “principle.” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald is so outraged that progressives haven’t abandoned the warmongering, drone-sending, indefinite-detention-supporting Obama for Paul that he accuses them of supporting the murder of Muslim children. There’s a Paul fan base in the Occupy movement and at Counterpunch, where Alexander Cockburn is a longtime admirer. Paul is a regular guest of Jon Stewart, who has yet to ask him a tough question. And yes, these are all white men; if there are leftish white women and people of color who admire Paul, they’re keeping pretty quiet.

Ron Paul has an advantage over most of his fellow Republicans in having an actual worldview, instead of merely a set of interests—he opposes almost every power the federal government has and almost everything it does. Given Washington’s enormous reach, it stands to reason that progressives would find targets to like in Paul’s wholesale assault. I, too, would love to see the end of the “war on drugs” and our other wars. I, too, am shocked by the curtailment of civil liberties in pursuit of the “war on terror,” most recently the provision in the NDAA permitting the indefinite detention, without charge, of US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. But these are a handful of cherries on a blighted tree. In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, no civil rights laws, no anti-discrimination law, no Americans With Disabilities Act, no laws ensuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers’ rights.

And as she noted about his alleged anti-police-state stance: “Not to harp on abortion, but an effective ban would require a level of policing that would make the war on drugs look feeble.”

I, of course, have no problem harping on abortion. That’s one of the things a harpy does.

Anyway, it is telling that libertarians tend to attract the strong or those who consider themselves strong or those to whom it is really really really important to be stronger than someone else.

Have I kicked around Ayn Rand enough? No, I have not, mainly because I try not to think of Ayn Rand (and I have a story about reading her for the first time that’s just, pfffffffff, does not reflect well on me but I should tell you anyhow—but not right now). Still, this bit from Paul Bibeau* is a propos:

[L Ron Hubbard] “Fine,” he said huffily. “Who would you go after?”
[Ayn Rand] “Rich white college kids.”
“Jesus,” he said. “That’s… that’s perfect.”
“I know, right?”
“They’re the worst.”
“God, they’re horrible.”
“But what are you going to do to them?”
“I’m going to convince them… that they’re just too nice.”

Makes her almost likable—so clearly a parody.

I know, Ron Paul is not Ayn Rand (and no, his son Rand is not named after her), and she would probably disdain him because she disdained everyone who was not her (and who knows, possibly also herself as well, but, again, really prefer not to spend too much time thinking of her), but even if he’s not as interested in ripping off-while-misunderstanding Nietzsche as that third-rate author was, they’re both chewing on the same overcooked piece of fuck-the-weak spaghetti.

*h/t Fred Clark at slactivist