Saturday, 25 October 2014

Bad vs horrible? or bad vs bad?

Two long profiles pieces in weekly magazines—one of Rand Paul in the New Yorker, and a Harper’s anti-profile of Hillary Clinton—have got me thinking about the wacky hypothetical of a Clinton-Paul face-off in 2016. It’s fun to do the thought experiment especially in the light of the Dilma Rousseff-Aécio Neves battle taking place in Brazil tomorrow, the standard-bearer of the erstwhile leftish Workers Party shooting for a fourth WP term in office v/s the Brazilian version of a suit.

From afar, one assumes that most people favor keeping the corrupt business class out of power and oppose the conservative candidate. But given the disappointments of the Lula-Dilma regimes, including gross corruption fully in the spirit of the Brazilian Way, one has to ask what is lost by continuing to have a cardboard version of a progressive in office while carring out an uber-business-friendly program.

Meanwhile, São Paulo may be out of water in a few weeks, a detail Dilma’s workers have been ignoring just like the bosses did while pushing for more hydroelectric plants in the Amazon and doing little to stop the ravages of the zone’s ecology. All of which makes that election sound more and more like a fight between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front. But I digress.

Rand Paul is just unorthodox enough to be less than 100% hateful, capable of taking good positions on excessive prison terms and a less hawkish foreign policy. No doubt if he gets anywhere near seriousness as a candidate, both will be quickly bullied out of him, and there are signs he’s starting to conform to the wacko brigades’ demands already. But just for fun, what if he continued to be a libertarian Republican, hostile to abortion and gay rights, but determined to put an end to foreign wars of conquest?

How would one feel about opposing him to support a gay-friendly imperialist like Madame Clinton making noises about, say, bombing Iran, sending troops to Moldava or some other Russian frontier zone, and promising to further enable the CIA’s secret armies and the NSA snoopfest?

Or to put it another way, Is it better to have someone in office who makes rhetorial nods at worthy goals and takes note of problems that do exist—for example, the Democrats’ newfound interest in economic inequality while they do everything necessary to protect and sustain the power of the superrich? Or might it be simply bad in a different way to have the right-wing program carried out by real right-wingers with all the collateral damage that would entail?

It’s an interesting moral choice even given the likelihood that none of it will matter and the shadow state will make our decisions for us no matter who happens to be its public face. The only thing that will slow down the ever-tinier elites is popular opposition expressed in concrete ways such as the upheaval in Ferguson or the old Occupy movement—not by voting habits.

I hate to be a broken record, but the example of the decade is the Chilean student movement, extra-parliamentary, uncompromising and based on physical presence in the streets. They were uninterested in promises they had no reason to believe and did not fall for the Woo-Woo! Look at those bad guys over there! routine, even when the bad guys in question were the remnants of the Pinochet dictatorship.

Instead, they harassed the authorities relentlessly, and the result was a new president promising to eliminate university tuition. The story is not over, but our creaky democratic apparatus is

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your point about needing a movement that keeps people in the streets (rather than just making a bi-yearly trek to the voting booth) is solid. Chris Hedges has been saying this as well. The more people saying it the better - and then maybe we will move to actually do it.