Saviorism

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A few dissents that deserve consideration:


I have to admit that I was/(still am?) a Paul supporter. I always heard people casually omit Ron Paul but they could never form an idea to support their dismissal. For putting that thought into context means quite a bit, so, I thank you. 

What I would like to ask you and perhaps other commenters is who should we look for? I'm of the belief that everyone has some dirt that can be revealed and just beause it hasn't come to light doesn't mean that other politicians running for office right now don't represent something that is easily reprehensible. 

I read one comment that Ron Paul speaks out on low hanging fruit, but it's an unpopular message that most politicians don't actually want to enter in. I agree that what Ron Paul is saying maybe shortcuts, but a bunch of what he says regarding government spending I find to be true. 

So, with the mindset that everyone running for office can't be trusted : who else besides Ron Paul is saying something other than what politicians normally say when running for office?

The commenter continues:

Again, I want to reiterate that these views are reprehensible. But I am honestly looking for another option, even distilled. Essentially, my hope that our system of government is capable of correcting course is dwindling by the second. Promises of change have resulted in little change.  

The people are resorting to occupying places with no clear goal but with the general sentiment that "something stinks". I know something stinks, you know something stinks. We *all* know something stinks. 

Who else besides Ron Paul is saying, "Hey, does something stink?" I am honestly asking this question because I would like to have an open mind and hear the thoughts of others.


I support Paul, but realize he is not perfect, nobody is. The fact is he represents Those things that are important to me now! I ask you, who is your prophet in this age, now that you have matured from your youth? Is he or she perfect? We have to make decisions based upon who is willing to lead.

And finally:

I'm reading everything I can find on Ron Paul because I'm one of those disaffected Obama supporters looking for a new horse to back this year. I agree with you -- it's beyond disappointing that the closest thing to a candidate that supports my views on these key issues is a crazy racist who'd be more at home in front of a podium at the North Idaho Separatists Club than he would be in the White House press office. (And the lengths that Ron Paul supporters go to to pretend he is not disturbing, is itself disturbing. Own the cognitive dissonance, people -- you'd have to learn to if he got elected.) And I also understand that the President doesn't set policy alone and that it takes more than one person to change the course of a wayward nation. I know all this. 

But what I really want to know is -- okay, where does this lead me? People like to say that civic responsibility doesn't end at the ballot box, and I think that's only half-true. Writing angry letters and making angry phone calls can be done, for sure, but that is like substituting checks for cash -- the currency that backs those checks is still the vote. An elected leader does not care whether I spend my time doodling his name with hearts and flowers or lobbing darts at his photo. All that matters is: will I vote for him? And if I have significant money, will I give it to him so he can get other people to vote for him? All the angry phone calls in the world will do nothing if they are not backed by the currency of my implied vote. 


I am reminded of that self-help book, Getting To Yes. A key idea in that book is that when you're going into a negotation, you have to have some idea of your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). What is my BATNA here? The only two that come to mind are staying home in November, which is a choice I've never made, and voting for Ron Paul, as distasteful as he is. If both of these are off the table, if I seriously don't have an alternative, and everybody knows this, there is absolutely no reason Obama's staff should listen to my angry letters. 

The politically, strategically correct thing for his administration to do in that case is to keep on keeping on with everything that could give him a competitive advantage, which includes every single expansion of executive power he's been handed or acquired on his own. And the same damn thing will be true of every single one of his successors until the civil liberties constituency has some trump card, some way of holding the executive's feet to the fire by threatening to vote for someone else. 

We won't ever have a savior. But until it LOOKS like we have one, we also won't have any leverage in making change. "We are the ones we've been waiting for" is a fine slogan if what you're looking to do is repair a crumbling bridge or invent a new technology, but I simply do not see how it applies to dismantling an authoritarian state.  Shall we Occupy Langley? Who among us has the luxury of twenty spare years to sit in jail, uncharged, untried, and undefended, for the privilege?

I want to open these questions up to the Horde and hopefully some folks who have more experience organizing politically, and organizing around the drug war specifically. But before I do that I want to make a quick point--supporting a political candidate is a compromise. I think about Barack Obama supporting gay marriage while running as a state legislator, and then opposing it a president and then claiming his views are "evolving" and my skin crawls a bit. I feel the same about drone attacks that slaughter 16-year old kids, and  Eric Holder's position on state level marijuana laws. I have said as much repeatedly.

Glenn Greenwald says an honest Obama voter must cop to the following:

Yes, I'm willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America's minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for "espionage," and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America's minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

The equation is unbalanced, but the idea--accepting the flaws of your candidates--is about right. In that spirit, I wish he had not reduced the claim against Paul to "no associations with racist views in a newsletter," because I think his point still stands.  

No matter. I accept the frame, nonetheless. A world without "a defense of reproductive rights for women," is world that risks the life of my wife. (And my mother. Sorry you gotta buy the book.) For me, it's that simple.

In this democracy we take the things we like about a candidate, weigh them against the things we don't and then compare them to the field. Calculations, even among ostensible allies differ. This is understandable. In that vein, it is not the fact of supporting Ron Paul that gives me angst--it is the notion that his long record of statements on minorities (from the newsletters to the King holiday to the TSA workers) somehow have very little political import or meaning.

I obviously like a lot of what Ron Paul says on the drug war, on wars period, on national security policy. But I can't really support a president who is dangerously ignorant of the basic facts of American history (watch the video.) I can't ever support a president who is pro-life. (I have explained why here.)  I can't ever support a president who thinks America would have been better without the Civil Rights Act. To be blunt, I just don't have that luxury.

Those are my calculations. You have your own to make. I urge you to them with wide-eyes, without equivocation and minimization of your candidates flaws, and away from expectations of prophecy and the messianic. All the prophets are dead.

One quick aside: I really want people to watch that video, and compare it to our ongoing conversation about the Civil War, a conflict about which Ron Paul displays a deep and shocking ignorance. It's dismaying to see that we don't have press corps that might challenge him on facts, as opposed to just looking at him incredulously and repeating the question. Not to speak ill of the dead, but journalists should have at least a passing familiarity with the secession documents and Alexander Stephens "Cornerstone Speech." 

Read Eric Foner's Lincoln biography. Or at the very least google Lincoln and compensated emancipation.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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