Home / General / Of Course You Can Collaborate With Bad People When They’re Offering Something. But What Does This Have to do With Rand Paul?

Of Course You Can Collaborate With Bad People When They’re Offering Something. But What Does This Have to do With Rand Paul?


In response to Erik’s post yesterday noting the horrible foreign policy and civil liberties views of brogressive favorite Rand Paul, IB says:

It’s absolutely worth thinking about, I agree, Erik. But as Aaron B. says elsewhere on this subthread, practical politics requires one to make common cause on particular issues with folks with whom one doesn’t otherwise agree. If one forgets the basis of such coalitions, one can indeed get into trouble. But it’s self-defeating purism not to make strategic alliances with folks who agree with you about individual issues simply because their beliefs on those issues are connected to other positions with which one dramatically disagrees.

See, for instance, the New Deal, which was built by Congressional majorities that not only included white supremacist, Southern Democrats, but reflected in many ways their commitment to white supremacy (as Ira Katznelson emphasizes in his latest book). While this made the New Deal worse than it would have been in a fantasy world in which it didn’t rely on the votes of whote supremacists, it didn’t make the New Deal a bad thing, nor did it make support for the New Deal among Northern, liberal Democrats mere foolishness.

All of this is true as far as it goes. Yes, the New Deal shows that compromises with bad people who hold many odious views is sometimes a grim necessity. (Of course, it’s generally purists who hate Obama rather than the members of this blog who need this history lesson — I don’t recall Erik arguing that even though we had to shape the New Deal according to the dictates of white supremacists cutting deals with Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh to get a health care bill through Congress was completely intolerable, because of course to anti-Obama Green Lanternists FDR was a magic president who caused white supremacists to evaporate with the force of his mighty rhetoric. But moving right along.) The problem is that I have no idea what this has to do with any neoconfederate crank from the Paul family:

1)With the big “but” that no policy could disturb white supremacy, Southern Democrats actually supported progressive economic policy. (As I say in the Katznelson review above, at times they were even to FDR’s left.) Despite the large amount of projection going on, even on the limited issue of military policy and civil liberties, Paul’s views are much worse than Obama’s. It’s just that from some quarters tepid, missing-the-point criticisms of Obama from the far right are welcomed while better (while still not very good) views offered by mainstream Democratic positions are sneered at, because Democrats are total major label sellouts man.

2)More importantly, Southern Democrats in the first stages of the New Deal were willing to provide the necessary votes to pass legislation. Obviously, if Rand Paul was offering some kind of concrete measure limiting arbitrary executive authority, then Democrats should be willing to make common cause with him and his motives don’t matter. But the thing is that he’s not offering any concrete policy changes, and because of point 1) he’s vanishingly unlikely to: despite what’s being projected onto him he doesn’t actually have progressive views on civil liberties, and he’s just fine with DRONES! as long as DRONE! attacks on white Americans on American soil continue not to exist. He’s offering words, and as long as he’s just offering words the fact that he’s a neoconfederate crank does actually matter. Praising Rand Paul isn’t like working with Southern Democrats during the first stage of the New Deal; it’s more like praising Southern Democrats while they were working to pass Taft-Hartley because one said that we shouldn’t nuke suburban Birmingham.

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