The intensity of the pundit analyses of the GOP Campaign Circus has actually provided some rather interesting insights.
The circumstances have made it difficult for certain individuals to avoid being “exposed” (in an Entertainment Tonight way) for views that many of their followers thought were contrary to their actual political beliefs. A perfect example is the recent revelation (though thoroughly and ineffectively denounced by Glenn Greenwald) that he is indeed a Randian Libertarian.
It started with a typical 2,000 word Greenwald treatise last week that Glenn used to justify his reasoning for saying that progressives are torn by (what he calls) the “rational” progressive issues being presented by Ron Paul, a Republican Libertarian candidate.
Real liberals and progressives quickly pounced on Greenwald’s premises, focusing on his idolic praise for pseudo-liberal pundit Matt Stoller. For example, David Atkins, at Hullabaloo, quoted Greenwald:
As Matt Stoller argued in a genuinely brilliant essay on the history of progressivism and the Democratic Party which I cannot recommend highly enough: “the anger [Ron Paul] inspires comes not from his positions, but from the tensions that modern American liberals bear within their own worldview.” Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception
Atkins went on to say, “As usual, this is all so much hogwash… Liberalism is and has always been about intervention.” Even Gary Weiss, at Greenwald’s home site Salon, said that he “couldn’t disagree more” with the views presented by Stoller and Greenwald.
Personally, I came to the stark realization that Glenn Greenwald is not a true progressive at the time of SCOTUS’s Citizens United decision in January of 2010. Greenwald, an ardent defender of the ruling, wrote this the day after the decision:
Although I doubt it, this decision may very well worsen that problem (corporatism) in some substantial way. But on both pragmatic and Constitutional grounds, the issue of corporate influence — like virtually all issues — is not really solvable by restrictions on political speech. Isn’t it far more promising to have the Government try to equalize the playing field through serious public financing of campaigns than to try to slink around the First Amendment — or, worse, amend it — in order to limit political advocacy?
As for the question of whether corporations possess “personhood,” that’s an interesting issue and, as I said, I’m very sympathetic to the argument that they do not, but the majority’s ruling here did not really turn on that question. That’s because the First Amendment does not only vest rights in “persons.” It says nothing about “persons.” It simply bans Congress from making any laws abridging freedom of speech.
Glenn, in an atypical display of naïveté, failed to recognize that our founders were concerned about freedom of speech for the “People” of America – not the noises made by farm animals or the innocuous words presented by non-human corporations, PACs or labor unions.
The Bill of Rights, by definition, protects the “individual” rights of American citizens (persons). It is true, as Glenn says, that the First Amendment “says nothing about ‘persons’.” It doesn’t have to. The whole purpose of the Bill of Rights in its entirety is to “vest rights in ‘persons’.” It is not necessary for each amendment to restate that principle.
For me, Greenwald clarified his anti-progressive beliefs a few weeks later when he debated Dennis Kucinich on Democracy Now in his support of the Citizens United decision.
The main point that Greenwald felt he made was:
It is clear that Congress shall make no law abridging free speech… The clear Constitutional prescriptions of the First Amendment in allowing the government to ban or regulate corporations from speaking out on elections, to me, seem very problematic.
In other words, Glenn Greenwald had no problem accepting corporations (or for that matter any organized group of people or farm animals) as being “persons,” a view that I did, and do, find impossible for any rational progressive person to accept.
After January 2010, I stopped reading Glenn Greenwald.
Update: January 17, 2012
Inasmuch as this week marks the second anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, it seems appropriate that we look back at the “ardent defense” of this decision by Glenn Greenwald in early 2010.
At that time, there were numerous, well-supported rebuttals to Glenn’s stated arguments that “corporations = persons” and “money = speech.”
I believe that Kevin Murphy summed it up best when he wrote:
Throughout this whole back-and-forth, there was not even the remotest possibility that any other interpretation on these two questions had merit for Greenwald: Corporations have first amendment rights. Money is speech. Both are obviously enshrined in the First Amendment. And arguing anything else is ridiculous and deserving of scorn (even if Supreme Court justices have argued differently in the past, including as recently as Thursday.) So let it be written, so let it be done.
Uh...really? Who knows...perhaps it's a lawyer thing. Nonetheless, this myopic, bullish way of thinking -- I hold the only correct possible interpretation of the law, and you're either with me or you're with the Dubyaites -- isn't very satisfying on either personal or argumentative grounds. And Greenwald's constant doubling down on his original argument, even as more and more holes were poked in it by various responders, makes me question not only his temperament but his writing in general. He usually provides a valuable public service, no doubt, but he seems to have bought into his own hype as an Incorruptible Defender of Liberty. If you can't think outside of yourself once in awhile, or find some way to weigh arguments you may not necessarily agree with without deeming them unprincipled, you're really not much use to anyone.