In Australia, the real fervour about Obama came from liberals who saw him as the anti-Bush, a president who would eschew military adventurism, restore the rule of law, and replace W’s blustering stupidity with a calm intelligence.
Today, it’s those same liberals who are most conscious of how closely the Obama administration resembles its predecessor, with the new president, as Glenn Greenwald puts it, presiding over a shopping list of measures that "liberalism has long held to be pernicious".
Insofar as the left in Australia and elsewhere are flirting with Paulism, we are seeing a profound confusion about what the left is and what it should be, a confusion that’s particularly dangerous in a context where, around the world, the far right is on the rise — and increasingly selling its message with anti-establishment rhetoric.
The thing is, though, most progressives who talk about Paul know all of this.
Such campaigns simply cannot succeed without enlisting organisations like trade unions, able to wield real social clout precisely because they organise millions of people in chains of solidarity.
Paul’s free market libertarianism is, however, fundamentally hostile to that kind of collectivism.
More than anything, Paul is committed to the free market.
He’s a market fundamentalist, far more besotted with the wondrous powers of the invisible hand than any other politician in the US or Australia.
Perhaps more importantly, detaching Ron Paul’s progressive sounding slogans from the context in which they emerge entails ignoring the basic connection between political means and political ends.
That’s the basis of his libertarianism: a fantasy of individual traders happily setting up their lemonade stands without regulation or interference.
If ever implemented, Paul’s ideas would illustrate how unfettered markets foster repression more than freedom.
Obama, Greenwald continues, has “slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack.
He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. Next time, hold that demonstration at a food stamp bureau or a crack house.” Paul now says he knew nothing about such comments and he didn’t write them himself. Who circulates a publication under their own name and then pays no attention to what it says?