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The principle of power envy

By Thomas M. Sipos
web posted March 19, 2007

Conservatives and progressives (as liberals now like to be called) suffer from power envy.  They will say or do any­thing, even subvert their own principles, to attain power.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerConsider Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He promised to halt California's big-spending.  He did give it an honest try.  Proposi­tions 74 to 77 would have crippled California's big-government lobbies.  Progressives panicked, spouting their usual hyperboles about the end of civilization.  After Arnold's propositions lost, he switched sides, endorsing 2006's budget-buster bonds to fund a progressive wish list.  But did progressives praise him for flip-flopping over to their side?  No, that's no way to win elections.  Instead, the folks at Air America radio attacked Arnold for the "hypocrisy" of his reckless spending.  (Talk about pots calling a kettle black!)  Of course, Air America broadcasters have long condemned Bush for /his /big-spending, without crediting him for an extravagant prescription drug plan -- surely a bigger step toward socialized medicine than anything Clinton ever achieved.

Clearly, progressives aren't upset with Republicans' reck­less spending.  Rather, they're furious that they aren't the ones doing it.  Power envy indeed.

Progressives are no better on privacy and civil liberties.  They slam Bush for using 9/11 to push the Patriot Act, but few progressives attacked Clinton for using Oklahoma City to push the 1995 Omnibus Counterterrorism Act (easily as bad as the Patriot Act, see: http://www.skepticism.org/politics/terrorism/ter_AEDPA.shtml).  Nor did progressives protest the FBI's profiling of NRA members (see: http://www.2ampd.net/Articles/Horn/Political%20Profiling.htm).  Few progressives care about the rights of mostly white, middle-aged gun owners.

Shame on conservatives who fail to defend Arabs and Muslims' civil rights; you'd think after Janet Reno, conservatives had learned a lesson.  Yet even progressives demonize Arabs for political advan­tage.  One Air America broadcaster appealed to racism when at­tacking Bush for his Dubai ports deal.  She'd said the United Arab Emirates "injected" (her word) several 9/11 hijackers into America.  That's like saying Africa "injected" OJ into America.  The hijackers were individual criminals, not government agents.  Their nationality was irrelevant.  But I guess progressives will sink even to racism if it'll help defeat a Republican president's free market deal.  Of course, Air America broadcasters have also demonized Saudi Arabians, always a necessary corollary to condemning Bush's "Saudi ties."

Ann CoulterI don't think Ann Coulter is homophobic, but I do think she calculatingly woos homophobes in order to sell her books and get face time on TV to feed her narcissism (her core principle).  I also don't think most progressives are racist, but I think some do drop anti-Arab remarks, hoping to entice undecided voters and "serve the greater good" of electing Democrats.  ("See, you can trust us with power.  We bash Arabs too.  Just not the ones that Republicans bash."  Similar to: "I support the war, just not how Republicans are fighting it.")

That the Iraq War was based on lies and ulterior motives is comprehensively documented, not by "America haters" but by retired military and intelligence officers (see Neoconned Again, 2005, IHS Press).  Opposing the war is moral and patriotic.  Yet I sense that many progressives are less opposed to the war, than they oppose Republicans bene­fiting from the war.  Progressives were mostly mute during Clin­ton's wars.

Some years ago, I heard one Air America broadcaster favorably compare Clinton's Balkan War to Bush's Iraq War: "At least Clinton was smart enough to bring in allies."  Okay, but how is this a progressive argument?  Progressives are supposed to favor peace and civilian safety, not smarter warriors.  And why do I suspect that, had Clinton fought alone, and Bush brought in NATO, that same broadcaster would have said: "At least Clinton had the guts to go it alone.  Bush is like a playground bully who's afraid to fight without his whole gang behind him."

Progressives don't so much oppose war-making and reckless spending, as they envy the power to do so.  They aren't so much upset at Bush and Giuliani appropriating 9/11 and its attendant political capital as the fact that they didn't appropriate it for themselves.  Call it 9/11 envy.  Progressives are like Ann Coulter, whose main gripe with the 9/11 widows may well be that she isn't one of them. ESR

Thomas M. Sipos is Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Libertarian Party.  His bio & contact info: http://www.communistvampires.com/author.htm.


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