Glenn Greenwald, on "this suffocating, two-party monster"

Interesting Conor Friedersdorf interview with Salon's civil liberties/executive power blogger. Excerpt:

Presuming that the Republican nominee in 2012 is also bad on civil liberties, what should a voter who cares deeply about these issues do?

A. That's hard to say, because ultimately, elections are about comparative choices, making it difficult to assess what one should do against an unnamed opponent.  If the GOP opponent is substantially worse, that would be a different calculus than if s/he is merely marginally worse or roughly as bad.

But what is clear is that, for a variety of reasons, the two-party system does not work in terms of providing clear choices.  No matter who wins, the same permanent factions that control Washington continue to reign.  That's true no matter which issues one considers most important.  At some point, it's going to be necessary to sacrifice some short-term political interests for longer-term considerations about how this suffocating, two-party monster can be subverted. [...]

Q. You'd think that Tea Partiers, with their distrust of President Obama and their ostensibly libertarian ethos, would be allies in the fight to rein in executive power. On the other hand, these are people who look to War on Terrorism hawks like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Mark Levin for intellectual leadership. To complicate things even more, some of these people are huge Ron Paul fans. In your work, do you presume that you can win some of these people over to your civil libertarian position, or do you assume that an alliance of this kind is untenable?

A. It's absolutely tenable.  Some of the earliest and most vocal opponents of the Bush/Cheney assault on the Constitution were found on the Right.  Back when virtually all leading Democrats were petrified of opposing George Bush on anything having to do with Terrorism -- or, worse, were actively supporting what he was doing -- people like Bob Barr, Bruce Fein, the Cato Institute, even George Will were emphatically objecting. [...]

As you suggest, when it comes to Terrorism issues, Ron Paul is as steadfast in defense of civil liberties as any major political figure in the country.  A significant minority of my readership has always been libertarians and other non-progressives who viewed Bush radicalism with serious alarm. [...] There is much greater agreement across the ideological spectrum than our conventional political punditry wants to recognize.

But clearly, the people on the Right genuinely devoted to civil liberties and restraining executive power are (as is true for Democrats) only a minority.  The problem is partisan tribalism.

Whole thing here. Greenwald talks to Reason.tv about drug decriminalization below:

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  • ||

    Caption Contest:
    Ron: I don't want to run your life
    Ralph: I do
    Ron & Ralph: Reject the establishment!

  • Astrid||

    Strange bedfellows.

  • ||

    The Good, the Bad and the Briefcase.

  • Rick Ellensburg||

    I said the same thing yesterday.

  • Thomas Ellers||

    You're brilliant, Rick.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "You got your corporation in my government."

    "You got your government in my corporation."

  • Tank||

    This made me laugh.

  • alan||

    + 1

  • ||

    Two great rapes that rape great together.

  • Apologetic California||

    Oh man, would like to search that term on xtube.

  • guy in the back row||

    great one

  • ||

    Corvairs have a right to due process.

  • ||

    "But what is clear is that, for a variety of reasons, the two-party system does not work in terms of providing clear choices. No matter who wins, the same permanent factions that control Washington continue to reign."

    First, that is not true. Policies do change depending on which parties are in power. Second, it is true that the neither party pays anymore than lip service to the civil liberties issues that Greenwald cares about. But that is not because of some evil cabal in Washington. That is because the country doesn't care about those issues. That is just the sad reality. Most people either support or don't care about things like the Patriot Act. And that is not because of two party tribalism. It is because they think it is a good idea and would punish any party who repealed it. You may not like it, but those are the facts.

    Instead of whining about the two party system, Greenwald needs to actually start convincing some people to agree with him.

  • Tony||

    Wow I agree with you John. Greenwald is usually right, but he lacks an element of practicality. It would take practically a constitutional convention to change the two-party system, and it certainly won't happen by hoping really hard.

    The biggest problem to me is the influence of money in politics.

  • ||

    You could have ten parties and if the majority of the country agrees with something it would still happen.

  • Tony||

    And usually that's okay, but there's a good reason civil liberties are supposed to be beyond the whims of majorities. The problem is so many unconstitutional policies are allowed to remain in place. We can thank our executive-power-worshiping judiciary for that.

  • ||

    Pretty much. Also a judiciary that listens to election results. But in their defense, if the judiciary screws with the populace too much, it will be out of a job. Isn't that the justification for overturning Lockner? That they had to reaffirm the New Deal or face revolution? Well that principle works on other things to.

  • ||

    But if virtually all the politicians right now are spouting either A or B, don't you think that has some influence over what people in the country are thinking? If they were more politicians who preached C and D, maybe the thought process of the citizenry would change.

  • ||

    It would. But don't give politicians any credit for independent thinking. They are spouting A and B because the country is thinking A and B. That does re-enforce it true.

  • M||

    A majority of people wanted Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed, including conservatives, yet the republicans in the House voted against a measure that would have ended Don't Ask Don't Tell. The truth is that politicians often go against the will of the people, but with the way elections are structured in this country, it becomes harder to hold them accountable. I think that proportional representation in the House would help to break the strangle hold of the two parties. Will that happen tomorrow? No, but where there is a will there is a way, and clearly the system as it is now is not working.

  • ||

    The truth is that politicians often go against the will of the people, but with the way elections are structured in this country, it becomes harder to hold them accountable.

    However, I agree on Bryan Caplan on this.

    1) Politics largely reflects public opinion, which largely favors the status quo.

    2) Ordinary people are broadly in favor of civil liberties in the abstract, but are willing to make "exceptions" for nearly everything that actually comes up, rendering it near meaningless

    3) If anything, politicians are more libertarian than voters.

  • M||

    The fact that people favor the status quo may come from the fact that few people articulate views against the status quo. No one (or at least very few people) can go on CNN and argue that the department of education should be reformed if not abolished. Very few politicians go to town halls and articulate why an empire is detrimental. For people to make a decision, they should have access to all views of particular subjects, and our media mostly offers two views. WE have seen the status quo change when people fought to convince the majority that it should change. A black person is no longer 3/5 of a man (good status quo change) and the commerce clause allows congress to mandate health insurance (bad status quo change). Bush's presidency was far from the status quo at the time, but he won two terms and most republicans running for higher office fight tooth and nail to defend Bush. If we want numbers to shift, people have to stand up and fight to shift numbers. It's hard, but not impossible. I am sure if people saw that there were options other than just the Democrats and Republicans who actually stood a chance of getting into public office, more people would want the status quo to change

  • ||

    I think you got some good points. The civil right analogy is a good example - latter day liberals got more out of decrying Jim Crow than doing something (kind of reminds me of deficit hawks) while "conservatives" could block change.
    Only when you had a black run group ready to raise hell and put the issue in people's faces did some changes come about.

  • DRM||

    there's a good reason civil liberties are supposed to be beyond the whims of majorities.

    See, this is the problem right there. The Constitution is supposed to be beyond the whim of mere majorities, whether protecting civil liberties or doing something else. But that's inconvenient for progressives, so they started saying that the parts they liked were supposed to be beyond majorities, but the parts they didn't like should be bent as necessary to impose their policy preferences.

    Well, once you do that, how can you make a principled stand against the conservatives taking the same approach, declaring the things they like to be beyond majorities but what they don't to be discarded if circumstances require?

    If interstate commerce means wheat grown for personal consumption, civil liberties means only those rights which don't hinder fighting terrorists.

  • Tony||

    DRM,

    In a way you're right that we're making it up as we go along. Often I wish we could make it up more efficiently.

  • ||

    "The biggest problem to me is the influence of money in politics."

    This isn't even close to the biggest problem. The problem is how much power is up for grabs which attracts all that money in the first place.

  • B||

    Greenwald usually right? You gotta be fucking joking me. Just last week he was completely destroyed on national TV on the subject of the Gaza flotilla and his complete misreading of international law. If I were to google "Greenwald wrong" I would get more hits than I would if I googled "hot teens fucking". Greenwald is a fucking embarrassment.

    Given his history, it wouldn't surprise me if you are Greenwald.

  • did they read it||

    Not to sound like Michael Moore, but I doubt many of the Americans who "support" the Patriot Act have any idea what it actually says. They just believe it when they're told it makes them sayfurr.

  • ||

    I doubt many of the Americans who "support" the Patriot Act have any idea what it actually says. They just believe it when they're told it makes them sayfurr.

    Sure. I doubt that many people who "oppose" the Patriot Act have any idea what it actually says. I doubt that many people or representatives have any idea what nearly any proposed bill actually says.

  • RyanXXX||

    Very specific, narrow policies do change. But not enough to actually present a clear choice to someone who actually did want "change."

    Both parties support...
    -war (whether its on drugs, terrorism, or communists)
    -constant intervention/"aid" overseas
    -loss of civil liberties
    -obscene spending (specific targets for spending may differ)
    -obscene tax rates
    -crony capitalism (bailouts, stimulus, etc.)

    So McCain wanted to pursue "aggressive" sanctions on Iran and Obama wanted "dialogue coupled with aggressive sanctions." WOW.

    And what would you say to people who voted for Obama because, say, he wanted to close Guantanamo? Or because he'd look out for the "little guy"...which apparently involves loading your administration with Goldman Sachs officials.

  • ||

    Anything other than whining would require yanking his head out of the sand, acknowledging the real terrorist threat, and coming up with a better solution to it than "Stop being meanies and they'll get tired of killing us."

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Ron: "Please get your hand out of my pocket, Ralph."

  • NeonCat||

    "Once them Duke boys went to law school, their looks went downhill faster 'n a kicked over still."

  • qwerty||

    The government has taken over the health care industry, 2/3 of the car industry, is getting ready to start a VAT, and people are worried about the Patriot Act? I can't think of a single way that the Patriot Act has negatively impacted my life. Not one. But when Rand Paul brings up an actual civil right, like the right of a restaurant owner to admit who he wants into his restaurant, people scream, "OMG, it would be anarchy!"

  • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed||

    When you are blown up by a terrist I hope your last thoughts are about how I lied to make the torture stop.

  • ||

    I dislike this sort of argument, because it's essentially saying "We don't torture only because it doesn't work."

    It has the same sort of cutesy problems as "I'm against Gitmo because I want them to face even worse prison in the US" or "I'm against Gitmo because it's such bad press and hurts our international standing."

    It leaves it far too wide open to the actual policy shift being assassination from drones, or torture that's more effective at extracting truth.

    It's not all that hard to design tests of verifiable information if you're worried about someone lying when you torture them. That's not all that different from other security problems, or things people consider when designing crypto systems.

    It trivializes the issue to pretend that the only problem is that it doesn't work.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    The "torture doesn't work" argument is pretty dumb, but it persists because it's a way to argue against torture without sounding like a big pussy. "It's not that I don't want to kick Osama bin Laden in the nuts. I'd love to. But it won't work."

  • guy in the back row||

    "Take us to your leader"

  • ||

    Ron & Ralph's
    Keeping old white men square and shabby

  • M||

    Probably the best way to end the domination of the two major parties is to allow for proportional representation in one house of a bi-cameral legislature. I am surprised that Reason doesn't talk about proportional representation more often.

  • Holy Cow||

    Oh here's a novel idea to end the 2-party system:

    Why doesn't the LP actually put up some viable candidates? But wait, that'd probably negatively affect purity.

  • ||

    GGreenwald is a good man.

    Who warned about this?
    in '92 & '96
    in '00 & '04
    and then
    we have
    '08

  • cynical||

    Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.

  • Grover Cleveland||

    Paul: Where is Tullock's Spike when I need it?

  • Anti-appeasenik||

    Ugh. May that Neo-Nazi fuckhead Greenwald, his pals Paul and Buchanan, and all the rest of his idiot supporters on here be sent to the same part of Hell where they're keeping the rest of the Israel-bashing Holocaust deniers. Fuck you, tReason, for continuing to push the neo-Nazi shit from these male Helen Thomas wannabes.

  • RyanXXX||

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Thank you, I needed that.

  • MooseOfReason||

    David Harsanyi is not very nice when he's anonymous.

  • Mike M.||

    I think it's really unfair to lump Paul in with scumbags like Greenwald, Buchanan, and Helen Thomas.

  • RyanXXX||

    How, exactly, is Greenwald a scumbag?

  • Pat||

    "Let me now take a more comprehensive view, & warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally." George Washington
    http://home.ptd.net/~aahpat/aandc/gw.htm

    All political parties are canker ridden social diseases on the body politic of America.

    Political parties are organized mobs for the express purpose of tipping the scale of democracy in favor of the mob over the core one-person-one-vote democratic ideal.

  • Masturbatin' Pete||

    Greenwald is a sockpuppeting douchebag. That Reasontards take this poof seriously is an indication of why no one should take big-L Libertarians seriously.

  • VikingMoose||

    " You'd think that Tea Partiers, with their distrust of President Obama and their ostensibly libertarian ethos"

    what the fuck??? are you fucking kidding?

  • B||

    You probably no less about the Tea Partiers than Barbra Streisand knows about quantum physics.

  • B||

    And that should be "know" less instead of "no" less/ My bad.

  • B||

    It must be nice posting interviews of Glenn Greenwald. He can interview himself using one of his numerous and well-documented sock puppets and then Reason can merely post the results.

  • B||

    Greenwald can take three or four of his sockpuppets and fill an entire ticket for multiple parties by himself.

  • B||

    Greenwald? You gotta be fucking kidding me? It takes about five minutes of perusing the shit he has written at Salon and elsewhere to figure out Reason shouldn't be giving a forum to such a gigantic douchebag, regardless if he is right on one particular issue. I am sure Markos Moulitsas opposes the War on Drugs as well.

    And for someone who claims he is be so concerned with civil liberties, Greenwald seems to write a whole fucking lot of articles in defense of Obama.

  • RyanXXX||

    actually, the vast majority of his articles have been critical of Obama since his inauguration.

  • Thomas Ellers||

    I personally think Glenn Greenwald is completely awesome.

  • Rick Ellensburg||

    Yeah, I think Greenwald is awesome too.

  • Ellison||

    Make that three of us.

  • Glen Grunwald||

    I don't know too much about Glenn Greenwald, but from what I understand, he is completely awesome. His books are absolutely brilliant.

  • Abdul Alhazred||

    If all liberals/progressives were more like Greenwald, a genuine left/libertarian alliance might be possible.

  • ||

    Abdul, while I agree that if liberals/progressives were more like Greenwald, a left-libertarian alliance would be facilitated, your implication that Greenwald himself is a progressive/liberal would be mistaken. Just read his own rejection of a liberal or progressive label at the link to his Atlantic interview Matt Welch provides -- Greenwald does not embrace those political descriptors.

    Further, as he also observes, a significant minority of his readership has always included libertarians. He is more than delighted to ally his civil-libertarian agenda with them.

    He has been exceedingly critical of the Obama admin re: civil liberties and foreign policy, to the consternation of the Obamabots who infest his comments section at Salon.

  • christian louboutin||

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

  • ||

    IOW, Greenwald's just as much of an hysterical drama-queen as the Paulestinian-in-chief & has-been irrelevancies like Barr, etc.

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