What Side of the Barricades Are You on?

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The anti-interventionist movement, if we can refer to such an amorphous creature, is at a crossroads at the start of this election season. On the left, the remnants of the antiwar movement have been dispersed and absorbed into the Democratic party, where they have become foot soldiers for Obama – a President who has taken up the foreign policy of his immediate predecessor and injected it with some pretty strong steroids. Left-wing antiwar activism has almost disappeared entirely, except for the marginal protests of a few Marxist-Leninist grouplets. Indeed, some on the left are even jumping on the interventionist bandwagon,claiming the Western-backed Syrian rebels are really Marxist u201Crevolutionaries,u201D and not Osama bin Laden-wannabees.

On the right, the only significant anti-interventionist mass movement in decades, the Ron Paul campaign, has been bushwhacked by the Romneyites, who have taken harsh administrative measures against Paul's supporters and outright stolen a good number of their delegates to the Republican national convention, ensuring that the Paulians will be kept in a well-guarded corral in Tampa.

Ron Paul's campaign has been a lodestar for anti-interventionists of the left as well as those on the right: it has inspired us, heartened us, and given us that most essential fuel – hope. Now it is giving us a lesson in how the political system in our u201Cdemocraticu201D country really works.

The two-party system is playing the role it was designed for: to keep the national discourse within u201Cacceptableu201D bounds, and make sure nothing too u201Cradicalu201D is presented to the American public for their consideration. Aside from domestic issues, what this means is that our foreign policy of perpetual war is not up for debate: Romney's straining to define some significant difference between himself and the administration on, say, Afghanistan, or Syria, underscores this filtering process at work.

By privileging two state-sanctioned u201Cparties,u201D the Democrats and the Republicans, with automatic ballot status and government subsidies, the political Establishment has rigged the game, and nothing proves this better than the experience of the Ron Paul campaign in the GOP this past primary season. The Paulians played by the rules: they organized at the grassroots level and got their people to the various local and state conventions, where the real delegate selection process took place. Highly organized, and dedicated to their candidate and their cause, the Paulians showed up in record numbers – and the Republican party bosses freaked out.

In Louisiana they called the cops when they realized they had been outmaneuvered, and they did the same elsewhere. They shut down conventions and party caucuses rather than see delegates pledged to Paul take the prize. In Maine, where Paul won fair and square, their delegates are being challenged – a challenge almost certain to be upheld by the Republican National Committee and the credentials committee in Tampa.

If the game is rigged, what is an opponent of the American empire to do? Abstain from electoral politics?

No. Intervening in major party politics is a valid strategy, one that can be utilized to great advantage – provided it doesn't become an end in itself. While some Paulian operatives are hailing the primary importance of achieving u201Cmainstream success,u201D this oily phrase requires definition. What does it mean to succeed in the u201Cmainstream,u201D as opposed to simply succeeding? I fear it means doing what Sen. Rand Paul has done: endorsing Romney and pledging to campaign for him and his thoroughly authoritarian and war-minded party.

Libertarian and conservative anti-interventionists who take this road will find themselves marginalized – not because their ideas are too u201Cextreme,u201D but because they will have become cogs in a machine that is antithetical to their goals. We are told by some of Paul’s most prominent supporters – not Ron himself, however – that the Paulian movement needs to integrate itself into the GOP for an indefinite period. While they never flat out say it the clear implication is that this is to be a permanent u201Cstrategyu201D: we must liquidate the u201Cliberty movementu201D (they've stopped calling it u201Clibertarianu201D: sounds too radical) into the Republican party, and if only we'll turn ourselves into water boys for Romney and his local clones we'll have u201Cprovedu201D ourselves such loyal servants of Power that we'll u201Cwinu201D in the end.

This is being marketed as u201Cpractical politics,u201D while anyone who raises an objection is smeared as a u201Cradical anarchist.u201D The irony is that this kind of ostensibly u201Cpragmaticu201D strategy is nave to the point of being infantile: the proof is in the treatment the Paulians have received to date by the party leadership. They aren't going to let the Paulians win, no matter how closely they follow the rules: when the old rules don't work, they'll revoke them and make new ones. That's what's happening in Maine and Massachusetts and Louisiana right now, as Paul delegates duly and legally elected are kicked out and Romney drones put in their place.

This doesn't mean Paul's supporters need to retreat and leave the GOP: what it means is that they have to fight – and not capitulate. It means making a scandal of the Romney Machine's vote-stealing shenanigans and showing them up for the shameless hypocrites they are: after all, this is a party that constantly screams about u201Cvoter fraudu201D and is engaged in a nationwide campaign to keep people from voting u201Cillegally,u201D and yet their own leaders have engaged in a systematic campaign of vote-stealing and outright vote fraud throughout this entire primary season.

Anti-interventionists in the GOP will never achieve u201Cmainstream successu201D by kowtowing to the Establishment and dutifully endorsing their warmongering robot of a presidential candidate. Instead, they will transform a generation of hardworking libertarian activists and staunch anti-interventionists into platoons of yes-men (and yes-women) who will take any insult, any betrayal, because u201Cin the long runu201D they expect to win. As they climb slowly up the political ladder, and seek offices and support within the Republican party, the u201Cpragmaticu201D strategy is to downplay the most controversial aspect of the Paulian ideology, opposition to the ever-expanding American Empire. After years of arguing, u201COh, we can't talk about that, it'll get Mitch McConnell mad,u201D they'll wake up one day, look in the mirror, and discover they've become what they started out to oppose.

When the u201Cmovementu201D is everything, the ostensible goals of that movement are invariably shelved – u201Cin the long runu201D becomes never. When the political careers of certain would-be leaders become the measure of u201Cmainstream success,u201D selling out becomes only a matter of time – and, as we have seen, not very much time at that.

There is only one possible tack for Ron Paul's supporters in the Republican party to take, and that is irreconcilable opposition to Romney, and to the neocon-dominated party leadership. This doesn't mean dropping out of the party: it means biding their time.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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