There has been a lot written about the specifics of this really terrible American Prospect article about Tucker Carlson, so I won’t go into the details of why it is so terribly wrong. Others have done that very well. But I do think it is instructive in a depressing way about the problem the general left –and I am including centrist Democrats in the broad umbrella — has dealing with politics. Everyone is too focused on their own issues and not enough on the broad systems.
US military might is almost always a force for bad in the world. If you were to tell me, without any other knowledge, that the US was fighting a proxy war, my general orientation would be to oppose it. But the reason for the opposition matters: generally, US military intervention is either to support right wing powers, suppress working class strength, and/or so incompetently run that it creates nothing but chaos and misery. It is not, then, generally a tool for freedom and liberty. That is why I oppose US military intervention as a general rule — it’s application almost always runs counter to the larger goal of true freedom. But we have rules so we know why we are breaking them.
In the case of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US military is on the side of increasing freedom. Allowing Russia to dominate another country decreases the general amount of freedom in the world and sets the sge for further decreases down the road. Yes, in general, the US military should get out of almost everywhere up to and including Manhattan, as the joke goes. But we don’t live our lives in the general. In this specific case, the application of US military might tends to increase the amount of genuine freedom in the world and thus should be supported.
Yes, there are concerns about escalation, about the use of nuclear weapons. And it is fine to be worried about that. But justifiable concerns are a reason to criticize, when appropriate, specific decisions. Not to throw your lot in with imperialists.
The same reasoning applies to Tucker Carlson’s economic bent. Yes, he sometimes called out corporate power, and he sometimes was right on the specifics of the danger of economic elites. But those points did not come from a desire to make the world more just, equitable, or favorable to genuine worker control over the economy. They almost always could be traced back to a desire to punish companies for being “woke” or ensure that companies did not use their economically derived cultural and political power to advance any cause that the right wing did not approve of. In general, yes, people speaking out against corporate power should be listened to — but only because corporate power is generally bad for actual freedom. In Carlson’s case, though, it is easy to see that his attacks on corporate power aren’t meant to drive freedom but to remove an impediment to his racist, sexist worldview. It’s not freedom if the end game is the oppression of certain races, orientations, and genders. Here, again, the rule is made to be broken.
All sides of the left coalition have this problem, so don’t go patting yourselves on the back my centrist friends. You wholesale abandonment of the welfare state and embrace of the supremacy of the market, your refusal to forthrightly fight US military adventures like Iraq, your embrace of the hysteria around “cancel culture” and trans rights, all stemmed from the general rule that hippies must be punched, and all lead to serious loss of freedom and dignity for most Americans.
We have the misfortune to live in interesting times, when almost every system and organization is corrupt, broken, or ineffective. There is a lot wrong in our world, and it’s going to take a lot to fix it. It can be tempting to fall back on simple heuristics. And those have a place. But you always have to be willing to break out of the simple rules depending on the circumstances. The goal is freedom and dignity for everyone. Every once in a while, that goal might lead you to decisions you would otherwise not make (and this works in the other way too. Josh Hawley is a terrible human being, but if he votes for a genuinely effective anti-trust law, then his vote may be worth having given the specifics of the law, for example.). Your issue is important, yes, but so are most others. Corporate oppression is oppression, no matter how many minorities are in the C-suite. And you cannot have freedom for only some people — chains are chains, and no one deserves to live in them.
We have rules so that we pause before we break them, so that we make our choices consciously and with forethought. Not so the rules replace our intellectual and moral judgements. Otherwise, you just end up a kind of fleshy chatbot, regurgitating praise for the worst people because your own personal algorithm is too rigid to see the real picture. Being the enemy of my enemy doesn’t make you good — it just makes you the enemy of my enemy. Whether you deserve support depends on your actions, not the mere fact that you chose your enemies well.