David Spero RN, author of the book The Art of Getting Well, writer for DissidentVoice.org, discusses his push for a left-right-libertarian realignment for liberty and against the empire, the important issues we agree on and the divisive social issues that divide us, Scott’s hairbrained idea for a real two-party system, TV’s best efforts to keep Americans helpless, the hopeful rise of civilian mutual support networks to decrease dependence on the central state as economic times get worse.
MP3 here. (24:57) Transcript below.
David Spero RN writes books, columns, and blogs about the social dimensions of health. He edited the paper Green Consensus for the California Greens.
Transcript – Scott Horton interviews David Spero, July 21, 2010
Scott Horton: All right, everybody, it’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton, and our next guest is David Spero, RN. His website is DavidSperoRN.com. He’s the author of the book The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health and Well–being When You Have a Chronic Illness, and he writes political stuff over at DissidentVoice.org. I think we spoke in January about “Left and Right Against the Empire,” and now is “Don’t Fear the Right: They Are Potential Class Allies,” written from the left, from July 15, 2010 – again on the website at DissidentVoice.org. Welcome to the show, David. How are you?
David Spero: Hey, I’m doing good. Thanks for having me.
Horton: Well, thanks very much for joining us here. Sorry about the delay there.
Spero: It’s good to hear that speech.
Horton: Yeah, it started out really poetry wise, but I don’t really know about those things, but it sounded like a poem at first anyway. Yeah, good stuff. And you know it makes a good jumping-off point here, that Ron Paul clip. Because what he’s saying is the kind of thing, most of that – at least I think that it’s a very kind of centrist speech that he was giving, really, that it incorporates the very best parts of the left and the right. It doesn’t make him a so-called moderate, you know, bloodthirsty warmonger like Lindsay Graham or Joe Lieberman or something. He’s in the center, but up at the top toward freedom instead of down at the bottom towards totalitarianism, where those guys are. And I think that’s the same kind of mindset that I see in your writing here, that, you know, like me and like Ron Paul, you put all the emphasis on the war and the Bill of Rights first and culture wars later.
Spero: Right. And this new article, “Don’t Fear the Right,” it sort of disagrees with what Ron Paul said at the end there, about this is all gonna be – can be done through peaceful and intellectual means. I mean, that’s what most people have to do, but I think that we all agree that we’re moving into a – or we have moved into a police state, in a large degree, and a warfare state, which he said.
And I think we need to involve the people who are fighting those wars and carrying out that police state, and that’s what the Oath Keepers are doing. That was the essence of my article; the new article was about the Oath Keepers, which is a group of active duty and retired military and police who pledge to follow the Constitution and to not carry out unconstitutional orders. And I would rather have police like that than, you know, than Blackwater or the SWAT team.
And so that’s – it’s interesting, though, that they have been attacked like most groups that are identified as right, whether they really are right or not – that they’re attacked as being a militia or as being racist or a lot of things that really aren’t true. Because they – although they haven’t come out fully against the wars and things, they do encourage soldiers to think for themselves, and police officers as well, and I think we could use that.
Horton: Yeah, well, and you know what, it may be, you know, in the broadest sense, a right phenomenon, but what does that really mean? You know, especially from kind of leftist definitions – I saw Noam Chomsky saying, “Well, wait a minute, these are all working-class people – shouldn’t they be coming to us? And why aren’t we reaching out to them? Why are we sitting around condemning them and calling them racists all day and whatever, when we ought to be their heroes? Maybe we’re doing something wrong, y’all.”
Spero: Well I didn’t know that Chomsky said that, but I agree. I mean, Chomsky’s a pretty smart guy, so… And there’s a lot of – well, I think, as you’ve often called it, that, you know, the culture wars and cultural prejudice that keeps a lot of people who at least identify themselves as left from reaching out to people that they should be reaching out to, that we really have lots in common with because culturally they’re different, or because we disagree on certain points. I mean, it’s really interesting to read the comments section on DissidentVoice with the first article, “Left and Right Against the Empire,” or in this article – the comments can get pretty angry.
Horton: Yeah, well, hold it right there, man. The music’s playing. We got to go out to this break.
Horton: But we’ll be right back with David Spero, from DissidentVoice.org, on Antiwar Radio after this, y’all.
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Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with David Spero from DissidentVoice.org. We’re talking about left and right and the empire and the war and all that kind of thing. You know – well, go ahead, you were talking, David, about the war in the comments section over your article proposing that people get their priorities straight.
Spero: Well, yeah, and most of the complimentary comments I received came from libertarians, but not exclusively. You know there were some people who identified themselves as very left who said that, “Yeah, we need to work with libertarians and we need to work with conservatives as much as possible,” but with real questions about how that can be done, especially with what’s sort of happening in the part of the political spectrum that identifies itself as conservatives – that a lot of them are very interventionist, very statist, very, you know, people that it’s hard to see how you could work with.
Horton: I wonder if you’re – are you familiar with the Nolan Chart?
Horton: So, for people not familiar, you know, your high school history teacher – if they teach you – probably your gym coach in the first place who doesn’t know anything – but then if he teaches you anything, he shows you this left-right political spectrum, it tells you that you gotta fit somewhere in the “reasonable” center between Stalin and Hitler on the left-right spectrum.
And what the Nolan Chart does is it adds – I forget which is the X and which is the Y axis, but it adds a second dimension to these questions, and if you rank right at the very top in the center, you rank as a plumb-line libertarian, and down at the bottom is where the communists and the fascists meet with their total statism. And so it’s useful for thought experiment purposes. I don’t even know if the questionnaire even includes foreign policy. I think it doesn’t, and that’s probably its major flaw.
But, anyway, it kind of shows the possibility there of – in fact, I would say foreign policy of course is most important, that and the Bill of Rights – and you see the possibility for where, if a conservative Democrat like Joe Lieberman and a liberal republican like John McCain can get it together and form coalitions in order to kill people all around the world forever, then the people who are opposed to those things ought to also be able to form those coalitions. I mean, that’s what to me is the natural party distinction. It’s not between, you know, country and rock and roll, it’s between whether you’re on the side of elite power and the national state – the empire – or you’re on the side of individuals.
Spero: Yeah, and I think we need to move – now we’re at the point where we need to start to really think about, “How are we going to do that in practice?” And you know there are issues that we’ll need to work out. And actually some of that has come up in the comments section of this last article, of, you know, how do you feel about Social Security, for example. Can we work out these differences so that we can ally? And I think we can, but we really need to be talking to each other and people need to get out of their comfort zone, you know, and be willing to talk to people that may be, both in terms of their ideas and also in terms of maybe their cultural attitudes and things, are a little different. And really, it’s a challenge, and I’m going to keep writing about this stuff, and I hope we can get some of these things going.
Horton: Well, you know, when it comes down to it, there are some intractable questions such as abortion and the role of the federal government in regulating business and whatever. But for me – well, I mean obviously that’s part of it, you know, the second thing there – but most of these, you know, cultural divisions I think are basically just bogus. And this is what makes the two-party system a scam is that everybody’s divided, not among people who actually believe that the government ought to be doing this or that about the important things, but just about their kind of cultural distinctions, you know, whether they wear boots or sandals – crap like that.
Spero: Yeah, well, I mean, from the emotional content, the anger that I see in these comments, and that you see when you go to, say, a Tea Party rally – you know that there is going to be some more work to do for people to connect, and to work out these things. And whether it’s even possible or not, I don’t really know. I mean, so far what I see is left/right. So what’s actually happened is libertarians and greens, or libertarians and far leftists – you know Alexander Cockburn type, which I guess I would count myself as one of – and those people can see it, and like the sort of the average conservative and average liberal aren’t seeing it at this point, you know what I mean?
Horton: Yeah, yeah, well that’s exactly right. But then again, the people who are the most ideological are the ones who do the most writing and can help to lead the way on things like that. And I know Alex Cockburn has always been a Ron Paul fan. I think he says he’s just a rogue Texas congressman fan and just likes that style of politics that Ron represents there.
But so that brings me actually to where we started and really where the rubber meets the road, I think, one of the major important questions, which is, can the left get behind a coalition to support Ron Paul for president next time? After all, the last time, he said over and over and over again, “I’m not trying to abolish your Social Security and your Medicare and your Medicaid. I’m trying to shore it up by abolishing the empire.” And he had a proposal to let people who are under the age of 25 opt out of Social Security if they wanted. But he always was opposed to the George Bush/Cato Institute proposal to “privatize” Social Security by taking it all out of government bonds and putting it in the stock market – he was never for that fascism. You know? And so this is a guy who’s basically made his offer to the left, “Look, I might try to abolish the Department of Education while I demolish the Department of Homeland Security too. Do we have a deal?” You know? And that to me is fair enough – should be.
Spero: Yeah, and I think a lot of leftists would… Okay, you go out and actually talk to people about this then. During the elections a lot of people would say, “I would love to see a Ron Paul / Dennis Kucinich ticket,” or something like that. Or a Dennis Kucinich / Ron Paul ticket, you know? And so there are a lot of people like that, but it’s going to require work. And that’s why I’m mainly writing on left sites and things like that because like, you know, that’s where I grew up, and that’s the audience that I think I can talk to. And you do see an awful lot of pro Ron Paul comments in the comments sections of like Common Dreams and other left sites, not so much on like the Huffington Post or you know you get more closer to the liberal center, but you know the leftist Counterpunch and places like that, there is a lot of left support for Ron Paul. Although you know a lot of people also feel – and I kind of think that Paul is a little bit like Kucinich in the sense they kind of allow him to do what he does and they don’t trash him because they think it’ll keep people in the Republican Party or keep people in the electoral system. You know what I mean?
Horton: Yeah. Well, boy, I’ll tell you what, support for Ron Paul should never translate to support for any other Republican. I mean, boy, that would be horrible, to shore up the Republican Party there. And let me suggest too that when it comes to Pat Buchanan and all the different people which – I don’t even think he’s any longer at the American Conservative magazine – but, you know, the whole paleoconservative right, and the libertarians as well – but even just the paleo right – I notice that left-wingers get very uncomfortable about having any agreement with somebody like Pat Buchanan – which is understandable if you’re a true blue leftist, then you know, Pat’s problematic from your point of view in a lot of ways or whatever.
But it seems like rather than being nervous about that kind of thing, that he would make a great talking point for the left – that, look, “I’m so right that Pat Buchanan says I’m right.” “I ‘m so right that there’s a whole group of right-wingers who completely agree with me about how we’ve got to stop the killing of people all the time. We’ve got to reinstate the Bill of Rights before we have no chance to, ever again.”
Spero: No, I agree with that, and I think Jane Hamsher over at Firedoglake – which is a liberal site, or a left site, let’s say – was working with and actually cosigned some articles and papers with Grover Norquist and I think Pat Buchanan as well. So there are some people doing that.
Horton: Yeah, right on. That’s leading the way right there. That’s what we need.
Spero: Yeah. And it’s going to be, and it is uncomfortable, and it is difficult, and I don’t think success is guaranteed, either, you know, because we are talking about a fairly small group of rightists and a fairly small group of leftists there. But I think it’s what we got to try, don’t you?
Horton: Yeah, well, that’s my view. I’ll tell you what, we’re almost out of time for this segment. If you want to talk politics more, I could hold you over through the news and we can go on for another ten minutes, or I’ll let you go if you need to go.
Spero: I can do another ten minutes.
Horton: Okay, great. So why don’t you hold on right there. Everybody, it’s David Spero from DissidentVoice.org. We’re talking about the left and the right and, you know, what I like to think of as the new realignment. In the 1930s – I learned in school that basically the only people left out of the New Deal alliance were the old classical liberals. All the conservatives got on board for it, black and white, and all the different ethnicities, town and country, and rich and poor, and Wall Street and Main Street, and everybody got on board for the New Deal. And that’s really what we need now is that kind of realignment where there’s a real consensus that we are going to put peace and the Bill of Rights first. And end the corporate welfare too, by the way, which means abolishing the central bank. We’ll get back to all this with David Spero, right after this.
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Horton: All right, y’all. Welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with David Spero from DissidentVoice.org. Back in January he wrote this great one, “Left and Right Against the Empire.” And he’s got a new one called “Don’t Fear the Right,” which is a message to the Left.
Now, David, so, here’s the thing. This is never going to happen in a million years, but it’s a fun little thought experiment type thing, for me anyway – at least it helps me make my point. Here’s what I want to see happen: Have everybody who cares about peace and the Bill of Rights all bum rush the Republican Party, rename it the Democratic-Republicans after Thomas Jefferson’s first real party – born in dissent against the tyranny of John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists. And we’ll take all the Jeffersonian leftists or liberals and all the Jeffersonians on the right, with the libertarians as the center instead of Joe Lieberman as the center, and then we will just name the other party “The War Party.” And [we’ll say] “you guys will be the party of taxation and tyranny, police state and mass murder, and we’ll be the party of individual liberty and peace.”
Spero: Well, I’ll tell you what. Call me up and I’ll be there, but I do think that’s rather a long shot.
Horton: Yeah, yeah, it’s impossible. But shouldn’t that really be the division? I wish people could see it the way I see it. Seems like we’d win!
Spero: Well, there’s the control of an incredibly massive media world out there that keeps people from seeing that. I mean there’s television, and there’s movies, and there’s – yeah, you go to the movies and there’s ads for the military, right there before you see your movie – and there’s news, actually there’s Fox News radio that you have on this network, and it’s pretty hard to get the message out. And that’s what we’ve got to work on, is how can we get to that point? Because people don’t change their minds that easily, you know? And they’ve been hearing this patriotic or jingoistic kind of – let’s go kill everybody kind of – ideas and education and publicity for decades now.
So it’s going to take a lot of work. And you’re doing a lot, I mean you’re doing the best you can – I mean, this show – I’m really happy to be on this show because you’re consistent about that, and we need more voices. But I don’t see exactly where those – there aren’t a lot of outlets like Liberty Radio for these voices to go on. There are some, though, and with the Internet there are more and more, so, yeah, I don’t think it’s impossible. I just think that it’s, you know, especially people – I’m like, I’m almost 60, so I mean, it’s like you get trapped in old ways of doing things, like, “Lets get this in the newspaper, let’s get an article in a magazine,” or something like that. And it doesn’t really seem to work anymore. I think it’s very difficult to compete with the War Party message.
Horton: Yeah. Well and you know, I gotta hand it to the War Party too. They really did good with this Obama guy. You know? I mean the George Bush scam was so transparent – you know, George Bush’s son – oh yeah, he’s a cowboy, he’s a middle class guy just like you, and whatever, and that was ridiculous.
Spero: But that worked too!
Horton: Oh, it worked just as well, but the Obama thing is more plausible on its face. You know, he’s not George Bush’s son. You know what I mean?
Spero: Yeah, I know what you mean.
Horton: And boy it worked so well. And you know I saw Cindy Sheehan, bless her, she put this thing out on the Facebook about how, “Antiwar protest at the White House cancelled for lack of interest.” Oh, man! They can’t even get anybody to show up. I saw a hardcore leftist, I think it was, in the comments section at Antiwar.com, who said, “Man, those dirty hippies in the ’60s did more to fight the war and the state before breakfast than all y’all people have ever done. Pathetic! And that was with Democrats in the White House. That was with Lyndon Johnson in the White House, you know? Most of it.
Spero: That’s true. Well, you’re right, I mean that was a stroke of genius with Obama, and I don’t think it was accidental either. I think, you know, some War Party types found him when he was just getting started and groomed him for this role, and Goldman Sachs and others poured hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaigns and made it happen.
Horton: Hey, at what point do you think they started grooming him?
Spero: I think before he was first elected to the state senate in Illinois.
Spero: I mean, probably when he was in Harvard.
Horton: You know, I haven’t even really read about that. I probably should. I just figured only goofy right-wingers had written about it, so why bother? But I read, like the Newsweek account was that he gave a great speech after he was a state senator and some Democratic Party Clintonite types said to him, “Hey man, you give a pretty good speech. Why don’t you come with us?” But that was the Newsweek version. Who knows what’s real?
Spero: Yeah, and that’s true of a lot of things that happen. And when things happen that just don’t seem quite right, like, “How did this guy? Who is this guy? How did he get to be president at the age of 45 or whatever it is?” You think maybe there was something else going on there that we weren’t told.
Horton: Well, the American people certainly wanted to believe in the hope and change. At least we’ve got to give them credit for that, that they knew that – I mean, none of them want to take responsibility for being former supporters, really, but they knew they didn’t want the Bush-Cheney era to go on anymore. Something had to change. They just didn’t know what, and they went for the easy thing, but –
Spero: And it didn’t – you know, there’s a Bruce Cockburn song – can’t remember the name of it [Ed. – Last Night of the World] – but he’s got this line in there, “I’ve seen the flame of hope flashing in the eyes of the hopeless, and that was the cruelest blow of all.” You know? And that’s the way you feel when you look at anybody who had some hope for Obama would feel, you know? “Wow we’ve got this guy and it’s worse than ever.”
Horton: Well, I kind of hope that that’s true that people at least are starting – I mean I would hate the idea that they just all drop out, you know, “Well, gee, I tried my best and all I did was help get another bad guy elected,” or whatever. But at least if they learn the truth that, “Hey, wow, so it might as well have been John McCain, huh!” then, you know, there’s a perspective there that’s, you know, progress in the mind of the average Left–Right believing American.
Spero: If we can give them an alternative. You know, I’m thinking of the younger folks now that were really – that came out for Barack and are totally, you know, burned out and turned off at this point. Who can give them another way to go – but I don’t – that may not be another candidate, I mean, although, you know, a good candidate like Ron Paul would help, but I mean I think about one of the militias that I wrote about in this article, up in Maine – the author Carolyn Chute created this club, “The Second Maine Militia,” and she says that it’s definitely anti-police state and anti-corporate, and you know it’s a bunch of poor people with guns. And I think that that’s something we could do even in the cities. Maybe you could have an unarmed militia, you know? But I think we need to organize-that we may need to find other ways to organize.
Horton: Yeah, well, and you know that’s really facing the hard truth there, that, like Ron Paul always says, “This is all going to change and it won’t be because you listened to me, it’ll be because, like I told you when you weren’t listening to me, ‘All empires fall down, man, this is how it goes.'” And now, you know, what you’re talking about is how are we going to take care of ourselves after that. And this is why I think our focus on ideology is so important, because when times are really bad, people are easily led by demagogues and easily led to blame the powerless instead of the powerful for their predicament and embrace authoritarianism and stuff, and who knows how bad it’s really going to get economically here, but it could get really bad. It’s already pretty consistently high unemployment for a few years in a row now.
Spero: I don’t see that getting any better any time soon. I think that the, you know, the really powerful folks in this country made a decision about 20, 30 years ago to send the good jobs away because the labor movement with the unions were the biggest thing that was standing in their way of doing what they wanted, so they broke them. You know, they just sent all those, closed all those factories down, or most of them. And so I don’t see that coming back.
If you don’t have productive good–paying jobs, I don’t see how, you know, Krugman and some of these liberal economists saying, you know, “More stimulus, more stimulus, more.” What are you stimulating? There’s no, you know, the underlying economy is pretty screwed, and we need to sort of rebuild it. And I mean I just think we need to be organizing at the local level and at every level to try to take care of ourselves. And that sounds kind of – Just this morning I was on the Oath Keepers website to see what’s happening over there.
Horton: Oh, real quick, sorry, we’re about out of time.
Spero: Yes, but anyway, people are arguing about these things. People are talking about these things. And so I’m just encouraging people to get out of your comfort zone, talk to people that you don’t normally talk to and find out where you’ve got the common ground.
Horton: All right everybody, that’s David Spero.