Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Neither Left nor Right

Bill Kauffman eschews Left and Right political labels for himself. Which sets him apart from every other political writer I can think of. Listen to this, from his latest book, Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, which I’m now devouring:

“I belong to no political camp: my politics are localist, decentralist, Jeffersonian. I am an American rebel, a Main Street bohemian, a rural Christian pacifist. I have strong libertarian and traditionalist conservative streaks. I am in many ways an anarchist, though a front-porch anarchist, a chestnut-tree anarchist, a girls-softball-coach anarchist. My politics are a kind of mixture of Dorothy Day and Henry David Thoreau, though with an upstate New York twist. I voted for Nader in 2004 and Buchanan in 2000: the peace candidates. I often vote Libertarian and Green. I am a freeborn American with the blood of Crazy Horse, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jack Kerouac flowing in my veins. My heart is with the provincial and with small places, and it is from this intense localism that my own isolationist, antiwar sympathies derive. I misfit the straightjackets designed by Fox News and the New York Times. So does any American worth the name.”

Kauffman has been one of my very favorite political writers since the mid-1990s, when I first read his stuff in Chronicles and was passing around copies of his America First! to friends. I love him. He can’t be easily pigeonholed. He’s a man who can cozy up to Gore Vidal and Ron Paul in the same afternoon. This new book is a treasure, revelatory in the same way Rothbard’s The Betrayal of the American Right was last year. I’m sure I’ll be quoting from it and commenting on it over the next few weeks.

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