View Full Version : "Cosmos" vs. "Provos" - The New Political Divide By Sean Scallon

Badger Paul
01-24-2008, 12:59 PM
From Etherzone.com:


By: Sean Scallon

Liberal vs. Conservative? That was so yesterday. Republican vs. Democrat? Old news. Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist? Get with the times my friend.

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a new political divide that’s splitting the nation, and it has nothing to do with ideology, party, class, religion or what have you.

It’s all about where you live.

Specifically, it’s between Cosmo vs. Provo

Cosmopolitan vs. Provincial

Those who live and work inside the Washington D.C. beltway or the financial district of New York or the Hollywood boardrooms make up the cosmopolitan faction.

Those who live everywhere else are provincials.

This debate has reared its ugly head in libertarian circles in reaction to a series of 20-year old newsletters published by a company owned by Ron Paul that were written under his name. They contain a lot of nasty statements and politically incorrect remarks.

Paul said he was unaware of what was being written in his name and takes “moral responsibility” for the documents. Given his reputation for honesty and integrity, many of his supporters have stayed loyal to him.

But those libertarians in the “cosmo” faction are flailing away at him for, at best, his naivety or, at worst, his complicity. They’re centered around the Beltway published Reason magazine and the Beltway based CATO Institute. While the “cosmos” pretty much acknowledge Dr. Paul did not write those letters nor have said such words, ever, they’re not satisfied. In fact what they really want is to use the controversy to settle old scores with those on the other side of the divide.

The Provincials.

Located in Auburn, Alabama and in the San Francisco Bay area, the Ludwig von Mieses Institute and the Randolph Bourne Institute are more than a match for CATO and Reason in the struggle over libertarian thought and ideas. Both institutes have used the internet to popularize themselves among thousands of online readers, the very readers who are now a part of Ron Paul’s campaign. Antiwar.com (Randolph Bourne) is one of the most popular libertarian sites on the web that offers a critical view of U.S. foreign policy and Lew Rockwell.com (Von Mieses) has become a hub for Ron Paul activism, articles and other information on Austrian economics, and paleolibertarianism. The Internet allows their ideas to get a wider view to a broad swath of the population, both in the U.S. and around the world. Otherwise, CATO and Reason would dominate libertarian discourse as they had done for many years before, say, 1996.

One could deduct that all this infighting was just a matter of the “cosmo” faction not liking the competition from “sticks” . But there are serious differences of opinion between the “cosmos” and “provos” over foreign policy, the war in Iraq, monetary policy and points of libertarian emphasis. The “provos” were the most enthusiastic early backers of Paul’s campaign while the “cosmos” just snickered. It was only when Paul started gathering lots of followers and more importantly, lots of money, that Reason started to sniff around, thinking they might get a piece of the action. Their editors and writers knew full well about Paul’s newsletters. In fact they were a story in his recent Congressional elections and re-elections. Now that the story has been given wider publicity outside libertarian circles, the libertarian “cosmos” have been in full CYA (cover your you-know-what) mode, feigning outrage and unsheathing the long knives for Lew Rockwell. It seems to me the question is not whether Ron Paul is a racist, but who will speak for libertarianism in general once Ron Paul’s campaign has long passed the political stage.

Indeed the blog formerbeltwaywonk sums up the “cosmo” reaction to Ron Paul’s newsletters in a nutshell, it all has to do with a subway line in Metro D.C.:

“Oddly enough, all these people with the exception of the tardiest, Dale Carpenter, live or work near the Orange Line subway (Metro) west of the capitol building in Washington, D.C. On the Orange Line, with occasional short side trips on some other lines, you can get to The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Reason Magazine, George Mason University, The Federal Triangle, Cato Institute, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle (Red Line), and a number of other homes and work sites of beltway media, politicians, bureaucrats, and “libertarians.” I don’t know how many of these people actually ride the D.C. Metro, but for fun and convenience let’s call this group of smear artists the “Orange Line Mafia”. This group of media pundits and bloggers has developed a large following among actual libertarians because they are an integral part of D.C. social circles and darlings of the mainstream media, who often “link” to the blogs of these “libertarians” from their various media formats. Libertarians who watch or read MSM thus often first discover “libertarianism” on the net in the writings of The Atlantic, Reason, Cato, Volokh Conspiracy, and other Orange Line Mafia outlets, and think that they are representative of people who actually value liberty. "

But it isn’t just libertarianism where this “cosmo” vs. “provo” divide is evident.

It’s also evident in liberalism in the divide between bloggers like Daily Kos and the liberal insiders of the DNC and in Congress. This goes back all the way to the Howard Dean campaign of 2004 where bloggers and internet users from the red states and other areas outside the Beltway were enraged at the failures and lack of fight among Democratic Party hacks, the DLC and the leftovers from the Clinton Administration that predominated Wall Street, the Beltway and Hollywood. They fueled the rise of the Dean campaign, helped him become DNC Chairman and became a key component of the netroots community. Like the libertarian “cosmo” vs. “provo” divide, the “provos” used the internet both as an organizing tool and as a way to bring out their ideas to a wider audience. The internet is what allows the “provos” to prosper, otherwise they would be like Ron Paul back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, mailing obscure newsletters to campaign contributors that wind up in dusty and dark research libraries. The “cosmos” dominated the discourse for so long because they were near the centers of power and media influence. They still are of course, and their resources are still quite formidable. But they no longer dominate they way they used to before the world wide web and this, of course, pisses them off. People who used to have a monopoly on punditry, political campaigns and think tanks do not like to be challenged, especially by people they consider no better than hicks and amateurs.

Conservatism has the same “cosmo” vs. “provo” divide as well, but it has nothing to do with the internet. Most conservative bloggers are basically suck-ups to the conservative establishment or have let their blogs and websites become annexes to the RNC. Talk radio is probably the most important medium of discourse among conservatives, but even here the talk show hosts are establishment tools in varying degrees. They may very well live in same places as the “provos” do, but they’re more interested in trying to prove how influential they are, securing junkets for themselves or keeping their contracts with Clear Channel. The Rockford Institute of Rockford, Ill. and its flagship publication Chronicles magazine has been the most prominent of the “provo” conservatives for many years, although it's been joined recently by Pat Buchanan’s The American Conservative magazine and the new website Taki’s Mag run by Taki Theodoracopulos. But the reaction to the success of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s campaign for president has exposed a deeper “cosmo” vs. “provo” divide among conservatives as well.

Huckabee’s policies aren’t really all that much different than President Bush II. But as Daniel Larison pointed out on his blog Eunomia (http:larison.org), Huckabee, unlike Bush II, does not have the establishment connections or aristocratic background that Bush II does. Thus Huckabee is basically a raw version of what your basic Republican is south of the Mason-Dixon line, and that alarms the “cosmos”. They fear Huckabee will reduce the GOP to being a Southern regional party and cause them to lose clout within their “cosmo” world.

Huckabee, responds in kind to the “cosmo’s” snobbery, saying in his best Jesse Jackson paraphrasing that the “cosmos” expected the religious conservative voters that Huckabee courts to pick the votes and deliver them to the big house all the while staying in the background while their so-called leaders were treated as ward heelers. Indeed, Huckabee’s complaints are eerily similar to one’s heard by African-American voters towards the Democrats. While African-American voters haven’t abandoned the Democrats , and it ' s doubtful religious voters would ditch the GOP, such voters can make demands or make mischief that drives the elites of both parties crazy.

It’s been said that never before has elite opinion and attitudes been so divergent from that of the rest of the country. Well, it doesn’t take one long to see such divergence when witnessing the “cosmo” vs. “provo” divide inside today’s ideologies and political factions. What remains to be seen is whether or not the “provos” can become powerful enough to convince the broad mass of voters that are their friends and neighbors to follow their lead or will such people still be greatly influenced by the “cosmos.”

Sean Scallon is a freelance writer and newspaper reporter who lives in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. His work has appeared in Chronicles: A magazine of American Culture. His first-ever book: Beating the Powers that Be: Independent Political Movements and Parties of the Upper Midwest and their Relevance in Third-party Politics of Today is now out on sale from Publish America. Go to the their website at www.publishamerica.com to order a copy. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.