memo to progressives and liberals: ron paul is not your friend

Can it be? Are progressive people supporting right-wing libertarian Ron Paul for the US Presidency?

In 2008 I wrote on supposedly liberal people supporting hillary clinton. I didn't agree with that choice, but I understood it. This... this is just insane.

So Ron Paul opposes foreign wars and the federal power build-up. Ron Paul also:
- opposes legalized abortion for any and all reasons
- would allow states to regulate abortion, including prosecuting pregnancy terminations as murder
- has signed "the personhood pledge," which would ban many methods of contraception
- opposes all government involvement in healthcare, including any bare-bones safety net (but apparently making abortion illegal is not government interference in health care)
- opposes all government-mandated civil rights legislation, such as laws forbidding businesses to refuse to serve people based on skin colour
- opposes all health and safety regulation of business
- opposes all environmental regulations
- opposes the Americans with Disabilities Act
- opposes public education
- opposes social security of any type

Had enough yet? Katha Pollitt can explain it much better than I can: the "handful of cherries on a blighted tree".
What is it with progressive mancrushes on right-wing Republicans? For years, until he actually got nominated, John McCain was the recipient of lefty smooches equaled only by those bestowed upon Barack Obama before he had to start governing. You might disagree with what McCain stood for, went the argument, but he had integrity, and charisma, and some shiny mavericky positions—on campaign finance reform and gun control and... well, those two anyway.

Now Ron Paul is getting the love. At Truthdig, Robert Scheer calls him “a profound and principled contributor to a much-needed national debate on the limits of federal power.” In The Nation, John Nichols praises his “pure conservatism,” “values” and “principle.” Salon’s Glenn Greenwald is so outraged that progressives haven’t abandoned the warmongering, drone-sending, indefinite-detention-supporting Obama for Paul that he accuses them of supporting the murder of Muslim children. There’s a Paul fan base in the Occupy movement and at Counterpunch, where Alexander Cockburn is a longtime admirer. Paul is a regular guest of Jon Stewart, who has yet to ask him a tough question. And yes, these are all white men; if there are leftish white women and people of color who admire Paul, they’re keeping pretty quiet.

Ron Paul has an advantage over most of his fellow Republicans in having an actual worldview, instead of merely a set of interests—he opposes almost every power the federal government has and almost everything it does. Given Washington’s enormous reach, it stands to reason that progressives would find targets to like in Paul’s wholesale assault. I, too, would love to see the end of the “war on drugs” and our other wars. I, too, am shocked by the curtailment of civil liberties in pursuit of the “war on terror,” most recently the provision in the NDAA permitting the indefinite detention, without charge, of US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism.

But these are a handful of cherries on a blighted tree. In a Ron Paul America, there would be no environmental protection, no Social Security, no Medicaid or Medicare, no help for the poor, no public education, no civil rights laws, no anti-discrimination law, no Americans With Disabilities Act, no laws ensuring the safety of food or drugs or consumer products, no workers’ rights. How far does Paul take his war against Washington? He wants to abolish the Federal Aviation Authority and its pesky air traffic controllers. He has one magic answer to every problem—including how to land an airplane safely: let the market handle it.

It’s a little strange to see people who inveigh against Obama’s healthcare compromises wave away, as a detail, Paul’s opposition to any government involvement in healthcare. In Ron Paul’s America, if you weren’t prudent enough or wealthy enough to buy private insurance — and the exact policy that covers what’s ailing you now — you find a charity or die. . . .

. . . No wonder they love him over at Stormfront, a white-supremacist website with neo-Nazi tendencies. In a multiple-choice poll of possible effects of a Paul presidency, the most popular answer by far was “Paul will implement reforms that increase liberty which will indirectly benefit White Nationalists.” And let’s not forget his other unsavory fan base, Christian extremists who want to execute gays, adulterers and “insubordinate children.” Paul’s many connections with the Reconstructionist movement, going back decades, are laid out on AlterNet by Adele Stan, who sees him as a faux libertarian whose real agenda is not individualism but to prevent the federal government from restraining the darker impulses at work at the state and local levels. . . .

Supporting Ralph Nader in 2000 was at least a vote for one’s actual politics. Supporting Ron Paul is just a gesture of frivolity — or despair.
I understand that people are desperate and want to believe in some kind of "none of the above" candidate. Supporting Ron Paul may seem like the easy way out of a system that is beyond repair. But if you insist on working within the system, then get down to the hard work of building a true progressive party. There's no shortcut, and if there were, it wouldn't look like Ron Paul.


allan said...

With positions like that, Paul should have been ridiculed into oblivion years ago. And yet ...

(And before McCain, many lefties expressed respect for Colin Powell, who made his name in the military by helping cover up the My Lai massacre.)

James Redekop said...

Even where liberals and Paul "agree", you have to think about what Paul's version of reality would be compared to what you actually would like to see.

Stop the War on Drugs? Yeah -- but do you want Philip Morris marketting heroin and cocaine to kids the way they used to market cigarettes (only with fewer restrictions)? Paul would support that.

Stop foreign wars? Yeah -- but do you also want to stop all foreign aid, peacekeeping missions, and so on?

James Redekop said...

(By the way, is there any way to subscribe to a comment threat without making a comment, for those occasions when I meant to subscribe but forgot to hit the checkmark?)

Anonymous said...

Politics makes for strange bedfellows, but pick allies not just based on what side of an issue they are on, but why. There are really big differences between an isolationist and a dove.

laura k said...

James, Anagory, exactly. Also, there's a difference between finding common ground with someone (anti-war) and actually being in their camp.

James, I often forget to check the box on blogs. I end up returning to check comments every day. AFAIK, the only way to avoid it is to subscribe to all comments. That's on the sidebar, but it might be more than you want.

James Redekop said...

BTW, Kevin Drum has also been having this argument on his blog, with a guy who, it turns out, works for Pat Robertson. So one should consider *all* the allies that would come with Paul...

Anonymous said...

As is often the case Dale Carrico says it better than I can:

Not to put too fine a point on it, you cannot champion civil liberties without first affirming the civic. This isn't a minor quibble, it is a fundamental point from which a whole swarm of consequent confusions inevitably arise: So-called "libertarian" isolationism is actually profoundly different from principled anti-militarism, "libertarian" indifference to diversity as anything but a potentially profitable niche markets is actually profoundly different from principled celebration and facilitation of diversity, "libertarian" advocacy of a radical neglect of the sufferers of drug abuse or exploitative sex work or gun violence is actually profoundly different from a principled opposition to the racist war on (some but not all) drugs and puritanical sex panics and advocating the regulation, taxation, and education of their responsible consensual adult use. Good government has an indispensable role to play in the advocacy of an actually principled progressive stance on each of these issues, and whatever their superficial similarities with certain "libertarian" positions, in every case their anti-governmentality renders the similarities completely insubstantial.

laura k said...

Anagory, very nice.

Here's another. George Monbiot: This bastardised libertarianism makes 'freedom' an instrument of oppression