Huffington Post

Ron Paul Is No Friend to Progressives

[My latest for the Huffington Post.]

Progressives who are considering a move from the Democratic Party in order to support Ron Paul are out of their blessed gourds. Ron Paul is not your friend, progressives, no matter how non-interventionist, plaintive and wide-eyed he appears to be.

For the next several months, Ron Paul will continue to be a spoiler in the Republican primary campaign, lobbing crazy bombs from the fringes of the far right wing of the party without any chance whatsoever of actually winning the nomination, and even less of a shot at winning the White House in November.

But it doesn't matter because winning isn't his goal, regardless of the idealistic daydreaming of his most vocal supporters. He has no intention of becoming president, and he never has. His mission, beyond political masturbation, is to continue his sermon about the viability of a completely non-functioning ideology, libertarianism, while paying homage to the L. Ron Hubbard of politics, Ayn Rand.

Along the way, progressives have taken notice of Ron Paul's positions on civil liberties and foreign policy. He's a non-interventionist, he's opposed to indefinite detention, he's opposed to the use of predator drones, he voted against the PATRIOT Act, he's against the war in Afghanistan, he's opposed to wiretaps without warrants, and so forth. All are positions that progressives rightfully hold dear, including me. Therefore, Paul appears to be "to the left" of President Obama in these specific areas, and so, consequently, progressives have been abandoning support for the president (many of them were never supporters in the first place, going back to the chaotic 2008 primaries) and shifting their support to Ron Paul.

Unfortunately, Paul's progressive supporters might not grasp that Paul's libertarianism, while informing some of his seemingly progressive views on foreign policy and the like, carries with it a significant load of horrendous and unacceptable baggage. Before I proceed further, let me be clear: I'm not pushing for some kind of ideological purity test, but Paul's views on a spectrum of other issues are so completely off the rails, especially relative to progressivism, that any progressive who's supporting Paul is basically forsaking his or her values in lieu of a sliver of overlap on a liberal/libertarian Venn diagram. Paul is a physician, so I'll employ a medical metaphor to explain. Imagine a surgeon attacking a cancerous tumor by firing a bazooka point-blank at the tumor. The surgeon might nail the tumor, but he's going to blast away everything around it, killing the patient.

Not to be overly hyperbolic, but, if implemented at the presidential level, Ron Paul's agenda on everything else besides the war and matters surrounding the treatment of accused terrorists are utterly destructive to progressive values, not to mention the well-being of the nation.

Based on statistics culled from the American Journal of Political Science and Common Space Score calculations from 1937 to 2002, Ron Paul has the most conservative record out of the entire roster of more than 3,000 Congress members from both chambers during that considerably long span of time. Put another way, Ron Paul is the most conservative member of Congress in modern history. Think of the most right-wing legislator you can come up with. Ron Paul is to that person's right. Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Rick Santorum, Louie Gohmert -- Ron Paul has them beat by miles. And it's really no wonder. So, on that note, what about all of that aforementioned "horrendous libertarian baggage?"

Paul's libertarianism is manifested in his desire to essentially subvert the functionality of the federal government. He wants to eliminate many cabinet level departments including the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.

This alone should be a deal breaker for progressives. But there are many, many more.

Paul is opposed to tax increases and government spending. In fact, he wants to roll back federal spending levels to 2000 levels. This would practically destroy the slow economic recovery and slide us into another depression.

Paul, in lockstep with other Republican presidential candidates, "supports new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, supports new tax cuts for corporations, supports ending Medicare as we know it, supports cuts to Social Security, supports the repeal of Dodd-Frank, opposes the Buffett rule, opposes ending tax breaks for Big Oil, and opposes ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas," according to ThinkProgress.

Regarding his posture on foreign policy, while he appears to be sincere in his non-interventionism, it's important to mention that Paul voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) just after September 11. This is the law that was often referenced by the Bush administration in defense of their most egregious trespasses. While not explicitly authorizing indefinite detention and eavesdropping without a warrant, the AUMF is cited by name in the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as the basis for codifying indefinite detention and so forth. Ron Paul voted for this Pandora's Box.

He also introduced a bill, HR 3076, which would have allowed President Bush to issue letters of marque and reprisal -- to hire private bounty hunters tasked with apprehending members of al Qaeda "alive or dead." We can only presume this would have included American-born al Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki.

The President of the United States is authorized to place a money bounty, drawn in his discretion from the $40,000,000,000 appropriated on September 14, 2001, in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Recovery from and Response to Terrorists Attacks on the United States or from private sources, for the capture, alive or dead, of Osama bin Laden or any other al Qaeda conspirator responsible for the act of air piracy upon the United States on September 11, 2001, under the authority of any letter of marque or reprisal issued under this Act.

The language is pretty clear. But feel free to take him at his word that he's against this sort of thing -- unaccountable private assassinations -- even though he introduced legislation that would have done exactly that. Also notice how Paul used the very specific "act of war" language in the bill, putting him clearly on the record acknowledging the war on terrorism as a legitimate war.

In the domestic arena, all of his talk about personal liberty comes to an abrupt halt on the issue of abortion. Paul is staunchly pro-life and supports the criminalization of abortion -- calling for the arrest of abortion doctors, presumably for murder.

Paul is quoted on his website: "There has to be a criminal penalty for the person that's committing that crime. And I think that is the abortionist."

For a self-proclaimed constitutionalist, Paul obviously doesn't support privacy rights as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. And Paul would leave abortion laws and penalties up to the states. We all know how fair state-level crime and punishment can be, especially in death penalty states. Paraphrasing Barney Frank, Ron Paul wants to shrink government small enough to fit into your uterus. And this business of painting all doctors who perform legal and constitutionally-protected abortions as murderers and baby killers unintentionally serves to motivate militant wackaloons like Shelley Shannon and Scott Roeder.

Speaking of which, Ron Paul also interprets the 2nd Amendment to mean an unfettered right to bear arms.

Despite being lauded as a civil liberties hero, he supported the Defense of Marriage Act. He also co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which beefed up DOMA and stopped judges from overturning the rule.

He's against universal healthcare, which includes such progressive touchstones as single-payer health insurance and the public option.

Like so many other crackpots on the far-right, Ron Paul thinks global warming is a hoax and doesn't support any regulation of industry to prevent pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

And finally, he has a long record of obvious racism. He voted against affirmative action, opposed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, and distributed racist newsletters. What about his position against the Civil Rights Act? Again, libertarianism, like some extremist factions of Christianity and Islam, serves as a convenient excuse for bigotry. And that's exactly what it is: bigotry. According to an item in the Huffington Post:

The Civil Rights Act repealed the notorious Jim Crow laws; forced schools, bathrooms and buses to desegregate; and banned employment discrimination. Although Paul was not around to weigh in on the landmark legislation at the time, he had the chance to cast a symbolic vote against it in 2004, when the House of Representatives took up a resolution "recognizing and honoring the 40th anniversary of congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Paul was the only member who voted "no."

If this is the price tag for ending indefinite detention and decriminalizing narcotics, I don't want any part of it.

In the final analysis, not every issue is weighted and prioritized equally. While I strongly disagree with the policy, ending drone strikes is not at the top of my priority list, and neither is indefinite detention or drug policy. Illegal wiretaps are higher, as is the influence of corporate money in politics. (By the way, Ron Paul accepts donations from corporations like all the rest, and many of his top contributors are defense contractors. Odd, since he's a non-interventionist.) Yet none of these issues are as important to me as women's rights, civil rights, campaign finance reform, the environment, financial reform, the economy, healthcare and ending the occupation of Iraq.

Therefore, I support the candidate who is most likely to achieve those priorities, move the nation, in general, in a more liberal direction, and I will continue to do so despite the areas where I disagree with President Obama.

To that point, I also understand the reality that no president has ever had a spotless record. How many civilians did FDR kill when firebombing Tokyo, or Truman when nuking Hiroshima/Nagasaki? Why did FDR indefinitely detain Japanese-Americans without charges? Why did Teddy Roosevelt write about the evolutionary superiority of white people? Why did Lincoln suspend habeas corpus when the Constitution explicitly enumerates the suspension of the writ as a congressional power under Article I? Etc, etc, etc.

American politics is about negotiation, compromise and the big picture. If we get too caught up in the sausage-making, everything seems ugly and no one is on our side. But when you're thinking about which candidate you'd like to support, it's important to look at the big picture in an almost historical sense, and ask yourself: 1) Who will move the nation closer, in general, to my values? And, 2) Who can actually achieve question #1?

Unlike President Obama, who is, in fact, slowly moving the nation to the left while rolling back Reaganomics despite deeply entrenched partisan attacks against his very American-ness, Ron Paul, if he's ever elected president, would move the nation in a vastly more paleoconservative direction. His historically right-wing congressional record proves this. He might have a more non-interventionist foreign policy, sure -- that is if he's sincere about his intentions -- but will he be able to actually achieve anything without a strong party coalition? Progressives might applaud Paul's foreign policy, but the clapping would be brief and muted as Paul's libertarian agenda would be totally indigestible.

In other words, and in the big picture, President Ron Paul would be a far-right conservative nightmare, leaving in his wake irreparable harm and a grotesque Brundlefly hellscape.

President Obama, on the other hand, is a politician who, while flawed like all the rest, has shown an aptitude to at least listen to and understand his opponents on the left. I'm convinced that if we make a strong enough case against administration policies we disagree with, there's a solid shot at convincing the president to make a change. Ron Paul is completely immovable as evidenced by his continued opposition to the Civil Rights Act decades later. And no one on the left has a shot in hell at convincing him otherwise.

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