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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  • ainsleyroad

    Well said, Bob. Did you get your kevlar?

  • http://twitter.com/SugaRazor Razor

    But… liberty, man. And freedom. Why do you hate liberty, Bob?

    • Robert Scalzi

      LOL

  • deacrick

    Keep Hammering Bob,
    You may soon earn the title “Fighting Bob”

  • http://twitter.com/JimmyAbra Jimmy Abraham

    I’ll second the keep hammerin’! I also would love time to research and show how his policies are counter-productive to his more general appeal…especially “free market” and how deregulation and competing currencies stifles the “free market” rather than enable it, by creating more uncertainty and requiring more knowledge by the consumer…but, I’ll leave that til when it is needed.

    But is was nice reading the column today and this nice compliment (d’oh complement):

    http://www.salon.com/2012/01/05/progressive_beer_googles_for_ron_paul/

  • mikecz

    Lets be honest here, the only thing congress will allow him to do is bring the troops home, rolling back anything would be a legislative nightmare.

    All the hopes and dreams of Obama have only been partially realized, as with any president. All this demagoging of Paul’s policies gets a little tiring i.e. read Ann Colture’s latest article if you can bear it.

    His biggest contributors are tiny compared to anyone else…http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/contrib.php?id=N00005906, and the top three are individual donations from the military. You know, soldiers who know a thing or two about foreign policy.

    Rolling back the federal departments would push those funds to the states hands in the form of block grants, therefore forwarding the power to the states to make decisions to support their own catastrophe’s, education system, etc. The bottom wouldn’t drop out, it would be put into the hands of more capable people.

    Affirmative action gives priority to a class, therefore blurring the lines of equality. The only part of the Civil Rights Act he was against had to do with privacy, and intrusion of the federal government into your rights to decide what to do with your personal property. It has to do with race, so it is controversial.

    As for DOMA, his stance there, is the federal gov’t shouldn’t regulate marriage, he doesn’t even believe the states should, but is granting the power of those decisions to the states. Is he against gay marriage, yes, is he allowing the states and those who live in those states to decide, yes. All in all, it’s a better policy for everyone.

    It’s a tricky line with abortion, but, as with most pro lifers, he believes a fetus should be given a right as those of us who are on this site have, protection life. This is not an issue if he were to be president, because there is no way, no way…any legislation would pass both houses banning ALL abortion practices.

    Bring the troops home, limit the power of the fed to devalue our currency, and give more power to the states where a voters voice at least is a little louder is the stance. It really does seem the only people against him are either hardcore conservative war mongers, or far left liberals. Anyone in between has found something they believe in.

    His numbers in Iowa are interesting, he garnered 43% of the independent vote, which I believe is the only place where Obama is beatable. Any knucklehead registered repub is going to vote for someone breathing with an R next to his name, but as for the independents, they will sit on their hands.

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      You’re giving him too much credit, mike. There is much more to it than that.

      Adding……just reread your post……BAH! WTF are you babbling about?! Jesus.Christ.

    • i_a_c

      Lets be honest here, the only thing congress will allow him to do is bring the troops home, rolling back anything would be a legislative nightmare.

      Then what are Rhonn’s policy priorities? If you just go ahead and admit that the libertarian shtick will go absolutely nowhere in the Congress, then what does Rhonn plan to do in reality if he wins? Not libertarian fantasy-world, but reality. Best I can tell, he would try to unravel departments and programs that liberals favor.

    • Robert Scalzi

      Wow.. thats all I can say Wow…. you drink too much Kool Aid

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      “the only thing congress will allow him to do…”

      That’s not enough reason to allow him into the WH.

      “forwarding the power to the states…it would be put into the hands of more capable people”

      Are you nuts?! The states have made bigger messes of things than the Feds have. The states are absolutely full of corruption, too subject to the whims of popular mob sentiments, they spent all the money that they had in the bank to pay for unemployment insurance, they haven’t taken care of their own infrastructure, and they are too easily influenced and/or taken over by corporations. I wouldn’t let my state government pet sit my cats, much less allow them to administer all those vital functions Paul wants to get rid of.

      “As for DOMA…..is he allowing the states and those who live in those states to decide, yes. ”

      Paul would let the states decide and implement almost everything. The problem with this on social issues like DOMA, abortion, civil rights, etc is that it has primarily been the states that have continued to perpetrate unconstitutional (and abhorrent) discrimination against minorities, women, LGBT’s, etc. Who do you think has been dishing out all the abuse over the decades and why many of us feel we STILL need the Civil Rights act? It’s the states!

      Ultimately, Paul’s policies would take us back to a point where we would exist as Union in name only….the states would interact more like they did under the Articles of Confederation….which if you recall did not work so well and why they formed the Federal Government in the FIRST FREAKIN place.

      Mike, you’re being used by conservatives to siphon off votes from Pres. Obama. You’re just too blind to see it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gannawayc Christa Gannaway

        Ramen!

    • http://www.facebook.com/gannawayc Christa Gannaway

      If you honestly believe all that…..I’m sorry.

    • JMAshby

      Read Ann Coulter?

      Derp

    • D_C_Wilson

      Lets be honest here, the only thing congress will allow him to do is bring the troops home, rolling back anything would be a legislative nightmare.

      Which makes it odd that this statement is followed by a lengthy justification for policies that you admit will go nowhere.

      “forwarding the power to the states…it would be put into the hands of more capable people”

      As someone who works for a state government agency, all I have to say is:

      BWHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHHAAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Seriously, have you looked at the state governments lately? Most of them make the federal government look like a well-oiled machine.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Way to go, Bob!

    For the rest of us, the fact that Ron Paul finished in 3rd place in Iowa should not prevent us from continuing to stay on this nutjob.

    He is extremely unlikely to win the nomination, but he is in position to affect Republican policy.

    He is dangerous to all of us.

    And, oh, by the way, thanks so much, ratfuckers aka Firebaggers, for your support of this insane, racist, homophobic, anti-semitic creepy old man.

    I, for one, will not forget this.

    • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

      Amen, Nicole. Any one who calls themselves a liberal or progressive who supports Paul is 1) stupid and ignorant, 2) hates Pres. O so much that they would cut their nose off to spite their face, or 3) are conservatives deep down in their dark, dark hearts. Just because Paul comes to the same destination on some issues does not mean he would travel the same road as progressives to get there. As digby put it, “even a broken clock is right twice a day”.

  • i_a_c

    This is an important article. I don’t know how many “progressives” are seriously considering Rhonn Pall, but they’re deranged. If your top priority is civil liberties, that’s fine, but Rhonn would let states go back to the Jim Crow days and let the free market set up whites-only lunch counters, etc. Rhonn is no progressive, not by any reality-based definition.

  • villemar

    Great summation of many of your brilliant and insightful Paul posts from over the past week or so!

  • i_a_c

    I see the Pallbots are out in full force in the HP comment section, spouting the same old libertarian canard that the government “takes your money by force” through the personal income tax, which many believe to be unconstitutional.

    And that in a nutshell is why Rhonn Pall is unacceptable. The personal income tax was ruled constitutional in the 1890s, and the 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. This issue has been dead for literally a century. Rhonn and his acolytes do not operate in the same reality the rest of us do. His positions consist of a fantasy utopian world that does not exist, or hasn’t existed for a hundred years. Their 10th Amendment obsession became void in 1796 when the SCOTUS ruled that a treaty supersedes state law. That’s 200 years of precedent ignored by the Pallbots.

    Does anyone think it’s interesting that libertarians claim to value the constitution so much, yet they appear to revile the judicial branch set up by the Constitution to make rulings on constitutionality?

  • jjasonham

    Great job!

  • rgbyref

    I’m not by any means an Obama fan, but this is ridiculous. Paul is advertising himself in NH as the “Most Conservative.” Do you need to hear anything else?

  • https://twitter.com/#!/MiddleAmericaMS MiddleAmericaMS

    I’m an ex-RP supporter, about 80% of his positions are terrible.

    • Guest

      I’d say 99.5%

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Good God, Bob, did you know that you’ve “sold your soul to the democrat & republican machines”? Truly, according to a moron on HP, and his friends who favorited his post. .

    Sigh…I should have know better than to go and read the comments there. Egads, it’s a Firebagger convention! :)

    • MrDHalen

      “Firebagger Convention” is absolutely correct!!! I am in awe at the number of so called progressives who are just as ideologically narrow as the conservatives are. I guess you could also call it the “The Two Year Old’s, Me & Mine Convention”.

      • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

        For real! I am appalled by the complete ignorance, Dan!

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Check this, y’all, from the HuffPo comment thread:

    biznesschic: The civil rights act is an amendment to the constituti­on. As with any amendment it can be rescinded by an act of congress. Funny, doctor Paul was the only vote the was not in favor of extending it, when it came up for vote in 2007.

    My reply:

    GrafZeppelin127: No; the Civil Rights Act is a federal statute, whose purpose was and is to enforce certain provisions of the Constituti­on, mainly the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

    A statute can be repealed by Congress (i.e., by legislatio­n), subject to presidenti­al veto. It can also be struck down by the Supreme Court. A Constituti­onal Amendment, however, can only be repealed by a subsequent Constituti­onal Amendment (prohibiti­on being the most obvious, indeed the only, example), which requires passage by 2/3 of both houses of Congress and ratificati­on by 3/4 of the state legislatur­es (the President is not involved, nor are state governors; also, amendments may be proposed and ratified by constituti­onal convention­, which has never occurred).

    Ron Paul supporter’s reply to the same comment:

    Amin Khad: The Civil Rights Act is not an amendment to the Constituti­on. You’re just showing how extremely ignorant you are. No one should take any of your crazy claims about Paul seriously. You don’t even have enough regard and care to do a little fact checking before you make public claims about laws and candidates­.

    Discuss.

    • muselet

      Discuss.

      Okay, here’s my contribution.

      –alopecia

    • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

      Ha! The comments over there are utterly outrageous, ignorant and uninformed. WHY, Graf, do you wish to subject yourself to the burning stupid when you already know that you are very unlikely to change any minds?!

    • http://twitter.com/gussiejives Gussie Jives

      I noticed them reply like that a lot, stating in their best snide way “Well, YOU just don’t have the facts on your side that oppose this horribly BIASED piece towards Dr. Paul.”

      But then they don’t provide those facts.

      And like Chez said on the show, I love it when they refer to him as Dr. Paul.

  • http://twitter.com/KQuark KQµårk™

    One of the best columns of all time. Ron Paul is a REGRESSIVE who wants to take create a new American confederacy. Paul likes oppressive government. He just wants the states to oppress people.

  • GrafZeppelin127

    Please check out this comment thread over at HuffPo.

    Paulite libertarians cannot reconcile their belief that the right to sue and the threat of lawsuits are enough to create “market incentives” to ensure that businesses et al. will do the right thing and therefore obviate the need for legislation designed to prevent wrongdoing, with the standard Republican/GOP platform of curtailing, limiting or eliminating tort lawsuits. They can’t explain it. They can’t answer the simple question of whether they disagree with Republicans on this issue.

    It’s incredible, fascinating stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/gussiejives Gussie Jives

    Brilliant and very necessary piece, Bob. I read some of the HuffPost comments, and the fanatical, blinding devotion to “Dr.” Paul is on full display.

    THAT is why libertarians/objectivists make my blood boil.