Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Should the Left Support Ron Paul?

This is a question that has been fancied about for the past few months. Much of this is a product of the lackluster Democratic field. Of the three Democratic front runners for the party's Presidential ticket, only Barack Obama has opposed the Iraq War from the outset, and Obama is hardly a pacifist on foreign policy. About the only two Democratic candidates who are consistently antiwar are Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. Consequently, it is easy to see why progressives are looking elsewhere.

However, Ron Paul is no progressive. He is basically a libertarian version of Pat Buchanan. Yes, he is a foe of interventionism abroad, but he is also stridently nationalist on immigration, opposed to national health care, the income tax, Social Security, or any type of a social safety net for people not as wealthy as he is. It is hardly a coincidence that his nickname in Congress is "Dr. No." Of course, there are those, on the left and the paleoconservative right, who purport that a grand antiwar coalition can be built from this campaign. I am not one of those people.

First, while in agreement on most foreign policy issues, like with Mr. Buchanan, Congressman Paul's rationale is primarily on grounds of national sovereignty (something that should ideally be of no consequence to a true libertarian). In Ron Paul's world, our military would not be in Iraq, but over time quite possibly be needed in American cities, or what remains of those cities after erupting in the kind of chaos and stratification his policies would incite. Those policies include abolishing Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, public funds for education of any kind (indeed, he wants to vanquish the Department of Education), abolishing Social Security, and facilitating the legal purchase and spread of high powered firearms for individual "self defense" (seemingly appropriate, as they would be needed in the responding violence). Unemployment benefits? Workers' compensation? Congressman Paul considers such programs as another form of socialism.

Moreover, on social issues, he is only a more local version of Mike Huckabee. Abortion? Not in Ron Paul's world. He is pro-life, favors overturning Roe v. Wade and over three decades of stare decisis on reproductive rights, although Dr. Paul claims that the issue should be left up to the states. The same with gay marriage, which as a religious and devout Christian he personally opposes and feels has no basis in federal law (believing the banishment of acts of buggery and copulation between folk of the same kind within the bonds of matrimony should be a right of the states to decide).

Such a strong supporter of the Tenth Amendment, Congressman Paul would like to eliminate the Voting Rights Act and leave it up to the states whether to re-impose poll taxes and literacy tests as a condition of voting (historically used by the Congressman's fellow white Southerners to restrict and terrorize African Americans from voting). Civil rights laws fare no better in the doctor's kingdom. To Congressman Paul, civil rights laws are discriminatory, against property owners who might want to exclude blacks, women, and other non-Republican/libertarian voters from wanting to do things like eat at lunch counters, shop, or much of anything else. For that matter, he opposes FEMA and all federal aid to victims of natural disasters, claiming that such aid infringes upon states' rights. And contrary to what some of his supporters claim, Ron Paul does not favor wholesale leagalization of drugs. He merely opposes the federal government locking away a generation of black men. Instead, he thinks the states should be the parties responsible for locking them away (even though he personally favors legalization of medicinal use of marijuana). If nothing else, he is consistent.

This conservative/libertarian worldview is oftentimes coined as "strict constructionism," which is the belief in interpreting the Constitution in light of what the framers originally intended. Of course, this is a farce. I know of no libertarian or conservative today who practices what they preach on original intent, as at the time of this country's foundation the only voters allowed in the booth were white male property owners (and even then they had to own a certain acreage or property of a particular value to gain that ballot). You never see anyone talk about bringing back the three-fifths clause, which was intentionally inserted into Article 1 of the Constitution so the Congressman's ancestral allies, believers in the same concept of states' rights, could apportion enough House seats come time for the census without having to face the reality that slaves were full human beings.

With regards to the Bill of Rights, I know of not one single jurist, regardless of how libertarian (including Ron Paul supporters), who advocates going back to original intent of the framers on the First Amendment. If you bother to read the first words of the First Amendment, it only refers to the federal government because until the 1920s the Bill of Rights only applied to restricting the powers of the federal government. States, under the policing powers granted to it by those states' rights supporters on the Supreme Court since the early 19th century, could and did regularly ban books and issue injunctions against public speakers considered "dangerous to law and order." Thanks to the doctrine of incorporation (a 20th century reality), however, brought on by Gitlow v. New York, local and state governments could no longer ban you from speaking and writing freely (and this was imposed through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment [ever hated by states' rights advocates]).

Notice, conservative/libertarian candidates like Ron Paul never expound a position on these issues, even though the same framers (from states' rights supporters like Jefferson and Madison to federalists like Hamilton and Marshall) were unanimous in their opposition to any incorporation of the Bill of Rights on states (an issue that should be near and dear to anyone that claims to be such a supporter of states' rights and original intent). In fact, the Congressmen who wrote the Fourteenth Amendment stated on the Senate floor, in 1866, that the Due Process Clause only applied to the Reconstruction Amendments and not the Bill of Rights itself (answering concerns of those who feared, even then, that the amendment would eventually be applied by future courts to incorporate the rest of the Constitution). Nothing but silence on these issues and with good reason. Either they are hypocritical for allowing courts to legislate the Constitution, or else remain consistent supporters of allowing states to revert to the days when they had near unlimited powers to regulate and punish the minutest realms of human behavior, like enforcing miscegenation laws or allowing state courts to forcibly sterilize citizens deemed unworthy of reproduction.

On war and peace, Paul deserves credit (and it is the only reason any progressive should be debating whether or not to support his candidacy). He was one of the few candidates who voted against going to war in Iraq. For that alone, he has my respect. Nevertheless, he voted in favor of the resolution (Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists) to give President Bush an open and blank check to go to war after 9/11. So, even on the one issue Congressman Paul is good to the left, he is hardly perfect. And his views on international law, and international organizations (like the International Criminal Court), are as negationist as Tom Bolton's.

To the Joshua Franks and Alexander Cockburns (you know there is something wrong when progressives seem preoccupied with wanting to make sane the conservative wing of the Republican Party), this is the kind of candidacy I am supposed to support. Why is that these types of progressives always seem to want us to join the other side (and for me to vote for Ron Paul, in a closed primary state, I would have to register as a Republican)? For Joshua Frank, we should be joining in because we are just "a whim" of the antiwar movement and Paul and his supporters the base (a base, by the way, that is even less successful in getting votes than the antiwar left). Indeed, Paul's national polling numbers have yet to exceed 8% (and hover around the 3-5% range), in a party where 90-plus percent of its members are rabidly pro-war and seem as interested in having a coalition with us as they are to secretly desire worshiping the sun god Ra. How is that the "forefront" of a grassroots movement against a war? These people are talking about joining a group that has no electoral chance whatsoever, in their own party (never mind the rest of the country), so why is it that I should forgo Dennis Kucinich or even the Green Party to join the campaign of a man who thinks civil rights laws are discriminatory against property owners? This is a question that has yet to be answered. My suggestion would be if the Justin Raimondos want to have a left-right coalition, join us, since antiwar voices are much more numerous on the left than the paleoconservative foreign policy perspective is on the right (a perspective which died after World War Two).

To be sure, war and peace matters, but they should not be mutually exclusive in deciding which candidate to support (assuming one is worth supporting at all). As with civil rights, peace is, as Martin Luther King Jr. called it, part and parcel of "the waters of justice," interchangeably flowing with the same interlocked message--of peace and justice. To that extent, Ron Paul is the inversion of Lyndon Johnson (no guns [unless privately owned] and no butter [unless you have disposable income]). To him, and his tax exempt friends from the Cato Institute, I say, no thanks.

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