Liberals, Consider Ron Paul March 1, 2012 2:49 PM

I know some of you have already committed yourselves to Obama’s reelection efforts. If so, I respect your choice and you can probably skip this post.

For the rest of you, I’m asking that you register as Republican to support Ron Paul in the GOP primary and beyond. There are many legitimate concerns to be had about a Paul presidency—and I will address these concerns in depth—but his flaws are significantly outweighed by urgent humanitarian issues that only a Paul presidency would address.

It’s time to let go of the left-right paradigm. It’s even time to abandon the four-pronged Nolan Chart. We live in a time where the status quo is devolving into a bipartisan pro-war, corporatist, anti-free speech police state, and the only candidate who will turn it around is Ron Paul. If the likes of Nader or Kucinich were frontrunners in the 2012 primary, this blog post would be about them. Sadly, that’s not happening—but if liberals would reach across the aisle to embrace this iconoclastic libertarian’s surprisingly viable candidacy, iconoclastic progressives might have a chance in the future.

Ron Paul Is Different

Ron Paul is a conservative-leaning moderate libertarian. In areas of foreign policy he is a purist, opposed to any form of war aside from direct national defense. In areas of domestic policy he adheres to a states’ rights philosophy, which I see as a moderate’s approach. He’s narrowed his scope to fighting only federal excesses, leaving most decisions to the states as dictated by the Tenth Amendment. He’d be fine with California turning into a progressive utopia as long as Nevada could become a libertarian utopia: as one writer describes it, “Fifty experiments. May the best system get copied.”

But Paul’s political philosophy is nearly irrelevant. What matters today is his incorruptible nature and his consistent policies. Barney Frank has praised Ron Paul for being “one of the easiest people in Congress to work with, because he bases his positions on the merits of issues.” Former Alan Grayson advisor Matt Stoller expounded on this, saying that while most Congressional offices are mired in politics and procedure, Ron Paul ignores both in a singular dedication to principle. Dennis Kucinich has actually suggested that he would pick Ron Paul as a running mate, and says of Paul, “I know he cannot be bought, cannot be bossed around, keeps his own counsel and is a person of conscience.” Former House staffer and Bush strategist Terry Holt admitted that the GOP didn’t bother trying to bribe Ron Paul, explaining, “We knew he was going to stand on his own principles—that’s why people love him—and it wasn’t worth trying to make a deal with him because he already had his mind made up.”

Ron Paul is the only 2012 candidate, Republican or Democrat, who clearly doesn’t bow to corporate interests and isn’t afraid to stand alone in opposing the militarist establishment. I wouldn’t care if he were a socialist or an anarchist—the way he defends WikiLeaks in the wake of the diplomatic cables leak and suggests that Bradley Manning may be a hero, the way he defends Iran against a war-hungry bipartisan field, the way he consistently opposes bailouts, the Federal Reserve, the Patriot Act, the TSA, and the drug war—these stances, some of which would be considered political suicide by the status quo, make him the only candidate driven by principle rather than by Washington culture.

Paul vs. Obama

I voted for Obama in 2008, and when he was elected, I literally cried with happiness because I knew it was a landmark victory for America’s racial subconscious. I’m still pleased that we finally elected our first non-white president, and I would vote for Obama again if McCain were the only alternative.

Obama has made some great changes while in office. I’m grateful for the end of waterboarding and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I’ve already benefitted personally from Obama’s healthcare act, and I’m impressed by Obama’s support for women in tech initiatives.

At a personal level, I certainly have nothing to complain about. However, having liberal values means I’m not just concerned with my own middle-upperclass existence, I’m concerned with the less fortunate both at home and abroad. It also means that I don’t care only about the reasonably comfortable present, I care about how current actions could lead to an oppressive future.

So for me, Obama’s many good deeds are overshadowed by policies which harm the lives and human rights of innocent people. Furthermore, Obama has continued Bush’s pattern of unlawful, overreaching actions that lay the groundwork for even more human rights violations in the future.

War

The most urgent humanitarian reason to choose Ron Paul over Obama is war policy. Despite the constitutional views Obama espoused in 2007, he has revealed himself to be a president who will disregard congressional vote and legal counsel in initiating an unconstitutional war. Obama has twice waived a congressional ban on military aid to countries utilizing child soldiers, continued the mass killing of civilians in multiple countries, caused twice as many US troop casualties as did Bush, and enormously expanded a highly secretive drone war said to be killing 10-15 civilians for every one potential militant—according to Pakistani sources, it’s actually killing fifty innocents for every one militant. Most outrageously, at least fifteen drones strikes under Obama were followed by additional drone strikes specifically targeting rescuers arriving at the scene, and more attacks have been found to have targeted the funerals of drone victims.

Obama has been ramping up threats against China and Iran while sending troops into Central Africa. It’s a foreign policy which Dick Cheney and former defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates have praised as being just like Bush’s. It’s a foreign policy which, according to polling firm Zogby, has caused U.S. favorable ratings in Arab countries to plummet since Obama’s election, and in most countries they are now lower than they were at the end of the Bush Administration.

Considering that Obama had wanted to keep 10,000 troops in Iraq through 2012, his one victory for peace—finally ending the Iraq war 2.5 years later than promised—was not motivated by any sort of commitment to peace. Rather, it was forced by a Bush agreement with the Iraqi government and the latter’s insistence on withdrawal, perhaps stoked by a particularly disturbing WikiLeaks story detailing the murder of 10 Iraqi citizens.

If you condemned Bush for his war policy, you must also condemn Obama’s war policy. Not only is Obama’s aggressive policy killing countless innocents, the killings are radicalizing the citizenry and will lead to more terrorism, forever promulgating the War on Terror. “Let us not become the evil that we deplore,” urged Rep. Barbara Lee, the lone no vote on the original AUMF. In the Bush days, most of you would have agreed that we have indeed become that evil. It’s time to accept the fact that Obama has enshrined Bush’s war policy as the bipartisan status quo. As long as we have Obama or any establishment politician as Commander in Chief, it is you and I who are funding this horror.

Now consider Ron Paul, who consistently votes against war and regularly voices all manner of ethical and practical objections. He was one of six Republicans to vote against the Iraq Resolution and he drafted legislation to sunset the bill. Paul’s idea of an “authentic stimulus” is returning 305,000 troops to the U.S. and having them spend their pay back home. He wants to close hundreds of wasteful military bases in countries like Japan and Australia, and he’d like to replace our aggressive foreign policy with diplomacy and free trade. He has not backed down for a second in the face of the traditionally hawkish Republican Party—in fact, he brings attention to his peaceful foreign policy whenever he has a chance, and he’s finally starting to influence the party with his pro-peace ideals.

Speaking passionately about his war stance to a GOP debate audience in Arizona, he said, “I don’t believe I’m going to get the conversion on the moral and constitutional arguments in the near future, but I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna win this argument for economic reasons.” And ever so gradually, he may be winning it—a recent poll finds that nearly half of Republicans now disapprove of America’s role in frequent overseas intervention.

Civil Liberties

When it comes to undermining foundational constitutional rights, Obama has managed to surpass Bush by setting the precedent of assassinating US citizens without due process. He continued this theme by signing the latest NDAA, which codifies indefinite detention without due process and further prevents transfer of Guantánamo detainees. Obama made it clear in his signing statement that he feels indefinite detention was already authorized by the 2001 AUMF, and he’s continued this practice in midwest detention centers while working to expand a detention facility in Afghanistan that currently detains 2,700 Afghans without trial and in abusive conditions.

Obama championed transparency in 2007, yet his administration has been marked by unprecedented secrecy—he’s targeted more whistleblowers than all past presidents combined, denied more FOIA requests than Bush, adopted Bush’s aggressive use of the state secrets doctrine, and rejected his own Free Flow of Information Act. Obama has renewed the PATRIOT Act, expanded the TSA with intrusive, potentially hazardous body scans and humiliating pat-downs, continued the drug war, and even cracked down on medical marijuana. And while the Obama administration came out against SOPA after the recent uproar, the fact remains that Obama signed the more dangerous ACTA treaty, possibly unconstitutionally, back in October.

Compare this to Ron Paul, who’s a staunch defender of due process who fundamentally opposes assassinations and condemned the NDAA signing as a “slip into tyranny,” recently introducing legislation to repeal the indefinite detainment section. He wants Guantánamo shut down and the detainees tried. Ron Paul was one of three House Republicans to vote against the PATRIOT Act in 2001 and he’s continued to fight against it. He’s opposed the TSA since its inception, condemned similar programs on highways, and has introduced legislation to defend passengers from TSA abuses. Paul is greatly supportive of whistleblowing and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience—he’s actually requested a WikiLeaks dump on the Federal Reserve and suggested that as president, he would himself be a good whistleblower. For over twenty years he’s fought against the drug war for violating personal rights, calling it a bigger failure than the Prohibition and introducing legislation to protect medical marijuana users. He wants to legalize hemp farming and believes in pardoning nonviolent drug offenders. Ron Paul officially opposed SOPA early on and praised the internet backlash that led to its shelving.

Corporatism

Not to be confused with capitalism, corporatism occurs when corporations funnel money into government and are rewarded with special treatment and positions of power. Unfortunately, Obama has proven to be quite the corporatist: After being enriched by big banks during his 2007 campaign, Obama returned the favor, filling the top ranks of his administration with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Citigroup executives and appointing many ex-lobbyists. His long line of bailouts have greatly benefitted Wall Street while harming ordinary citizens. He empowered Wall Street bigwigs to profit from and cover up fraudulent activity that led to the economic crisis. Thanks to Obama, a former Monsanto VP is now a top FDA official, and a former Monsanto lobbyist is now chief agricultural negotiator for the US Trade Representative. Obama shielded BP, whose biggest shareholder is JP Morgan, from legal liability after the 2010 oil spill. While Obama has been boasting about the success of the auto bailouts, taxpayers will lose $20-30 billion on General Motors. Ron Paul himself identifies Obama’s health care bill as being not a socialist program, but a corporatist one which massively benefits insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Meanwhile, consumer champion Ralph Nader had this to say in a recent interview: “Ron Paul has always been anti-corporate, anti-Federal Reserve, anti-big banks, anti-bailouts.” To be clear, Paul’s brand of anti-corporatism differs from Nader’s in that Paul’s free market ideals cause him to seek fewer regulations and taxes on businesses; however, when it comes to corporate welfare and corruption, Ron Paul is as anti-corporate as one can get. His efforts to audit the Federal Reserve for the first time revealed $16 trillion in secret loans to banks worldwide. These banks were enabled to take advantage of below-market rates which netted them $13 billion in profits. Bloomberg warns, “Details suggest taxpayers paid a price beyond dollars as the secret funding helped preserve a broken status quo and enabled the biggest banks to grow even bigger.”

Concerns About Ron Paul

There are a number of areas in which I disagree with Ron Paul. However, I find his social conservative policies to be not much worse than Obama’s, and his most extreme social and economic policies will be moderated into realism by Congress and his own dedication to the rule of law.

Social Issues

There are three social issues on which Ron Paul leans conservative: immigration, abortion, and to a minor degree, LGBT rights.

Ron Paul is considered to be hard on immigration. He calls undocumented immigrants “illegals,” opposes birthright citizenship, and likes to point out that instead of policing Middle Eastern borders, we should be policing our own. However, his policy regarding undocumented immigrants currently living in the US is much more moderate—he considers mass deportation to be impractical and cruel, suggesting that deportation only makes sense when the person has committed a crime. He suggests replacing deportation with some sort of “green card with an asterisk” policy. He is opposed to amnesty and government welfare for noncitizens, but he defends the right of private organizations to support them. Paul favors streamlining the entry process for legal immigration and calls for a generous visitor work program. While Obama has been recently easing up on immigration policy, even pressuring immigration officials to approve questionable applications, the fact still stands that he’s deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants, totaling at least one million deportations so far and snagging a number of legal citizens in the process. Considering Ron Paul’s soft stance on deportation, a Paul presidency would arguably result in a more compassionate immigration policy.

Ron Paul is deeply opposed to abortion and often cites his experience as a obstetrician in supporting his views. This isn’t a case of some sexist blowhard saying women can’t be trusted with their own bodies—consider that Paul feels that sex work should be decriminalized. As with all social issues, including sex work, he believes abortion policy is to be decided by the states. It’s essentially a status quo opinion; however, he has attempted to go further with proposed legislation that would prohibit federal courts from interfering with states’ decisions on abortion and other matters of sex and reproduction. I strongly object to this bill, but I feel it’s too extreme to pass Congress, and it doesn’t seem to be a high priority for Paul. As if to balance out the power of the states, Ron Paul has also voted multiple times to allow minors to freely cross state lines for the purpose of abortion. Paul opposes restrictions on emergency contraception, and even suggests the morning-after pill as a solution in cases of very early pregnancies and rape. When it comes to federal funding for abortion, there’s no question that Obama will be more pro-choice than Paul, but when you realize that Obama will randomly make anti-choice decisions when politically expedient, and even threaten access to emergency contraception, he’s clearly no huge win for reproductive choice himself.

Ron Paul is decent on LGBT rights—he believes that marriage is a free speech issue and he wants the federal government to stop regulating marriage altogether. He voted against banning gay marriage or defining marriage as between a man and a woman. He acknowledges that people are born homosexual and denies that it’s a “sin.” Paul was one of five House Republicans to vote for the repeal of DADT in 2010, a new stance he explained was inspired by feedback from his LGBT constituents. He is, however, generally opposed to any federal legislation fighting hate crimes or discrimination, as he does not believe in using the federal government to force social change. (Note that he’s the same way about social changes he most wishes to bring about—namely, abortion.) Most unfortunately, Paul reluctantly supports DOMA, apparently due to his opposition to expanding welfare. But on this issue, Obama’s not much better—he no longer defends DOMA in court, but he’s still enforcing DOMA, keeping legally married LGBT couples from having their marriages recognized for immigration purposes.

Economic Issues

Most presidents have been worsening our national debt problem because it’s much easier to kick the can to the next generation than make painful spending cuts. Under Obama, the debt has already increased by $4 trillion. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum may speak disapprovingly of the debt crisis, but their proposals would actually add trillions more to the debt. Only Ron Paul is a serious fiscal conservative, voting against any spending he deems unconstitutional, returning over $100,000 in unspent office funds to the Treasury each year, and now proposing a severe budget plan that could trim the debt by over $2 trillion.

A head-on approach to the debt will be painful, but there are two things to keep in mind: Paul’s actual proposals are much more realistic than his lofty libertarian ideals—he’s not trying to go back to 1776 here; rather, he wishes to return most spending to 2006 levels. And once again, Paul’s most drastic aims would be moderated by Congress.

For example, while Ron Paul is philosophically opposed to welfare programs—and he certainly won’t approve any new ones—he believes in bolstering the existing programs while phasing them out in a responsible manner. He has suggested using “50 percent of the savings from cuts in overseas spending to shore up entitlement programs for those who are dependent on them and the other 50 percent to pay down the debt.” Unlike Obama, Paul does not threaten elderly people dependent on Social Security. He does, however, plan to allow workers 25 years old or younger to opt out of the system.

Paul’s budget plan cuts war spending and corporate subsidies, but it also calls for stopping foreign aid, which he sees as taking money from America’s poor and middle class and giving it to rich dictators. The budget plan phases out five federal agencies, certain responsibilities of which would be transferred to other departments. Paul clarifies: “Nobody gets laid off immediately; they get laid off through attrition”—meaning workers would be transferred to other departments until they retire. But would he actually succeed in dismantling these agencies? Reagan attempted to eliminate the Department of Education in the 80’s and was blocked by Congress. I would expect Paul to have at least as much trouble.

Ron Paul has called for abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to the gold standard. However, the actual monetary policy he proposes for a four year term is completing a full audit of the Fed and allowing competing currencies, perhaps in the style of John F. Kennedy’s silver certificates.

Paul will be doing everything he can to repeal Obama’s healthcare reform, but he concedes that “throwing it all out is probably not going to happen.” He has introduced legislation to repeal the individual mandate and provide his own health reforms which would make all medical expenses tax-deductible and improve competition amongst insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Nevertheless, Paul’s priorities are in order. In a joint interview with Nader, Paul said, “We as libertarians might not approve of some of these medical programs. But is that the place to start? Or should it be overseas spending, and should we have a stronger national defense by bringing our troops home? And I say that is the place to go.”

Offensive Newsletters

At a visceral level, the only issue I feel more strongly about than anti-racism is anti-sexism. Anti-homophobia is right up there too. So obviously, the vile content of Ron Paul’s old newsletters is nauseating to me. I believe Ron Paul when he says he didn’t write them—at least not the worst parts—because they don’t match the tone or rhetoric of any of his speeches and writings from the last 15 years. However, Ron Paul has clearly worked with racist homophobes, may have been compliant with racist pandering in the past, and isn’t as clear as he should be in his apology for the newsletters.

Does Ron Paul lack conscientiousness when it comes to matters of prejudice? Yes. But have I also witnessed several occasions in which my liberal friends exhibited a ghastly lack of conscientiousness themselves? Absolutely. How do I feel when one of my ultra-liberal colleagues makes some nasty sexist joke in a professional environment? I get really upset, but I also know that prejudices like racism, sexism, and homophobia are societal ills that have been baked into our culture and and are part of our history. All of us, including racial minorities, harbor a certain level of implicit racism, and it takes an unnatural level of awareness to consistently fight against it. Therefore, I can forgive instances of prejudice, especially when it seems subconscious rather than overt, and especially if it’s been sincerely renounced, as is the case with Ron Paul. (He did defend the newsletters in 1996, but since 2001 he’s disavowed them, explaining that his campaign had initially convinced him it would be too confusing to say it was the work of ghostwriters.)

Regardless of Ron Paul’s inner biases, he’s the only candidate who’s boldly shedding light on institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system, and many of his policies are specifically anti-racist. He’s been opposed to the drug war for having racist origins since 1988—indeed, civil rights activist Michelle Alexander has declared the drug war the new Jim Crow. Paul criticizes the death penalty as being racist, and he condemns racial profiling for being xenophobic and racist.

I think Conor Friedersdorf said it best in his exhaustive analysis of the newsletters: “In 2012, when accused terrorists are held indefinitely without charges or trial, and folks accused of drug possession have their doors broken down by flash-grenade wielding SWAT teams in no-knock raids, Paul would arguably protect the rights of racial, religious or ethnic minority groups better than Obama, regardless of whether Paul is now or ever was a racist, and irrespective of the fact that Obama, as the first black president, has in some ways transformed Americans’ thinking on race.”

Conclusions

My favorite political concept of the year is the overlap between libertarianism and progressivism. Both philosophies at their purest call for fundamental changes which naysayers claim will implode the country. However, the reality is that both philosophies would involve significant transition time, and either ideology in the White House would be heavily moderated by Congress. It happens that the most realistic actions are also the most urgent and the most representative of the convergence of libertarianism and progressivism: anti-war, pro-civil liberties, anti-corporatism. And while the two sides may disagree on how to handle the economy, a libertarian approach of forcefully balancing the budget now will enable responsible spending in the future. If libertarians and progressives would team up, as Ron Paul has done with many progressives, we could achieve change on the level of Obama’s 2007 campaign rhetoric.

A Ron Paul presidency would demonstrate that a status quo president is not the only viable option, that the tradition of war and corporatism is not the only way. To have an honest person in the White House—someone who absolutely can’t be bought—would be a rare shock to our corrupt, entrenched system. If Ron Paul could even begin to dismantle this system, he would bring America closer to progressive goals than any standard Democrat or Republican would. And the changes Ron Paul could bring are incredibly important because they’re the sort of things that only the president could do. Private organizations and regular people can, to some extent, help fund the needy or work on energy solutions or support the arts or promote diversity. However, only an intensely principled president can bring an end to murderous and undeclared wars, veto bills that threaten liberty and privacy, break the pattern of corporate welfare, and curtail the drug war.

While Paul has downsides, the downsides of Obama (or any other Republican candidate) are far more dangerous and permanent. Ron Paul will hinder federal programs, but Obama’s policies are actively killing and detaining innocents while setting terrible precedents in constitutional violations. Domestic economic policies can be adjusted by the next president, but no one can rescue a drone missile casualty.

Vote Ron Paul

Ron Paul can win. A recent national poll ranked him at second place for the GOP primary, only six points behind Romney. Paul’s campaign is entirely focused on a delegate strategy which capitalizes on his campaign’s excellent organization and enthusiastic support base. It’s the same strategy that led to Obama’s 2008 victory.

That said, with the Republican establishment and most media voices stacked against him, it’s a tough road ahead. In a few of the primaries so far, there have already been reports of election fraud or suspicious activity. I’m not sure how factual these reports are, but I imagine a lot of cleverness will be needed to beat out the potential corruption. For a clear victory at the polls, Paul depends heavily on independent and liberal crossover votes. Note that his strong 3rd place at the Iowa caucus only involved 14% of the Republican vote, whereas he received 43% of the Independent vote.

Even if you’re not sure about Ron Paul, consider voting for him in the Republican primary in order to bring the national conversation back to war and civil liberties when it comes time for debates with Obama. If you switch your party affiliation to Republican, you can still change your mind later and vote for Obama in the general election. If Ron Paul doesn’t win the nomination, there’s a good chance he’ll run third party or get so many write-ins in the general election that Obama wins anyway.

Some states, like Washington, Illinois, and Texas, have an open primary/caucus, which means you can choose either a Democrat or Republican ballot when you arrive at the polling place. Other states, such as California and Oregon, require that you register well in advance as Republican if you want to vote in the Republican primary. In New Hampshire, 2,273 Democrats failed to switch parties and ended up having to write in Ron Paul—don’t let that be you!

Visit bluerepublican.org, a site set up for Ron Paul liberals, for more information on switching parties.