Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'm a Secular Progressive - Ron Paul doesn't Scare Me

It's always disappointing to me how predictably insular and myopic opposition to Ron Paul is from the left.  Progressives largely support his foreign policy position of non-aggression and diplomacy and he remains among the only Republicans who want to end military occupation and bring the troops home (something like 800 military bases in over 100 countries is frequently cited).  These are positions that institutional Democrats pretend to be interested in on the campaign trail but clearly have no intention to uphold in office.  Paul is also an outspoken critic of government collusion with the financial industry as well as the corrupting influence money has on the political process - the hallmark issues emerging from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

So what criticism is leveraged at Paul?  In debates I've had on this subject over the past year, it is always divisive wedge issues like abortion, government policy regarding race relations, or personal religious beliefs  (source).  And instead of producing convincing video clips or analysis that succinctly illustrate the objection that liberals have to Ron Paul, the rebuttal always comes in the form of obscure, cherry-picked quotes from an Internet echo chamber with limited and outdated source material.  Clearly, this is the rebuttal of last resort because more substantive objections do not exist.

I have watched dozens if not hundreds of interviews and debates Ron Paul has done over the years.  I remain in agreement with him on over 90% of his positions - far higher than Barack Obama and certainly higher than the rest of the GOP Freakshow.  And I'm a pro-choice atheist.  The matters that continue to be raised in the "scary Ron Paul quotes" genre remain marginal and trivial in light of the very real issues our country is facing - none of which include the subject matter raised in these spurious red herring arguments.

Meanwhile, the people of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and other countries continue to suffer under the oppression of the military industrial complex by way of  predator drone strikes, bombing campaigns, collateral damage from kill/capture raids, and similar injustices. Further, the people of the United States watch their civil liberties erode on all fronts while the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar continues to decline from Keynesian economic policy.  It is as though the pitcher of Obama Kool-Aid must be protected at all costs, even as President Obama continues defying the core electoral mandates of his base (ending war, restoring personal liberty, addressing reckless corporatism, etc.).

So should an atheist like myself be scared by obscure Ron Paul quotes?  To the contrary, secular progressives should be much more concerned with Barack Obama:
  • As with virtually every other politician including Ron Paul, Obama is also a Christian (despite xenophobic assertions by the Birthers).  Yet Obama's views on same sex marriage remain "evolving" (source) while Paul flatly stated in a 2007 debate that he believes all associations - including same sex marriage - remain voluntary and should be religious functions rather than state functions (source and source).

  • Paul also supports gays and lesbians serving openly in the military - much to the distress of Christian conservatives (source).

  • Conversely, Obama also continues to support the death penalty (source) while Ron Paul has come to believe it should no longer be applied (source).

  • Paul wants to end the disastrous "war on drugs" (source) while Obama continues to escalate it (source).

  • Obama has now set historical precedent by assassinating American citizens without due process of law under secret government panels (source) while Paul vehemently opposes this practice and insists doing so is an impeachable offense (source).

  • With deep opposition from his base, Obama uncritically renewed the PATRIOT Act (source) - a vile hallmark of the Bush Administration that liberals almost universally decried.  Ron Paul has been consistently opposed to it (source).

  • And obviously, Obama has continued and in some cases expanded Bush-era military policies  (source) while Paul remains steadfastly opposed to them and has emerged as a true champion of peace (source).

Progressives can wring their hands and make excuses about these and other Obama betrayals, but the unhappy fact remains that their champion has been bought and paid for by Wall Street (source) - which goes a long way in explaining why Obama has shrugged off the notion of prosecuting anyone from the 2008 financial melt-down - the largest theft of capital in modern history.

Once upon a recent time, progressives cared about these issues.  And I thought they cared about the issues more than party politics.  I certainly do.  And that is why, on these and many other issues, Barack Obama has been the Left's Big Letdown - yet so many remain opposed to Ron Paul for little more than fear-mongering claims of theocracy.  But personality politics are irrelevant.  What matter are governing philosophies and legislative actions - of which progressives share far more with Ron Paul than many Democrats (including Obama).

So I will take my chances with Ron Paul's personal beliefs on Creationism - particularly since he has never said anything approaching the state-mandated teaching of it in the classroom.  While Ricks Santorum and Perry regularly bring their religious views to the forefront of their campaigns, Ron Paul's religious convictions rarely if ever enter his campaign platform and that's the way I like it.  The scattered and obscure objections that are frequently presented against Ron Paul by the left don't scare me - and of course the protestations from neo-conservatives are why I will further support him in the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary.

If you haven't yet, you should, too:


  1. Ok, let me start with a general observation. One of the most frequent mistakes made in political debate (and debate in general) is assuming that if someone objects to person/issue A, they must then support person/issue B. There's no room left for subtlety or nuance. Your piece assumes that those who object to Paul support Obama.

    It is also often assumed that if I am against person A overall, that I disagree with every position person A holds. Again, not true. Just because I think Ron Paul is a dangerous, stupid, immoral and treasonous boob, doesn't mean I disagree with every position he holds. It just means that I am not willing to accept those things about him that I disagree with in favor of those few things about him with which I agree.

    I have many objections to Ron Paul. They range from the specific (he's pretty fundamentalist, has questionable views on race and is incredibly politically ignorant) to the hyperbolic, general & inflammatory: he's clearly a whack job.

    Paul has stated his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act. Two of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed in the country.

    Global Warming: Paul has said that climate change is not a "major problem threatening civilization"

    Paul has horrible positions on religion, abortion, racial, economic and other issues. The man is a simpleton. He seems to have no idea how the world or politics work.

    All of this comes down to the one, major trope of Paul's positions: Federal Government Bad. State Governments: Good. He's a States Rights guy. If he had his way, Alabama could outlaw the teaching of the civil right movement in schools. Kansas should be free to teach creationism. His answer to almost EVERY question is: Let the states decide.

    Well, that's not the way the country works and it's not the way it should work. "States Rights" was the reason used in favor of slavery. The reason we have a Federal government is that sometimes the wills of the states are not good for the country as a whole and sometimes those that are ruling a state are not doing well by the residents of those states.

    Example: I don't care if every member of the Alabama, Kansas or Texas state government and every member of the populations of those states votes to teach creationism or reinstitute slavery, they're WRONG. There are absolute rights and wrongs in this world and allowing a relatively small, backwards and ignorant group of people to make decisions for an entire state on certain issues is nothing short of insane.

    Do I think marijuana should be legal? HELL yes I do. With all my heart. Ditto for abortion and gay marriage. Do I think we should start letting states decide everything? HELL no. What happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned and Kanas decides that any woman who has an abortion should be executed or spend 20 years in jail?

    What about if Texas legalized pot but the penalty for selling to someone under 21 is 45 years in prison?

    Blanket support of "states rights" in every case where the Constitution doesn't specifically address the issue is an untenable, ignorant position. Of course the constitution doesn't mention abortion. It didn't mention leeches, whooping cough, splints or any other medical procedure. It was also written when only white, male property owners could vote. Should the states decide on those issues, too?

    Paul repeatedly says things like "Under the 9th and 10th amendments, all authority over matters not specifically addressed in the Constitution remains with state legislatures. Therefore the federal government has no authority whatsoever to involve itself in the abortion issue." Air travel? Industrial pollution? CAFE standards? Aiport security? The Internet? International financial matters? Global thermonuclear war? All of that should be decided upon by the states?

    He's really not a very bright man, basically.

  2. Thanks, Mark. I will assume by your omission from any of the points I've listed that you agree with them. If I have misread your previous comments and you in fact support assassination of American citizens without due process, the PATRIOT Act, ongoing military aggression, and banning same sex marriage or openly gay service members, I apologize. But I'm pretty sure you (and Ron Paul) are on the same page here.

    Your point about the false dichotomy is well-taken - and indeed I share that objection in the sense that we have a two party political system that de-facto situates the electorate in diametrically opposed positions when it turns out they share many common values. However, since you have indicated previously that 1) you do not support any other GOP presidential candidate instead of Paul and 2) you believe it would be "counter productive" for Democrats to hold a presidential primary of their own, I can more or less deduce that Barack Obama is your candidate of choice. If I am wrong on this, please propose an alternative. I don't see any left for you.

    Like Ron Paul, I believe from firsthand experience that local governance is the most responsive and national (or international) governance is the least responsive. Obviously some issues have to be handled on a national level - as outlined in the Constitution. However, it should stand to reason that resident of Ohio, California, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, etc. have somewhat different concerns and values. We already have a hodge-podge of states rights contradictions on gun control which are arguably violations of the 2nd Amendment, but few progressives seem to care about this. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has just trampled over the rights of a multitude states that have legalized medical marijuana.

    Statewide debates over science, English, and history curricula are nothing new and offend people across the political spectrum who object to having their child taught contrary to their values. I understand this controversy well and recognize that as long as schools are publicly funded, there will be heated debates over how a one size fits all government school will address the wide-ranging needs and interests of its diverse student body. If parents had more choices in their childrens' educations, including charter, magnet, private, and homeschooling, there would be no controversy here - especially if everyone weren't forced to pay for government services they objected to.

    And when all else fails, state laws and policies are more easily overturned than federal ones.

    What is often missed in discussions like this is a basic acknowledgement of what the philosophy of individual liberty, of which Ron Paul is a modern day champion, even represents. Most of the bugaboos you have raised - especially the institution of slavery - is patently wrong because every individual has a right to self-ownership. This means that whether YOU think marijuana is ethical to smoke or not, whether YOU think homosexuality is ethical or not, whether YOU think abortion is ethical or not, individuals have a right to decide what to do with their own bodies and their own lives. Yes, I said abortion and yes, I disagree with Ron Paul and many libertarians on this issue because I do not believe the unborn are entitled to self-ownership. I wrote about that here:

  3. Ron Paul is not a genius among men. But it turns out that towering intellect is of little use when it is corruptible, inconsistent, concessionary, unprincipled, and mostly interested in political expedience. Ron Paul has one of the most consistent voting records in Congress and has garnered massive grassroots support precisely because he has resolve, character, and principles. It is becoming increasingly clear to most progressives that Barack Obama has virtually none of these qualities driving his intellect. And so long as we are talking about a presidential race between the two parties that dominate American politics, I am afraid this is the dichotomy we are reduced to.

    PS: I'm not some Ron Paul devotee who fails to acknowledge his faults as I see them. I remain a huge fan of "left-leaning" politicians like Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders. But they aren't running for president and Ron Paul is. In terms of ending the military industrial complex and rampant corporatism - the issues I care most about - Ron Paul is a pragmatic choice whose superiority over Barack Obama is becoming increasingly obvious... not just to me, but to many who want peace and prosperity for all.

  4. A) DOMA is no longer being prosecuted and DADT has been repealed. Next.

    "Most of the bugaboos you have raised - especially the institution of slavery - is patently wrong because every individual has a right to self-ownership."

    Really? Who says? Is that in the constitution? Nope. Therefore Ron Paul would disagree with you.

    Look, as I have said, the bottom line for me has nothing to do with specific issues. It has to do with believe systems and I think that Paul's are nuts. Crazy. Coo coo for cocoa puffs.

    States rights is an untenable position, full stop. His negatives (ignorance, racism and fundamentalist religion) FAR outweigh his positives, for me.

  5. DOMA and DADT are points on which progressives agree with Paul. That is more than one can say about most GOP candidates.

    Sayeth not the Constitution but rather the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Self-ownership is self-evident and Ron Paul as well as any libertarian knows this. It is only among far left socialist circles that individuals don't own themselves but are enslaved by a "social contract" that obligates them to subjugate their liberty to a collective hierarchy. However, if you can find evidence that Ron Paul supports slavery, please let me know. Until then, we have his conversation with Tim Russert to refer to:

    Since you have yet to suggest any other alternative to a GOP candidate or a primary challenger for the Democratic nomination, then it's off to the races for Obama 2012!