Ron Paul reminds me of some 30s character actor in black and white. The Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988 has dveloped a fervent cult following that perhaps has developed into a lasting movement.
His small government goals are realisitc but his isolationist ideas are out of touch with reality along with his views on social issues.
He appeals to young voters and American servicemen and women, who recognize the futility of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year, Paul has 10 times the individual donations — totaling $113,739 — from the military as does Mitt Romney. And he has a hundred times more than Newt Gingrich, who sat out the Vietnam War with college deferments and now promises he would strike foes at the slightest provocation.
Grandpa Paul’s argument against “useles wars” is a horse that has already left the barn since former Secretary Gates opined:
“Any future defense secretary who advises the president to send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as Gen. [Douglas] MacArthur so delicately put it,”…
As Ron Paul’s candidacy fades into the twilight of Romney inevitability, or the Gingrich possibility opinions about him from liberal Europeans are interesting and informative.
Ron Paul’s useful idiots on the left
Progressives who make common cause with Paul on US foreign policy ignore his stunningly reactionary views on everything else
Megan Carpentier guardian.co.uk, Friday 6 January 2012 16.33 EST
If you told a liberal in 2008 that progressives ought to give Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul a chance because he was the most anti-war candidate on the ballot, you would have been laughed out of the room – or, more likely, the bar. But in 2012, some prominent (and white, male) progressives are arguing exactly that. What’s changed? Not Ron Paul, that’s for certain.
He’s still the same guy who thinks the US should withdraw from the WTO and the United Nations, and who wants to eliminate foreign aid and the Department of Commerce and all its trade regulation and promotion activities. But, we are told, since he advocates for a complete, immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan (which military intervention, notably, he voted for), he’s a better foreign policy candidate than President Obama.
And, if his newest converts are to be believed, his support for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, his impassioned pleas for a return of Americans’ civil liberties from an overreaching government and his opposition to the drug war are reason enough to give the man a chance. After all, they say, President Obama has not delivered on his promises and supporters’ expectations in those areas, either. But to the women, minorities and LGBT people (and their supporters) who have paid attention to Paul’s record, it comes as little surprise that his most vociferous supporters on the left are pale and male … and their arguments stale.
This is the man who, to trumpet his pro-life agenda in Iowa to social conservatives, released an ad that questions whether repealing Roe v Wade would eliminate women’s abortion rights in enough states, since it would create “abortion tourism” (a situation with which the Irish and the British are already familiar). He opposed the Obama administration’s decision to declare birth control a preventative medicine, which pressures insurance companies to cover it without co-pays. He has said he would allow states to decide same-sex marriage rights for their citizens but keep the Defense of Marriage Act intact – which restricts federal rights, including immigration and social security survivor benefits (among others) to opposite-sex married couples.
He also opposes the US supreme court decision in Lawrence v Texas that decriminalised consensual sodomy in the United States. He opposes the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He wants to restrict birthright citizenship, denying the children of immigrants legal status in the United States if they are born here, voted to force doctors and hospitals to report undocumented immigrants who seek medical treatment, and sponsored bills to declare English the official language of the United States and restrict government communications to English. And that’s just for starters.
Nonetheless, there have been calls by progressives, most notably Glenn Greenwald, to ignore all of that and more, and focus instead on Obama’s policy failings to have “an actual debate on issues of America’s imperialism”. He went on to argue that there are no policy priorities more imperative than those – certainly not abortion, immigration rights, LGBT equality, racial justice or any other aspect of the US’s extensive foreign policy. (Greenwald, who is gay, was in the relatively privileged position of being able to travel to Brazil to circumvent Doma.) And so people whose lives, safety, livelihoods and health depend on them should accept that they are trading their concerns for, say, the lives of Muslim children killed by bombs in Afghanistan.
In fact, many of Ron Paul’s newest supporters on the left look strikingly like the majority of the ones on the right who have been following him for years: the kinds of people whose lives won’t be directly affected by all those pesky social conservative policies Paul would seek to enact as president, either due to their race, class, gender or sexual orientation.
And so, to the women who worry they’d be left without access to reproductive healthcare, immigrants who need to see a doctor or understand a government form (like an immigration form), African Americans who rightly wonder what this country would look like in the absence of a civil rights act, and LGBT people who would like to get married and get access to the rights straight Americans take for granted on a daily basis, all are told, again, to wait: there are more important issues to talk about, more important problems to be solved, more life-or-death situations that we’re simply ignoring out of selfishness.
Seems like there’s a lot of that going around.
Why Ron Paul is dangerous – and why he’s not
By Tom Mendelsohn
The Foreign Desk – International dispatches from Independent correspondents -
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 at 1:21 pm
For followers of US politics, Ron Paul, a 76-year-old congressman from Texas, is a strange figure. He’s running for president, a member of the Republican Party of long standing, yet he’s a man apart from the rest of the field, a near-pariah in much of the media, considered a non-entity by many and a kook by others. And despite all this, he has finished second and third in the Republican presidential primaries so far, rising quietly to crush establishment favourites like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.
You may be asking who he is and what he stands for. You may be wondering why he’s so comparatively unheralded, and why he’s not considered in the same serious breath as the opponents he is so effortlessly leaving for dust. You may even be wondering whether he’s a threat; in short, he’s a libertarian. You’ve probably heard the word, but you may not know what one of those really is.
Once upon a time, when Facebook first launched in Britain, it asked you for your political affiliation in a neat little drop-down. This contained the usuals: conservative, liberal, communist, etc. There was another option that loads of my friends picked at first – ‘libertarian’. These were all good lefties, and they had all made the assumption that this unfamiliar word made them sound leftier than left. They were wrong. Though it looked like a higher-falutin’ and therefore stronger version of the word ‘liberal’, it took a politics undergraduate to point out that it actually meant something different, and unless they were paranoid, far-right survivalists, they should probably change their preferences.
It’s not really a surprise that these otherwise bright, hyper-informed young students made the mistake though. Many of them still would, seven years later. Libertarianism is a curiously American affliction, which never really took hold on the British political psyche. We may not be as left-wing a country as the intelligentsia or I would like, but we’ve been weaned on a solid welfare state and we do not share the radical mean streak of US politics, or ‘rugged individualism’ as their furious circumlocution would have it.
Radical and mean libertarianism most certainly is. It’s the politics of pure selfishness, even more than Thatcherism. It’s an economic theory based in the main on the objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, a Russian émigré to the US in the early 20th Century, who bought wholesale into the American Dream, and whose ideas were basically an attempt to legitimise her overwhelming sense of superiority. Simply put, objectivism states that creators, innovators and other ‘great men’ owe nothing to the human heard whom they supposedly support, and that they are justified in exploiting them.
Applied economically, it amounts to denying people a living wage purely by dint of the fact that the industrialists were savvy or lucky enough to make their money. It’s all dressed up in portentous language about personal liberty and the rights of the individual, but in practice, libertarian economics is mostly about giving rich men the freedom to get richer without any government to regulate them into giving rights, protections or dignity to their employees.
It is exactly as cruel and unusual a philosophy as it sounds. Libertarianism is to conservatism what communism is to social democracy; both exist on the left-right continuum in a certain way, but they’re both so extreme they’ve fallen off the edge. Libertarianism is the rightist id pushed to its logical conclusion, the politics of pure selfishness.
And yet it casts a long shadow over American politics. Ever a rightist’s paradise, the philosophy is the American Dream distilled – make loads of money without worrying about the trampled poor.
Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and therefore one of the most influential economists in the last 30 years, was a Randian devotee, a longstanding member of her salon. The GOP endorses libertarian economic principles whether it admits to it or not, and it dominates the whole discourse. So while Paul is labelled a kook by the establishment, it’s only really because he’s honest about what he wants.
He is still dangerous though, not least because his ideological commitment to textbook libertarianism prompts his desire to abolish institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and even the Federal Reserve, while advocating a return to the Gold Standard. His rivals have pledged similar things, just to keep time with the slavering loons who’ll be voting for them, but they don’t have Paul’s manic enthusiasm.
The real danger from Paul, though, is his religion. God was never a part of Rand’s blueprint. She rejected it, most likely because it’s easier to justify madcap selfishness if you don’t have a cosmic chaperone breathing down your neck. But her vision has been mingled thoroughly into the American political bloodstream, whose other great pathogen is incessant, militaristic God-bothering. Paul represents one outcome of this miscegenation – an objectivist theocrat, welding two of America’s ugliest tendencies under one oxymoronic umbrella.
So while he hullabaloos libertarian principals like ‘States’ Rights’ – taking as many governing decisions from the Federal Government as possible – when challenged about his stance on abortion, it boils down to allowing the more religious southern states the legal right to do what they want: banning it entirely, alongside contraception for good measure.
This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have any good ideas. He wants to slash the military and bring the troops home, for instance, even as his opponents compete to sound the most bloodthirsty on Iran. This is why so many college-aged Americans love him, and it would be a great idea if he wanted to divert all this extra money into healthcare or social security or bridge-building, rather than gutting these plans too.
But here’s why he isn’t dangerous. He’s an ideologue, and pure, unmasked libertarianism isn’t to the taste of the majority of the US. It’s too cruel, even for them. Paul is polling as well as he ever will. His passionate 23% in New Hampshire is everyone who supports him, and he just doesn’t have the appeal to win centrists to his callous cause. He has a hyper-involved fanbase, largely young men doomed to stalk the earth as perpetual 17-year-old boys, totally blind to social reality, all howling at once about their right to smoke cannabis. They’re obsessed with returning the country back to how it was meant to be in the Constitution, as though a 300-year-old document written by people unable to predict the future could ever be a sound basis for 21st Century government.
This article has been edited to change Paul’s age to 76, and to say that he actually finished third rather than second in the Iowa caucus.