Politics

The Ron Paul Challenge for Progressives

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"Barack Obama — advocates views on these issues (indeed, has taken action on these issues) that liberals and progressives have long claimed to find repellent, even evil."

As conservative voters in Iowa get set to deliver their verdict on whether the GOP should have at its head someone with a long and clear philosophy about reducing the size of government, some liberal commenters around the country are grappling with a similar conundrum: What to say about a presidential candidate who wants to end foreign and domestic wars and protect civil liberties against the imperial presidency?

While there is plenty of material in the don't be fooled, he's really a moral monster category, here's a roundup of progressives defending the Texas congressmen from their ideological fellow travelers.

Glenn Greenwald, Salon:

Whatever else one wants to say, it is indisputably true that Ron Paul is the only political figure with any sort of a national platform — certainly the only major presidential candidate in either party — who advocates policy views on issues that liberals and progressives have long flamboyantly claimed are both compelling and crucial. The converse is equally true: the candidate supported by liberals and progressives and for whom most will vote — […]

Ron Paul's candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America's Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it's one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism:

Modern liberalism is a mixture of two elements. One is a support of Federal power – what came out of the late 1930s, World War II, and the civil rights era where a social safety net and warfare were financed by Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the RFC, and human rights were enforced by a Federal government, unions, and a cadre of corporate, journalistic and technocratic experts (and cheap oil made the whole system run.) America mobilized militarily for national priorities, be they war-like or social in nature. And two, it originates from the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam era, with its distrust of centralized authority mobilizing national resources for what were perceived to be immoral priorities. When you throw in the recent financial crisis, the corruption of big finance, the increasing militarization of society, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the collapse of the moral authority of the technocrats, you have a big problem. Liberalism doesn't really exist much within the Democratic Party so much anymore, but it also has a profound challenge insofar as the rudiments of liberalism going back to the 1930s don't work.

This is why Ron Paul can critique the Federal Reserve and American empire, and why liberals have essentially no answer to his ideas, arguing instead over Paul having character defects. Ron Paul's stance should be seen as a challenge to better create a coherent structural critique of the American political order. It's quite obvious that there isn't one coming from the left, otherwise the figure challenging the war on drugs and American empire wouldn't be in the Republican primary as the libertarian candidate.

This is just an outstanding look, Bob

Robert Scheer, Truthdig:

It is official now. The Ron Paul campaign, despite surging in the Iowa polls, is not worthy of serious consideration, according to a New York Times editorial; "Ron Paul long ago disqualified himself for the presidency by peddling claptrap proposals like abolishing the Federal Reserve, returning to the gold standard, cutting a third of the federal budget and all foreign aid and opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

That last item, along with the decade-old racist comments in the newsletters Paul published, is certainly worthy of criticism. But not as an alternative to seriously engaging the substance of Paul's current campaign—his devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.

Paul is being denigrated as a presidential contender even though on the vital issues of the economy, war and peace, and civil liberties, he has made the most sense of the Republican candidates. And by what standard of logic is it "claptrap" for Paul to attempt to hold the Fed accountable for its destructive policies? That's the giveaway reference to the raw nerve that his favorable prospects in the Iowa caucuses have exposed. Too much anti-Wall Street populism in the heartland can be a truly scary thing to the intellectual parasites residing in the belly of the beast that controls American capitalism.

Coleen Rowley and John Walsh, Des Moines Register:

There is today only one anti-war, anti-corruption, pro-Constitution, pro-civil liberties candidate for president in either party who stands squarely against expanding military empire and for democracy. That candidate is Ron Paul. Like prairie anti-interventionists Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern and Harold Hughes in an earlier era, Paul is a maverick in his own party. He believes in an adequate force to defend America but not 1 cent for wars of aggression.

Tactically it makes sense for anti-war activists to vote in the Republican caucuses/primaries for Paul. If he wins or does well in Iowa and New Hampshire, then the questions of war and peace will appear on the national scene. If Paul goes on to win his party's nomination, these questions will finally make their appearance in the general election.

And if Paul wins the presidency, hundreds of wasteful overseas military bases will be dismantled. Our costly, counterproductive military empire could hopefully be reigned in before the blowback worsens.

Reason on Ron Paul here.