5 Reasons Progressives Should Treat Ron Paul with Extreme Caution -- 'Cuddly' Libertarian Has Some Very Dark Politics
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This article has been updated.
There are few things as maddening in a maddening political season as the warm and fuzzy feelings some progressives evince for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the Republican presidential candidate. "The anti-war Republican," people say, as if that's good enough.
But Ron Paul is much, much more than that. He's the anti-Civil-Rights-Act Republican. He's an anti-reproductive-rights Republican. He's a gay-demonizing Republican. He's an anti-public education Republican and an anti-Social Security Republican. He's the John Birch Society's favorite congressman. And he's a booster of the Constitution Party, which has a Christian Reconstructionist platform. So, if you're a member of the anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-black, anti-senior-citizen, anti-equality, anti-education, pro-communist-witch-hunt wing of the progressive movement, I can see how he'd be your guy.
Paul first drew the attention of progressives with his vocal opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Coupled with the Texan's famous call to end the Federal Reserve, that somehow rendered him, in the eyes of the single-minded, the GOP's very own Dennis Kucinich. Throw in Paul's opposition to the drug war and his belief that marriage rights should be determined by the states, and Paul seemed suitable enough to an emotionally immature segment of the progressive movement, a wing populated by people with privilege adequate enough to insulate them from the nasty bits of the Paul agenda. (Tough on you blacks! And you, women! And you, queers! And you, old people without money.)
Ron Paul's anti-war stance, you see, comes not from a cry for peace, but from the deeply held isolationism of the far right. Some may say that, when it comes to ending the slaughter of innocents, the ends justify the means. But, in their romance with Ron Paul, what ends do Paulite progressives really seek? The end of war, or simply payback for a president who has let them down. And for that payback some seem all too willing go along with means, that if allowed to come to fruition, involve trading the rights and security of a great many Americans for the promise of non-intervention.
Here's a list -- by no means comprehensive -- of Ron Paul positions and associates that should explain, once and for all, why no self-respecting progressive could possibly sidle up to Paul.
1) Ron Paul on Race
Based on his religious adherence to his purportedly libertarian principles, Ron Paul opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Unlike his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Ron Paul has not even tried to walk back from this position. In fact, he wears it proudly. Here's an excerpt from Ron Paul's 2004 floor speech about the Civil Rights Act, in which he explains why he voted against a House resolution honoring the 40th anniversary of the law:
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business's workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge's defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.
He also said this: "[T]he forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty."
Ron Paul also occasionally appears at events sponsored by the John Birch Society, the segregationist right-wing organization that is closely aligned with the Christian Reconstructionist wing of the religious right.
In 2008, James Kirchick brought to light in the pages of the New Republic a number of newsletters with Paul's name in the title -- Ron Paul's Freedom Report, Ron Paul Political Report, The Ron Paul Survival Report, and The Ron Paul Investment Letter -- that contained baldly racist material, which Paul denied writing.
At NewsOne, Casey Gane-McCalla reported a number of these vitriolic diatribes, including this, on the L.A. riots after the Rodney King verdict: "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began.”
The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.... I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.
2) Ron Paul on Reproductive Rights
The sponsor of a bill to overturn Roe v. Wade, Ron Paul's libertarianism does not apply to women, though it does apply to zygotes. His is a no-exceptions anti-abortion position, essentially empowering a rapist to sire a child with a woman of his choosing. Although Paul attributes his stance on abortion to his background as an ob-gyn physician, it should be noted that most ob-gyns are pro-choice, and that Paul's draconian position tracks exactly with that of his Christian Reconstructionist friends.
While mainstream media, when they're not busy ignoring his presidential campaign in favor of the badly trailing former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, invariably focus on Paul's economic libertarianism, Sarah Posner, writing for the Nation, noted that during his appearances leading up to the Iowa straw poll (in which Paul finished second only to Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minn., by a 200-vote margin), "launched into gruesome descriptions of abortion, a departure from his stump speech focused on cutting taxes, shutting down the Federal Reserve, getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan and repealing the Patriot Act."
3) Ron Paul on LGBT People
While it's true that Paul advocates leaving it to the states to determine whether same-sex marriages should be legally recognized, it's not because he's a friend to LGBT people. Paul's position on same-sex marriage stems from his beliefs about the limits of the federal government's role vis-a-vis his novel interpretation of the Constitution.
In fact, a newsletter called the Ron Paul Poltiical Report, unearthed by Kirchick, shows Paul on a rant against a range of foes and conspiracies, including "the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS," to which Paul parenthetically adds, "my training as a physician helps me see through this one." The passage, which also portends a "coming race war in our big cities," complains of the "perverted" and "pagan" annual romp for the rich and powerful known as Bohemian Grove, and takes aim at the "demonic" Skull and Bones Society at Yale, not to mention the "Israeli lobby," begins with the paranoid claim, "I've been told not to talk, but these stooges don't scare me."
While Paul denied, in 2001, writing most of the scurrilous material that ran, without attribution, in newsletters that bore his name in the title, this passage, according to Jon Hopwood, bears Paul's byline.
4) Ron Paul Calls Social Security Unconstitutional, Compares it to Slavery
Earlier this year, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," Paul declared both Social Security and Medicare to be unconstitutional, essentially saying they should be abolished for the great evil that they are -- just like slavery. Here's the transcript, via ThinkProgress:
["FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS] WALLACE: You talk a lot about the Constitution. You say Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are all unconstitutional.
PAUL: Technically, they are. … There’s no authority [in the Constitution]. Article I, Section 8 doesn't say I can set up an insurance program for people. What part of the Constitution are you getting it from? The liberals are the ones who use this General Welfare Clause. … That is such an extreme liberal viewpoint that has been mistaught in our schools for so long and that's what we have to reverse—that very notion that you're presenting.
WALLACE: Congressman, it's not just a liberal view. It was the decision of the Supreme Court in 1937 when they said that Social Security was constitutional under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
PAUL: And the Constitution and the courts said slavery was legal, too, and we had to reverse that.
5) Ron Paul, Christian Reconstructionists and the John Birch Society
The year 2008 was a telling one in the annals of Ron Paul's ideology. For starters, it was the year in which he delivered the keynote address [video] at the 50th anniversary gala of the John Birch Society, the famous anti-communist, anti-civil-rights organization hatched in the 1950s by North Carolina candy magnate Robert Welch, with the help of Fred Koch, founder of what is now Koch Industries, and a handful of well-heeled friends. The JBS is also remembered for its role in helping to launch the 1964 presidential candidacy of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., and for later backing the segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace in his 1968 third-party presidential bid.
The semi-secular ideology of the John Birch Society -- libertarian market and fiscal theory laced with flourishes of cultural supremacy -- finds its religious counterpart, as Fred Clarkson noted, in the theonomy of Christian Reconstructionism, the right-wing religious-political school of thought founded by Rousas John Rushdoony. The ultimate goal of Christian Reconstructionists is to reconstitute the law of the Hebrew Bible -- which calls for the execution of adulterers and men who have sex with other men -- as the law of the land. The Constitution Party constitutes the political wing of Reconstructionism, and the CP has found a good friend in Ron Paul.
When Paul launched his second presidential quest in 2008, he won the endorsement of Rev. Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist pastor who travels in Christian Reconstructionist circles, though he is not precisely a Reconstructionist himself (for reasons having to do with his interpretation of how the end times will go down). When Paul dropped out of the race, instead of endorsing Republican nominee John McCain, or even Libertarian Party nominee Bob Barr, Paul endorsed Constitution Party presidential nominee Chuck Baldwin (who promised, in his acceptance speech, to uphold the Constitution Party platform, which looks curiously similar to the Ron Paul agenda, right down to the no-exceptions abortion proscription and ending the Fed).
At his shadow rally that year in Minneapolis, held on the eve of the Republican National Convention, Paul invited Constitution Party founder Howard Phillips, a Christian Reconstructionist, to address the crowd of end-the-Fed-cheering post-pubescents. (In his early congressional career, Julie Ingersoll writes in Religion Dispatches, Paul hired as a staffer Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist leader and Rushdoony's son-in-law.)
At a "Pastor's Forum" [video] at Baldwin's Baptist church in Pensacola, Florida, Paul was asked by a congregant about his lack of support for Israel, which many right-wing Christians support because of the role Israel plays in what is known as premillennialist end-times theology. "Premillennialist" refers to the belief that after Jesus returns, according to conditions on the ground in Israel, the righteous will rule. But Christian Reconstructionists have a different view, believing the righteous must first rule for 1,000 years before Jesus will return.
They also believe, according to Clarkson, "that 'the Christians' are the 'new chosen people of God,' commanded to do what 'Adam in Eden and Israel in Canaan failed to do...create the society that God requires.' Further, Jews, once the 'chosen people,' failed to live up to God's covenant and therefore are no longer God's chosen. Christians, of the correct sort, now are."
Responding to Baldwin's congregant, Paul explained, "I may see it slightly differently than others because I think of the Israeli government as different than what I read about in the Bible. I mean, the Israeli government doesn't happen to be reflecting God's views. Some of them are atheist, and their form of government is not what I would support... And there are some people who interpret the chosen people as not being so narrowly defined as only the Jews -- that maybe there's a broader definition of that."
At the John Birch Society 50th anniversary gala, Ron Paul spoke to another favorite theme of the Reconstructionists and others in the religious right: that of the "remnant" left behind after evil has swept the land. (Gary North's publication is called The Remnant Review.) In a dispatch on Paul's keynote address, The New American, the publication of the John Birch Society, explained, "He claimed that the important role the JBS has played was to nurture that remnant and added, 'The remnant holds the truth together, both the religious truth and the political truth.'"
Is there a progressive willing to join that fold?