Ron Paul

January 22, 2012

Ron Paul is a very interesting figure in American politics. Progressives love his foreign policy but hate his economic plans and his positions on domestic issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and health care. Conservatives, on the other hand, love Paul’s domestic agenda of reducing the size of the government, lowering taxes, and abolishing the Federal Reserve, but they seem to hate his non-interventionist foreign policy. So Paul has been received differently by different political groups, but even among liberals and progressives, Paul has generated a significant amount of controversy. Consider Kathy Pollit’s recent essay, which outlines the reasons why liberals should despise Paul or consider Chomsky’s brief and dismissive response when asked about him. On the other hand, Mike Whitney and Paul Craig Roberts argue that Ron Paul should be chosen, not only as the Republican candidate, but also elected President–although no one, as far as I can tell, actually thinks that could happen. But of all the pieces I’ve read on Paul lately, the two best come from Matt Stoller and Glenn Greenwald, who not only defend Paul but nicely show how he  exposes many of the flaws and the hypocrisy in contemporary liberal thought. 

One point on which all of the authors agree is that Ron Paul comes with considerable baggage, some of which is anathema to liberals. But, as Greenwald notes, what candidate doesn’t? Consider, for instance, Obama. A second point that most these authors would also likely agree on is that on many of the most important issues–like American foreign policy, Israel-Palestine, Iran, corporate welfare, etc–Ron Paul is virtually the only candidate with the right positions. In some cases he’s the only candidate even willing to talk about the issues–like standing up against Israel or praising rather than executing Bradley Manning.

The other thing that Ron Paul is doing–admirably in my view–is forcing liberals to reconsider their commitment to BIG government, which many assume is necessary to protect individual liberties and counteract the harmful social and environmental effects of corporate power. Many liberals will reject Paul out of hand because of his desire to downsize government and eliminate many of the services or benefits that Americans receive from their federal government (which in fact are very few). However, given the role that corporations play in the political process–in funding and electing the politicians they want–it seems that for the most part BIG government doesn’t counterbalance corporate power but rather strengthens and accelerates its harmful influence on society. The recent bailout of the banks is a paradigmatic example of this. 

Ron Paul is the most intriguing American presidential candidate right now, not because he is a great guy with all the right policies, but because he is the only one who is willing to take a stand against the military industrial complex, against Israel, and against corporate welfare, which seem to go right to the heart of America’s problems.

The follow ad campaign, funded by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel, is called “We Can do Better than Ron Paul.”  All things considered, I doubt that very much. And I think that any candidate who receives this sort of attention from the Israeli lobby deserves to be taken seriously.

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