Blogging for Michigan has reported that Ron Paul–a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination–has opened a new Michigan office in Flint. The Flint office will be joined by a Detroit office on Saturday. This comes on top Paul’s breaking his own fundraising record set back in November, raising almost $6 million in 24 hours earlier this month.
Perhaps more than any other candidate, Ron Paul has generated considerable excitement on the Internet. Paul’s supporters and many election observers have attributed this to Paul’s opposition to the Iraq War. Indeed, Paul has made opposition to the Iraq War a central aspect of his campaign. Unlike the majority of the Democratic Party candidates claiming to be “antiwar“, Paul voted against the war in 2002 and states clearly on his website:
“The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Moreover, Paul’s supporters have actively mobilized at recent antiwar protests, notably at the regional antiwar march held in October in Chigao where the Paul campaign had a large presence.
Due in large part to his opposition to the Iraq War as well as the fact that he is seen as “outside the system” in many ways because of his willingness to take stands without regard to their political consequences-unlike the scripted actions of the majority of the major party candidates-Paul has gotten some support from both the antiwar movement and the larger progressive and left movements. Joshua Frank, an editor of Dissident Voice, typifies this left-leaning support of Paul, arguing in “An Open Letter to the Antiwar Left” that the left should make common cause with Paul and support him due to his position against the war. Frank argues that Paul’s success in fundraising-now with millions in his campaign fund-would be an invaluable asset to the antiwar left.
However, supporting Paul would come at a price for the antiwar movement-Paul’s grassroots populism is reactionary and largely antithetical to the values and goals of the left. While Frank does acknowledge this, stating, “whether we agree or disagree with Paul’s libertarian solution to every problem, we cannot disregard that his campaign is exploding owing to a broad coalition of people who oppose the war on terror.” He minimizes the extent to which Paul’s political goals are most certainly not of the left. Unfortunately, Frank is not the only one doing this-the so-called progressives and leftists that are supporting Paul because of his antiwar stance have failed to look deeper into Paul’s politics.
On trade, progressives might see more to like in Paul, as he calls for the United States to “withdraw from any organizations and trade deals that infringe upon the freedom and independence of the United States of America” including neoliberal trade agreements from CAFTA to the WTO arguing that they “transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites.” Progressives might not agree with his opposition to the United Nations or the International Criminal Court (ICC), but his opposition to neoliberal trade agreements is refreshing. He also opposes the USA PATRIOT Act, a position taken by many progressives.
However, looking at other issues makes Paul a very unappealing candidate. On immigration, Paul advocates a militarized border, arguing, “we must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country” before any discussion of immigration reform is considered. He further opposes any form of “welfare”-from healthcare to education-for “illegal aliens” and calls for an end to “birthright citizenship.”
Paul also calls for significant reductions in taxes, which would apparently be paid for by cutting spending-most likely social services. He supports the elimination of the Department of Education and advocates legislation that would provide parents with a tax credit of $5,000 per student per year to cover the cost of attendance at a private, parochial, religious, or home school. Paul expresses particularly strong support for home schools. Similarly, he calls for a more competitive health care system and seeks less government intervention in health-related matters. So-called free market solutions would also be applied to the environment with Paul arguing that polluters would not pollute because it would not make financial sense under such a system. Finally, on abortion, Paul is pro-life and supports legislation defining life as beginning at conception and negating the effects of Roe vs. Wade.
Paul’s views on “racism” are equally disturbing. Paul argues that racism stems from society’s hostility towards individualism and that it originates from “bigotry”–a “problem of the heart”-which “we cannot change… by passing more laws and regulations.” He states that:
“Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called “diversity” actually perpetuate racism.
The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence – not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.”
The idea that free-market capitalism is the solution to racism ignores the history and reality of racism in the United States, but it’s typical of the solutions that Paul offers on a host of issues. He is essentially arguing that people of oppressed groups must pull themselves up by their bootstraps-as the saying goes-and succeed regardless of their skin color. In a racist society, that simply will not work (and has not in the past).
Further complicating Paul’s views on race are his associations with the racist right. Paul’s campaign has been endorsed by a variety of white supremacists involved with Stormfront.org and the National Alliance. Some have actively organized support for Ron Paul’s candidacy, while Don Black, the founder of the white supremacist Stormfront.org, has donated $500 to the Ron Paul campaign which the campaign has refused to return. Recently, a photograph surfaced showing Ron Paul with Stormfront.org founder Don Black:
While Paul cannot control who endorses his campaign, racist quotes attributed to Paul have circulated for some years and make the involvement of white supremacists even more troublesome. In a 1992 Ron Paul newsletter, an article attributed to Paul contained the following quotes:
“…our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists — and they can be identified by the color of their skin.”
“Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action…. Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
“We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”
In a 1996 article in the Houston Chronicle, Paul was also quoted saying:
“We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.”
“If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.”
Paul has attempted deny the quotes, stating:
“They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn’t come from me directly, but they campaign aides said that’s too confusing. ‘It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it.'”
Unfortunately, Paul has failed to respond to the other connections to white supremacy in his campaign. For this reason, and his political positions, it should be clear that Paul is no friend of the antiwar, progressive, or left movements in this country. To be sure, we should take his candidacy seriously and attempt to understand the reasons for his popularity, but we must not embrace his reactionary candidacy. Instead, we should counter his appeal by offering progressive/left solutions to the issues on which Paul’s positions are appealing.