Why progressives should not support Ron Paul


Ron Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas, has become a living legend for many due to his outspoken libertarian views. Perhaps many of his followers are attracted by his vocal drug-legalization views. Either way, he has attracted a multi-generational following that occasionally borders on cult-like status. They have been coined the "apostles of Ron Paul" by Mother Jones magazine.

Some of Paul's views have drawn the support of progressives who might otherwise be diametrically opposed to his Republican status. For example, he has steadfastly been against our massive deployments in the Middle East, as well as opposes the encroachments on our civil liberties found in the Patriot Act. However he holds several core policy positions, ranging from opposition to social programs to ignoring climate change, that should send progressives running.

Paul holds to the right-wing view that America is a Christian, rather than secular, nation. He steadfastly opposes the concept of the separation of church and state which has historically been viewed as being enshrined in the First Amendment's "establishment clause." Instead, he claimed in a 2003 article that "the notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers." He argued that, "the Founding Fathers envisioned a robustly Christian" nation.

Paul's supporters have tried to promote the notion that his positions are pro-LGBT in his own, libertarian way. However, his libertarian dogma, which his supporters claim treats lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in a "live and let live" fashion, does not advance LGBT rights in any way. While he opposed the draconian federal amendment banning marriage equality, he stated that he would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and he is not against individual states practicing discrimination against their gay and lesbian residents.

Paul opposed the ruling in Lawrence v. Texas which banned prohibitions on sodomy, whose real targets are any gay or lesbian activity, claiming that the Constitution provides no protections for those wishing to engage in "sodomy." This seems surprising from a man who wishes to legalize heroin - hardly a practice protected by the Constitution..

Moreover, Paul opposed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) which would have prohibited employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Additionally, he opposed expanding hate crimes protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

It's not just gays and lesbians that Paul seems unwilling to protect against discrimination, Paul says he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended racially motivated voter suppression and segregation in schools and businesses. He argues that it "reduced civil liberty" and violates private property rights. In 2006 he voted against renewing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which helps to remove barriers to minority voting, again citing property rights, and claiming that it was too costly.

If that hasn't turned off progressives, perhaps a look at his economic policies will. Paul supported a 10 percent flat income tax during his 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference speech. The big beneficiaries of that would be the richest people in our country, who would have their taxes drastically reduced. Not only would this completely defund the majority of all social and educational programs provided by the government, it would also likely increase the income disparity that has been exacerbated since the onset of "supply-side" economics. In another seemingly populist assist to the super-rich, he often proposes abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

Not surprisingly, Paul opposes regulations on industries, even the financial industry whose greed and lack of oversight led us to the economic crisis we have been dealing with for the past two years. According to Paul and the right wing, regulations are burdens rather than consumer protections, and the much hailed "free market" will regulate itself. This ignores the fact that the financial industry had steadily been in a state of deregulation for over two decades, and look what happened.

Calling anti-trust laws "much more harmful than helpful," Paul opposes any federal regulations against corporate monopolies. He also opposes the federal minimum wage, and opposes Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation ensuring women are paid equally to men.

Speaking of the free market, Paul also opposed the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming that it is an "intrusion into private property rights." He again claims that the free market will punish those who discriminate.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Paul believes that the wildly popular and successful Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs are unconstitutional and should be abolished.

What else does Paul believe should be abolished? The departments of Energy, Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Labor are all on his list. He also called the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) "bad economics" and "bad morality," claiming that the government helping communities after natural disasters is  a "moral hazard" because it says that the "government is always going to take care of us when we do dumb things."

Paul also opposes the notion that man-made climate change is a "major problem," despite the science supporting the phenomenon, and claims that the Environmental Protection Agency harms the economy.

Following along with the GOP's open season on family planning services, Paul proudly states that he, if president, would veto any funding to Planned Parenthood and what he calls "family planning schemes."

Overall, a cursory look at his record should be enough for any progressive American to be turned off to Congressman Ron Paul. While we may applaud his antiwar stance and his opposition to the "war on drugs" and the Patriot Act, it would be folly to ignore the largely regressive nature of his politics.

Photo: Ron Paul addresses the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Gage Skidmore CC 2.01

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  • Wow- so much discussion- that's awesome :)
    Its always nice to have a little lively debate on here.

    To clarify: I, nor do I believe many progressives, believe that Ron Paul isn't genuine. I actually believe he is one of the most straight-forward and honest politicians in the government. I also support many of his policies.

    In terms of how I portrayed his positions on LGBT rights. The crux of the argument is that his libertarian arguments wouldn't do much to actually make progress on LGBT equality. Sometimes it actually takes the government to come in to end institutional discrimination. While I don't fault his honesty, I (speaking from personal experience) don't have faith that his policies would actually improve anything substantially.

    If I wasn't gay, if I wasn't an atheist, if I didn't work with low income people who depend on medicaid and federal assistance, if I wasn't a product of higher graduate education (with the help of low-interest fed loans), and if I wasn't pro-choice- I'd probably be all for Ron Paul.

    I'll admit- he is the most straight-forward canidate currently in the running- I just wish that there was someone with his sincerity running from the left.

    Thanks again (to the polite ones)

    Posted by Ryan Ebersole, 07/06/2011 5:38pm (4 years ago)

  • I love how this article is written in a sense that assumes that the core of any ideology other than corporatism has been expressed over the last few decades. Sorry Gage, but progressives WILL lean toward Paul when they finally realize he's the only politician who's serious about ending our foreign policy, which is the root of ALL of our problems.

    The day a voter sides with a theoretic ideal rather than ending the bloodshed overseas is a SAD one.

    Posted by Progressives/Conservatives Don't Exist Anyway, 07/06/2011 3:32pm (4 years ago)

  • joe, perhaps you meant to say :

    "We live in a neo-feudalist dictatorship where counterfeit cash controls everything including politicians and the corporations. The American people have struggled for over a century to win some modest protections against this mafia. Ron Paul wants to erase all this corruption and hand all the power to the people. complete totalitarian rule is not greater than freedom and democracy or barbarism."

    Posted by pipi, 07/06/2011 3:16pm (4 years ago)

  • wow, I have not seen such animated conversation in response to a PW article in ages! Bravo to the author and to everyone for checking out the PW, and for responding.

    It's commonly said that the far right and the far left meet up as though reaching toward each other from opposite sides of a globe. Ryan Ebersole has succinctly skewered that hypothesis. On one or two points there is some convergence, but the rest is in some other galaxy entirely.

    I'm stickin' with the union!

    Posted by Eric, 07/06/2011 3:14pm (4 years ago)

  • Seems to me, and judging by a lot of the comments here, Ron Paul's main role is to confuse regular folks and steer people away from fighting for our real needs.

    He opposes family planning and wants to defund programs like Planned Parenthood. What's up with that?

    Opposes the Americans with Disabilities act? What's up with that? By the way, that's a law that has helped a lot of non-disabled people, including moms with baby strollers and delivery guys with hand trucks who now have ramps to use, thanks to the ADA.

    Opposes the federal minimum wage? Hello??

    As far as I'm concerned, he's no friend of mine or folks like me.

    Posted by Sue, 07/06/2011 1:54pm (4 years ago)

  • Let me take a different approach: first consider what was said about Dr Paul having inspired this devoted "cult like" following which you would assume he could expand even more if he simply had more airtime (and I hope there's no argument that he gets much less media attention compared to other candidates). So him being such a potent threat to take votes from the left, my question is this: If Dr Paul is this big corporate shill and his policies would be so great for them - why don't they support him? Why does the mainstream republican media paint him as a crazy fringe candidate if their corporate overlords would love a Ron Paul presidency?
    Just think it through - maybe you guys are wrong about this. Read or watch a few videos of Dr Paul and hear his views and answers from him, not biased second hand info from a biased media run by these same "evil corporations"

    Posted by DM, 07/06/2011 12:35pm (4 years ago)

  • Pual doesn't receive corporate support because he is against subsidies to large industries, mainly to the pharmacuetical companies. Understanding how our "system" works I know that many corporations own what are called preferred stock, meaning they own certain amounts of a certain company. They receive dividends for owning the stock, dividends are based on corporate profits. Having an industry that is subsidized raises corporate profits therefore enabling stock owners, mainly other corporations, to earn more for owning their stock. That is just one example.

    Posted by Tyler, 07/06/2011 12:33pm (4 years ago)

  • One more thing,

    I'd like to add to my last comment that the moral hazard philosophy applies to corporations. Corporations exist only because of their benefit to not deal with risk and loss. And it only exists because the State grants a business the rights of an individual (corpus=body).

    In a truly free society, such as the one Ron Paul advocates--which is inspired by the Austrian School of Economics, a school radically different than the Milton Friedmans and Greenspans.--a corporation could not even exist! A corporation is the child of government intervention into a market. Therefore, if the market was truly free, there would be no such creation of the monster we call a corporation.


    Posted by Philip, 07/06/2011 11:41am (4 years ago)

  • Ryan,

    I appreciate this article because there are, of course, differences between the outlook of libertarians, libertarian-conservatives, Constitutionalists, and progressives.

    If I may, I'd like to comment on a few points that you made with which I have some disagreement.

    To be pro-LGBT in a libertarian way is to be pro-individual. It is to guarantee the same rights for every single person no matter the race, religion, sexual identity, or sexual preference. As far as gay marriage goes, I'd like to point out one interesting difference between Ron Paul and Barack Obama.

    Both claim to have a personal view of gay marriage. Obama has said that he does not believe in gay marriage, but rather civil unions, domestic partnerships, or if the state chooses to do so, the state has a right.

    Both Ron Paul and Obama share the same view here. Both wish to see states deal with this state-issue. Of course, Paul gets a lot of flack from the LGBT community because he has supported DOMA. The problem with DOMA is that it says to very contradictory things.

    The most prominent portion of DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman. However, the portion that Paul constantly talks about is different. It clearly talks about the prohibition of the federal government defining what marriage is and then forcing that definition to all 50 states.

    Paul's main objective here is a Constitutional argument that the U.S. Congress has no Constitutional authority to define marriage. Paul says that because of the 10th Amendment, states have the right to legislate to define marriage if they want to. And they have the right to define it as between a man and a woman, or between two consenting adults.

    Furthermore, Paul argues the libertarian argument, which differs greatly from the Constitutional argument. In a free society, ideally, government should not be allowed to define marriage. It would actually be an infringement on one's First Amendment Rights. To define marriage is similar to defining beauty, or love, or greatness.

    The definition is subjective. The libertarian argument allows voluntarily consenting adults to engage in a private marriage contract, and additionally celebrate their marriage in any personal/religious ceremony. The argument essentially says: get the government out of marriage altogether.

    The Constitutional view only allows a libertarian protection from the US Congress, but the Constitution, the supreme law of the land (as messed up as it seems) gives the power and authority to decide all non-Article I, Section 8 powers--and all powers not prohibited to states--to the states (if they wish) or the people (the libertarian option).

    Paul is not a full fledged libertarian because if he was he would not argue for a state's right to define marriage. Paul is a strict Constitutionalist first, and a philosophical libertarian second. He puts the legal realities ahead in his arguments, and usually holds his personal iibertarian views aside.

    At the end of the day, Paul has usually been someone to work within the legal framework to make it more libertarian, rather than people like the Libertarian Party who want to have change automatically with little concern for the Constitutional hurdles that weaken individual rights.

    Paul's Constitutional views could answer for many of the things you've posted such as the abolishment of federal departments, which should be left up to states, he says. It's not that the government should not regulate the environment, but the federal government shouldn't. It would be up to the states to protect their own land.

    When Paul brings up "moral hazard", it is a term often used in economics. The best way to analogize this is through two types of video poker. Imagine a person inserts $1000 into a poker machine. The way he plays and behaves should take into account both the risk involved as well as the potential of making money. Capitalism here is about profit and equally about loss. Therefore, there is an incentive to restrain one's own foolish temptations.

    Now, if one is playing video poker on a free machine that replenishes your money no matter how one plays, we can be absolutely sure that the player's behavior will be extremely different. Because of the lack of risk of real loss, the player will take egregious risks for huge gains. Why not bet everything, when there is nothing to lose and everything to gain? (Financial Bank Mantra?)

    So Paul applies the same logic to agencies like FEMA. We all know that FEMA is a joke--have you been to NOLA lately? But the worst part about FEMA is not it's positive intentions. FEMA should be an effective emergency agency. If it was, less people--including libertarians--would think about abolishing it. The worst part is simple. FEMA promises a lot, and delivers on little. Because of its promises, individual states and cities analyze the risk of any disaster in a different way. The locality could divert education, park&rec, etc. money to an emergency fund. But why bother if FEMA has control? When FEMA fails to deliver, the locality is screwed.

    Anyway, thanks for reading. Just wanted to clarify some of his points. Thanks again.

    Posted by Philip, 07/06/2011 11:36am (4 years ago)

  • Let me take a different approach: first consider what was said about Dr Paul having inspired this devoted "cult like" following which you would assume he could expand even more if he simply had more airtime (and I hope there's no argument that he gets much less media attention compared to other candidates). So him being such a potent threat to take votes from the left, my question is this: If Dr Paul is this big corporate shill and his policies would be so great for them - why don't they support him? Why does the mainstream republican media paint him as a crazy fringe candidate if their corporate overlords would love a Ron Paul presidency?
    Just think it through - maybe you guys are wrong about this. Read or watch a few videos of Dr Paul and hear his views and answers from him, not biased second hand info from a biased media run by these same "evil corporations"

    Posted by DM, 07/06/2011 11:12am (4 years ago)

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