Commentary on current events, politics, government, and popular culture from John Sheirer, author of the book, Make Common Sense Common Again.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ron Paul is Far from a Liberal Alternative

The supposed liberal dissatisfaction with President Obama has been greatly exaggerated in the mainstream media. Unfortunately, that exaggeration has led to speculation that Republican Ron Paul could be an alternative candidate for liberals who might be disappointed in the president. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul has inspired people to get involved in the political process, which is good. He opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, and he favors marijuana legalization. Those are appealing positions to liberals, no doubt. And he projects a certain "grumpy-grandpa" image that liberals admire in fighters like Senator Bernie Sanders. But when you look deeper, most of Paul's views are antithetical to the liberal perspective and simply terrible for America.

Paul's actual anti-war views aren't really liberal because he supports military action based on his narrow view of American economic interests. Many liberals support the moral use of military force to protect innocent people. Paul's is against the United States assisting citizens of other countries defend themselves against cruel dictators. For example, Paul opposed the recent successful intervention in Libya, skillfully and reasonably orchestrated by President Obama, which saved countless lives.

Paul is certainly no liberal on social issues. He wants to end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance, progressive programs that have protected millions of people from poverty and suffering. His solution to rising health care costs is for the uninsured to rely on the charity of doctors and churches. He wants to abolish the federal departments of education, environmental protection, and energy (among others), agencies that help keep Americans productive and safe. Just like all the other science-denying Republicans running for president, Paul calls climate change a hoax. He even wants to abolish FEMA because he says that it's immoral for the government to help victims of natural disasters.

In addition to legalizing marijuana, Paul supports legalizing truly dangerous drugs such as heroin and cocaine. His advice to victims of sexual harassment is that they should quit their jobs. Even though he claims to be against government intrusion, he believes the government should control reproductive rights and tell us whom we can and can't marry. He's also against any form of gun control. Do any of those positions sound remotely liberal?

Paul is militantly anti-immigrant and has ties to white supremacist organizations (not to mention that nagging history of racist, homophobic, and anti-semitic comments in his newsletters and other sources). He opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and voted repeatedly against the Martin Luther King holiday. While he may not be personally be bigoted, his public policy views is clearly far to the right of mainstream American percpective on race. He calls himself a Christian, but he's a longtime devotee of the completely anti-Christian Ayn Rand philosophy that selfishness is a virtue.

On economic issues, Paul is even farther right that the already extreme Republican Party. He's against all forms of government consumer protection and financial regulation--even after unregulated Wall Street abuses crashed the economy. He claims that taxes are a form of immoral theft, but he doesn't explain how government could fund essential services without taxation--except through vague "fees" that would radically shift the burden from the wealthy onto the backs of the middle-class and the poor. He often rants against "the FED" and American monetary policy, but experts on the subject consider him a confused conspiracy theorist.

If America ever adopted Paul's extremist agenda, our nation would become a cut-throat, self-centered, trample-the-weak type of place that would favor the already super-rich and plunge everyone else into poverty and danger. That's not a liberal utopia by any means.

Yet the inexplicable rumblings persist that Paul is a liberal alternative. Of course, President Obama hasn't been perfect. He hasn't done everything liberals want to correct the Bush administration failures. No president could. But Obama has overseen steady progress in the face of relentless right-wing obstruction. The reasonable liberal alternative to the president's difficult first term is re-election with a renewed Democratic Congress to accelerate the progress already begun. Paul, on the other hand, would be a regressive disaster that liberals would deeply regret.


This column appeared in my local newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

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