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Ron Paul: a bigoted, reactionary enemy of the 99 per cent

Ron Paul, standing to the be the Republicans presidential candidate, has some support on the left because he is antiwar and anti–bank bailout. Mike Wilhelm examines his actual political message

SOME PROGRESSIVE  activists in the US Occupy Movement look to Republican Senator Ron Paul as a force for radical change. His anti–invasion position on Iraq and Afghanistan and anti–big business outbursts have fooled many into thinking he is on the left wing of politics. But the reality is very different.
For years, Paul has been a political underdog, a niche favourite with his wide support base of libertarians, federalists and free–market evangelists.

Perhaps no other mainstream politician has been as ideologically consistent (or rigid) in the application of his philosophy as Paul. He has earned the nickname ‘Doctor No’ from his fellow congressmen, as he is better known for voting against legislation than for it, especially when it fails to fit his strict ‘constructionist’ view of the US constitution.

He rabidly opposes taxes and the Federal Reserve Bank. Compared with other Washington politicians, it is no surprise that he is enjoying an upsurge in popularity.

Paul is a rare creature: a straight–talking, no–nonsense advocate of limited government and low taxes who actually seems to believe what he is saying. Therefore, he has a dual role: an appealing populist and one of the most dangerous political figures in the US today. Behind his ‘country–doctor’ persona lurks an unrepentant and anti–working class bigot.

The ”Ron Paul Revolution”
The devotion exhibited by Paul’s supporters is legendary. Under the banner of the Ron Paul Revolution, his 2008 campaign raised about $20 million, much of it from individual online donations. On 5 November 2007, his campaign raised $4.3 million, the largest single–day donation for any Republican candidate and the most money received online in a single day by any presidential candidate.

The dynamism of Paul’s political machine as expressed through the internet and social networking is undoubtedly due to his mainly young followers. They flock to him for a myriad of reasons, often related to his ‘defence’ of civil liberties and opposition to the Patriot Act. He is also a favourite with advocates of drug legalisation, as he opposes the federal government’s collective–drug policy and believes that drug policy should be determined at state level.

Beyond all this, he has an unquantifiable ‘anti–establishment’ appeal. Compared to his Republican rivals Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, he is relatively free of corporate–money influence and patronage. This allows him to appear relatively independent from Wall Street’s political influence.
Paul is particularly popular with soldiers and ex–servicemen, some of his biggest donors, as he is the only mainstream candidate, Republican or Democrat,  to profess a ‘non–interventionist’ platform, and has openly criticised the failed project of ‘nation–building’ (that is, occupation) that the Obama administration continues to pursue in Afghanistan. He has called for the withdrawal of all troops stationed abroad in ‘friendly’ nations, and has even criticised the supply of US aid to Israel, something most of his counterparts would consider political suicide.

Isolationism
Although he claims to oppose wars of aggression, Paul is no anti–imperialist or anti–militarist. His opposition stems merely from the legality of waging such wars abroad, tempered with his entrenched suspicion of the ever–expanding military–industrial–federal complex.

According to Paul, ‘Big Business’ and ‘Big Government’ are more threatening than a foreign aggressor. His opposition to some wars is the cornerstone of an ideology that champions individualist ‘middle class’ interests above all else. He would happily support a war if it was approved according to the War Powers Clause of the constitution and all war material was produced by small businesses.

All the same, his anti–war posturing has galvanised the support of groups that would not normally identify with the Republicans: young people, anti–war liberals and independent voters. This has helped to shift him further into the mainstream and potentially drag the political centre in American politics further to the right.

After the billions squandered on two failed wars and occupations, the public is largely critical of the costs associated with maintaining the America’s global empire. His radical–sounding, isolationist rhetoric  talk to the most disaffected and cynical (non) voters. They are then drawn further in by his views on privacy and individual responsibility, especially political–cum–moral issues such as marijuana legalisation and gun ownership.

Government… who needs it?
Small business owners like his sentimental recount of capitalist society’s recent past, when all you needed to succeed was a good idea and a little sweat. If only the ‘free market’ was truly free of ‘job–killing’ regulations and burdensome taxes, Paul cries, it would be crisis–free.

As a result, many are prepared to use Paul as a protest vote against the mainstream currents of two increasingly unpalatable parties. Yet, from his perspective, this is less about individual liberty or justice, and more about the separation of constitutional powers at state versus federal level.
So his support for marijuana legalisation, or the decriminalisation of all drugs, is less about stopping the ‘War on Drugs’ but rather a ‘state’s rights’ issue, as the 10th Amendment does not give congress the power to ban or regulate drugs. The outcome of such logic would accept 50 separate war on drugs, rather than a single, federal one.

Paul worships the constitution like a holy text, while using it as a justification for reactionary positions past and present, such as his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Rather than craft legislation to address the dire problems of the here and now – rampant unemployment, a crumbling national infrastructure, gross social inequality, racism, and environmental catastrophe – he prefers to stay well within the limits an extremely literal interpretation of a 200–year–old document.

He wants to eliminate the Department of Education, and public education with it, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, because the constitution does not specify these federal agencies. The same would apply to Medicare, the popular social insurance programme that covers the medical needs of millions of children and senior citizens.

With local and state budgets already pushed to breaking point, downshifting responsibility for what remains of the social safety net onto the state and municipal level really means killing it by way of a constitutional technicality.

No support for workers rights
Using the relatively banal ‘freedom’ doublespeak, Paul equates freedom of association with his support for the national Right to Work Act, which would further strip the power of workers to organise in trade unions – a fundamental human right. In Paul’s new America, where only those with money can access essential health and social services, the unemployed rust–belt factory worker, the debt–ridden college student and the urban and rural poor will be the first to be discarded.
Believing that government regulation undermines ‘private market’ (that is, no) regulation, Paul opposes agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in favour of a system that supposedly polices itself in the best interests of all, similar to Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ of the market. He similarly opposes federal environmental laws to curb the worst excesses of heavily polluters such as the coal industry.

Paul drapes his right wing proposals to tear down the welfare state and attack the working class in the deceptive language of ‘constitutionalism’. Welfare, taxes on corporations and the rich, regulations to prevent the destruction of our planet or to provide safe working conditions, become dead through ideologically imposed impossibilities. It is nothing more than a highly convenient method – from the point of view of the capitalist class – to deny the working class and oppressed the ability to try to change or make better the society in which they live.

Why is Paul popular?
No one can deny the latest crisis of capitalism is squeezing the working class hard. Unemployment and dwindling prospects for social improvement are forcing millions into increasingly desperate circumstances.
This desperation is reflected back politically. While in the past workers looked to their mainstream elected representatives in the vain hope that they would solve the key issues facing the country through bi–partisan deliberation, this has become near impossible in today’s unstable world.
After seeing a dysfunctional congress and a weak president locked in one impasse after another, millions are rightly disgusted with the political and economic status quo. Figures like Paul try to rise above the current crop of political mediocrities to offer plausible sounding yet ultimately false solutions.
The fact that he maintains a policy against drug criminalisation and touts an ambiguous anti–war position does not mean that we should overlook his disgusting racism and brutal ‘Ayn Rand’ worldview. A vote for Paul is a vote for an anti–working class platform and against the interests of the 99 per cent.

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