In a Hole? Dig Deeper! A Reply to the Left on Ron Paul by Sherry Wolf

Dandelion Salad

by Sherry Wolf
Dissident Voice
December 18, 2007

There is a section of the broad Left today that is so demoralized by the miserable state of the world, the repugnant electoral options for 2008, and the dismal place the antiwar movement is in that they are flailing — both politically and organizationally. In response to my article, “Ron Paul, libertarianism, and the freedom to starve to death,” written for the Jan.–Feb. International Socialist Review and posted on several Web sites, literally hundreds of people have written nasty screeds to comment boards or e-mailed me their invective. I want to respond to the small segment of them who are self-described leftists who continue to challenge my argument that the Left should not be embracing either Ron Paul’s candidacy or his libertarian constituency.

There is a deep cynicism informing the idea that since the Left is weak, we must turn rightward for strength. The Left’s primary weakness in this country is its refusal to jettison an electoral strategy that has led us to the political cul-de-sac of antiwar activists placing an effective moratorium on mass protest in deference to not embarrassing pro-war Democrats they feel they must support, as the movement did in 2004. The current crop of Democrats heading into the 2008 primaries murmurs their tactical differences with the losing strategy of Bush and Co. in Iraq, while it votes for more war funding, and exposes its liberal imperial aspirations by threatening war against Iran and Pakistan.

As Adolph Reed recently wrote: “The Democratic candidates who are anointed ‘serious’ are like a car with a faulty front-end alignment: Their default setting pulls to the right.” In other words, the rightward drifting strategy of the movement has failed so the antidote, some insist, is move even further to the right by supporting a Republican. The prescription: In a hole? Dig deeper.

There are other weakness to be sure, including the collapse of a broad Left that once understood the need to oppose US foreign adventures under ALL circumstances, including those called “humanitarian.” This devastated a Left that lost its political rudder when it began supporting ventures in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, and finally Afghanistan. A trail of death and poverty lies in the wake of those great acts of the white man’s burden.

Some of Paul’s defenders complain that since he supposedly didn’t actually write some of the racist crap in his own eight-page 1992 newsletter, then he’s cleared of any racist aspersions. Get real. This is a man who argues that cross burning shouldn’t be a crime, unless it’s violating someone’s property rights. Threaten someone’s life with the tactics of the Klan, no worries; singe their lawn, watch out! Paul has a 100 percent approval rating from the unabashedly racist John Birch Society and his political career, according to Texas muckraker Molly Ivins, whose columns exposed his batty ideas, was helped by crazed holy-roller homophobe Pat Robertson. If those allies aren’t bad enough, wrap your brain around the fact that he received an endorsement on KKK leader David Duke’s site. The Web site’s motto: “White Civil Rights: The Website for Europeans and Americans Wherever They May Live,” can’t be parsed by Paul’s defenders — they hold proto-fascistic ideas and give enthusiastic support to Ron Paul.

Then there’s that little problem he has with separation of church and state, a fundamental aspect of any modern secular society. Paul argues, “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.” Come on folks, how far to the right does a guy need to be before his antiwar position ceases to corral leftists into his camp?

If all a guy needs to be is antiwar to embrace his supporters or even offer up endorsement, then why stop at Ron Paul, a man who isn’t even pretending to stand outside the two-party stranglehold of big business? If it’s his antiwar stance that gets progressives excited, then why not embrace Pat Buchanan too? In 2004 he blasted the war and the Bush administration at great length in Where the Right Went Wrong. After all, Buchanan’s a far better known opponent of foreign adventures, is more pugnacious toward the do-nothing Democrats, and shares a lot of Paul’s other individualist politics. Most leftists would say that Buchanan is a nasty bigot; does this mean Paul’s folksy style and apparent nice-guy persona cancels out his pro-business and racist natterings? Nasty racists, no; affable ones, okey dokey?

Since many progressives who wrote me don’t seem to be repelled by Ron Paul’s actual anti-labor, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, defiantly sexist, homophobic, and outright racist voting record and statements, perhaps a gander at what his supporters have to say would be instructive. Those who endorse uniting with the Paulites to build a stronger antiwar movement, such as left-wing writer/activist Joshua Frank, ought to know who they’re getting into bed with. Here is a tiny sampling of the responses I’ve received so far from his committed followers.

Most numerous were the puerile personal attacks devoid of any political content — I’ll spare you those. Though it’s worth mentioning that quite a few (men) addressed me as “sweetie,” “hey lady,” and “girly” — diminutive and sexist means of attempting to belittle a woman whose arguments, in the minds of chauvinists, don’t deserve a political retort. Gee, they would make fine movement allies.

Then there are the old school McCarthyites and a handful of anti-Semites, a couple of whom attack the organization I’m in, the International Socialist Organization, as “an organization of Jewish run hypocrites.” More common were these: “Your interpretation is simply Marxist and Un-American as well as manipulative” and the more colorful “Keep your views to yourself as I think they stink like your farts! If you don’t want to learn to follow and obey the US Constitution get the hell out of this country we don’t want you.” Or the delusional red-baiting type: “You socialists cause inflation through your support of The Federal Reserve’s unceasing creation of money out of thin air…. Let us alone to be free people. Everyone in our country will benefit except for the oligarchs such as you.”

I won’t bother reprinting the tirades against Stalin and Mao used to “refute” my arguments, since as a member of a political tendency that has never defended Stalinism or Maoism, I found these folks simply avoided dealing with the actual political issues involved. As do screeds, like the one on, “Ron Paul: Slings and arrows, Left and Right,” which argue that I’m shilling for Hillary Clinton, who if she ever had a progressive stance it’s been triangulated into its poll-tested opposite. For the record, I have not now, nor have I ever in my adult life voted for or advocated a vote for a Democrat.

The racists claim: “Multiculturalism is being discredited more each day, we don’t all need to live together in harmony.” And the immigrant bashers: “I would like to make an objection to your use of the term ‘undocumented immigrant.’ There is a reason that these individuals are not documented… that is because they are in the country illegally. These illegal aliens come to this country because they get free healthcare, social services and their children are born citizens.” The first note speaks for itself; as for the second, not only are 92 percent of undocumented males gainfully employed (higher than any other sector of the population), but the National Academy of Sciences found that immigrants benefit the U.S. economy overall, have little negative effect on the income and job opportunities of most native-born Americans, and may add as much as $10 billion to the economy each year. I can’t see too many Arab, Black, Latino, and other immigrants feeling welcomed into a movement with the likes of these correspondents.

The more thoughtful notes actually betray the pro-employer class bias at the very heart of Ron Paul’s libertarianism. There were lots of overt defenses of the free market and privatization and this e-mail that really sums up the ramifications of Paul’s politics:

“You talk of Bosses exploiting employees. You probably think employers should pay employees what they are worth — because it sounds good to you…. The simple fact is if you were paid what you were worth, then there would be no profit left to the employer. If you cannot live cheaply enough for your income level, go live somewhere else. No one points a gun to your head in either case. If you are not satisfied working for someone else, go to your secretary of state’s office, and pay the tax if you wish to incorporate, or just be a sole proprietor- you be the Boss you so despise.”

Though he does make Marx’s point about where profits come from, his solution that everyone should just get up and start their own company has the charm of both denying reality and deeming exploitation inevitable and desirable.

A surprising number of self-proclaimed leftists wrote in to argue in defense of Paul’s “colorblind” vision of society as being similar to Martin Luther King’s, while dismissing Paul’s racist writings on Blacks. Let’s be clear: MLK had a dream that we needed to fight for a world in which people would be judged by “the content of their character, not the color of their skin,” BUT he didn’t pretend as though we actually live in that society today! Anyone who can look around at the terrifying incarceration, unemployment, and mortality rates of Blacks and say that we have achieved that dream and should therefore support a man who opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is either suffering racial myopia, is a racist, or is someone who thinks reality is a mere diversion. So long as we have institutionalized racism, we will need affirmative action, including quotas, and other legal and social protections to challenge the racists in power and defend groups under siege.

Finally, I want to address a couple of things lurking beneath the surface of many progressives’ arguments, elaborated by Josh Frank — someone I respect and with whom I often agree. He argues in a recent radio interview that we should “Put the false differences aside and come together in common cause,” with the “beer drinking red-necks from Tennessee” he wrote about in his initial online article, “Why Ron Paul Deserves Our Attention.” He states plainly that abortion and gay rights are “wedge issues” that “distract us from the big issues.” While nobody is advocating a litmus test for antiwar folks to join the movement, certainly not I, we need to be clear that there is a difference between a movement in opposition to a racist and imperial war having some reactionary elements float through occasionally and actively courting racists and know-nothings.

If a left-wing movement seeks alliance with these folks, we will find ourselves dropping demands and protests of things such as the attacks on Arabs and Muslims — the domestic front of this war — among other accommodations. Ignoring Paul’s more outlandish ideas is an expression of the same opportunism that some progressives have embraced as they hold their noses and vote for Democrats with repulsive politics except for abortion, or whatever.

If a Left is to strengthen, it must take on backward ideas in its midst, not cater to them. There are literally millions of progressive-minded people in this country, most of them working class of every race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation who are facing a looming recession. Paul’s politics provide no answer to the catastrophes afoot and will only repel the very people who need to be brought into the Left. Let’s not pander to petty bosses’ ideology and racist electoral campaigns and pretend we can walk away unsullied.

Sherry Wolf is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review. She can be reached at Read other articles by Sherry.


Why The Left Must Reject Ron Paul by Sherry Wolf

On The Issues: Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul by Lo

Stossel interviews Ron Paul – Ask ABC to air it Part IV (video) (immigration)

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water by PeaceLoveVegan (Kucinich; Paul)

Kucinich/Paul Ticket: A Fatal Error by KatherineHollyday

Kucinich suggests a Republican running mate by Sabrina Eaton & Stephen Koff

Einstein and Socialism by Rich

“Stand fast and fight to the last”: The Spanish Anarchist Collectives by Rich

Anarchy made easy by Rich


10 thoughts on “In a Hole? Dig Deeper! A Reply to the Left on Ron Paul by Sherry Wolf

  1. Pingback: Why Ron Paul’s left-wing champions are wrong by Elizabeth Schulte « Dandelion Salad

  2. this preposterous Paulian proposal that the market ‘polices itself’, is obviously utterly disproved.

    Anyone espousing such opprobrium in light of the disastrous destruction and heart-rending record of personal and corporate wanton waste that this young land has already suffered via the ‘greed imperative’, has subscribed to some religious devotion to a cut-throat culture of vicious, self-righteous pioneer pillagers.

    That corrupting cultural addictive dogma which was rail-roaded out to the rednecks on Carnegie’s cattle-cars (fueled by Standard Oil no doubt) looked for a while almost old-fashioned. But that’s until it got reamed up the right-brains of red-states from a televangelist’s lectern by Paul’s ultra-free-market predecessors, Ron Reagan and Maggie Thatcher.

    Read Paul’s platform:
    It’s got nothing to do with ‘liberalism’ nor ‘revolution’. No grass-roots citizens uniting to reject the megalomaniacal overlords of industry and this failed ‘trickle-down’ free-trade.

    Rather the entire Paulian position perches on a precarious pedestal directly atop a farce of free-market fundamentalism, an ethic more likely to fuel a feeding frenzy by right-wing religious greed-fanatics then free us from tyranny of taxation.

    His concept of commerce and capitalism is not only extreme, it borders on the lunatic fringe. But conveniently for the Paul campaign, society already seems not at all shy of the corruptions fueled by free markets, conflating ‘free enterprise’ with ‘freedom’. (sounds sorta similar, I suppose english is funny that way sometimes).

    I suspect the real reason people support Paul is for the same reasons they walked the ultra-capitalist plank when last lured by Reagan’s tricky “Trickle-down” triumph. If they don’t realize that, then they’ve piled into a bandwagon of anti-fed friends for the fraternity.

    The Paulian program cancels all oversight and regulation from any thing higher than the village parking-ticket appeals court. ALL environmental policy is then dogmatically entrusted to the local level, gambling that people will come to their personal senses and hold industry in check all by themselves.

    If this public’s past performance is any forecast of future returns, Paul-people could only have constructed this stage-set with the full knowledge that under his program industry would win, the people and wildlife would lose, and absolutely nothing would be done to stop it. It’s almost such an obvious economic farce that the words ’seriously sinister’ come to mind.

    Nobody claims the fed laws are not flawed, nor that States do not, on occasion, sue business for their folly. But fact is whatever combination we have now is all we have, and if it fails, the people’s quasi-elected leaders are bent on dismantling protections long before Paul ever got his band of web-based ‘rebels’ to believe his ‘liberublican’ preacher’s pitch.

    If you actually read what paul says and writes, he’s categorically OPPOSED to ANY federal oversight of this pathology of amerigun frontier-style amerigoon abuse of nature.

    Again, Paul’s position ONLY provides for individuals to sue if damaged by neighbors. That’s the entire extent of his position on “environment” per his campaign.

    As alluded above, the typical red-state paradigm promotes a cavalier, carnivorous culture of hunting, logging, herding and believing, like some sort of swaggering, church-goin’ cowboy cult.

    If left to locals and their local or state government, PCB’s would have extinguished shore birds and raptors, murrelets would have been wiped out in the lower 48, and dozens of other species would have gone the way of the red wolf, passenger pigeon, and Carolina Parakeet.

    That’s not to say the feds don’t do horrific things, like subsidize the corrupt logging of national forests at a net loss to the tax payer (which Paul indeed opposes, not because vast publicly owned irreplaceable virgin forests are needlessly decimated for tinder and toilet paper. but because it defies his free-market model).

    Who better to trust, he says, than the person who owns and makes his living off the land? Well I might point the good Dr. Paul to his friendly chemical-spraying farmers out there in the heartland who might be the subject of that psalm.

    Indeed those who should be caring more than anyone instead got swept off in the agri-tech scam sold them by the very business Paul want’s to further deregulate, so instead of ‘care’ you get cancer.

    Pesticides, factory farms, bovine hormones are present hazards brought on by lax regulation, just as big tobacco, DDT and PCB’s were before. Those were all also horrific crimes of unchecked business, though often implemented by individuals. If you don’t regulate it, they don’t stop doing it if there’s an extra nickle to be made, despite the decades of compelling science of the dangers.

    No local neighbor suffering lung cancer can successfully litigate such a powerful force of Ferenghi greed addicts.

    So let me then understand: These corporate and private citizens are the people paulians want to now entrust to organize their state legislature to take on the big business interests in protection of our common forests, air and water, when they’ve shown no capacity to even take on Bochco for lying us into Vietnam once again (as if the first one didn’t just end a generation ago)?

    Apparently red state rednecks just want to shoot things and be left alone to drain their wetlands, pump dioxin and PCB’s into streams, cut down anything they can call a saw-log, and sell the rest for firewood (See Montana, for example)

    This whole charade of trusting the local municipalities and states to enact laws effectively protecting the ‘common’ good (as if states were a bunch of islands sharing not the same landmass, water, woods and species), is absurd.

    This country is if anything far smaller than Paul’s old man notion of individual nation-states floating in a sea of endlessly expendable wilderness. It’s like something from back in Daniel Boone days, patriots pickin’ off redcoats and complaining about the price of tea. In that scenario you can forget saving habitat or endangered ‘varmints’ who will all (as in each and every to the very last one) just end up barbequed on some trailer-dwelling polycarbonate fiesta-ware platter

    Regarding above racialistic references, what about the old problem of slave-states vs. normal humanity? Isn’t Paul here proposing we allow the reversing a few of the more fortuitous federal functions, like the Emancipation Proclamation? Sounds far-fetched, but one wonders if Paul feels the feds were ‘treading’ on ’state’s rights’ or the constitution by freeing the slaves.

    Absurd you say, “Paul would never allow it” (and hopefully not). But from my reading there’s absolutely nothing in his platform preventing Alabama from voting to re-enact segregation (remember, he’s against the Civil Rights Act).

    It would be up to the victims to sue in local courts— (Hullo?… anyone still remember the Jena Six, yet only 6 months on?? So much for local red-neck kangaroo courts upholding human rights).

    Based on the paulian program as it’s presented to his public, supporters had better be ready for more ’strange fruit’ hangin’ from poplar trees if you give those hooded heretics reason to ‘vote’ for local southern ‘policy’.

    And we’re not even mentioning labor laws, minimum wage, women’s suffrage– the list of hard-won worker and human rights against the single-minded. male dominated profit-motive of business is long, and still oozing life. These federal protections were hard won with the blood of those who fought just such a corporatocratic regime as Paul apparently proposes.

    But my concern is less for those who can file lawsuits (and the burgeoning pro-bono army of sleazy lawyers filing fpr this windfall of likely lucrative litigation), when courts can’t handle the legions of opportunistic ambulance-chasers we already have haunting the halls of ‘justice’).

    My concern is for those who have no voice, who can’t file complaints nor take up firearms to defend themselves against the ‘revolutionary’ patriots of Ruby Ridge or Wacko, TX.

    In the fine words of Gerald Durell: “Remember that the animals and plants have no Member of Parliament they can write to; they can’t perform sit-down strikes…they have nobody to speak for them except us, the human beings who share the world with them, but do not own it.”

    Leaving life on earth up to locals to litigate is preposterous. You would need a full time fleet of Erin Brokoviches in every town to take on industry’s criminal antics pro-bono on behalf of the local inbred, illiterate electorate, who could care less if Big Coal levels the whole state of WV and makes it into a toxic parking lot (as we now see), as long as they’re gettin’ their minimum wage for their efforts and black-lung in the pits. And even then the plaintiffs would need evidence of illness or damage, so that sort of de-regulated hazard is barely retroactive at best.

    I agree ‘revolution’ sounds all well and good, considering the frustration we all feel with the status quo, but the ‘Paul Revolution’ is, once again the sort of thing one wants to avoid, not espouse.

    If people are so passionate about a presidential platform as the paulies seem to be, then one should be very careful about actually reading the positions, especially when they already clearly contain some very controversial clauses.

  3. Ooo Noo!
    Naomi Woulf is preaching for st. paul?
    I’m heartbroken~

    It sounds counter-rev, but ever feel like the warnings on left and right about fascism and police-states are a bit extreme?

    The paulies mention the vastness of the country that renders the feds a behemoth (no doubt), but again: Imagine this military trying to subdue a nation like the USA when it can’t handle the Taliban? It’s just seems in practicality more of a screen-play than plausible–

    But who am I to say? Maybe they really are drugging us all with air-plane exhaust that makes this electorate believe in coultergeists and goon-squads, and the unfettered right to fire guns.

  4. The charges of racism leveled against Ron Paul have been debunked thoroughly all over the web. I’ve written a long screed or two on the subject myself, and I’m frankly too tired to go through the exercise again. All anyone has to do is listen to Ron Paul talk about MLK and Gandhi and they’ll know he is not a racist.

    The REAL issue I want to address is that the author doesn’t see the big picture. Supporting Ron Paul is about shaking up the current system. Its about attacking and attempting to reshape the Republican party while it is weak. The neocons are on the ropes. It is time for a KO.

    Of course, no one can turn the Republican party into a lefty progressive party. And while the party may be currently weak, you can’t kill it. They will be in power again. Supporting Ron Paul is about reforming that party. Its about forcing them back to their principles. The GOP is supposed to be about minimizing government and maximizing personal freedom. –Good principles if ya ask me.

    I will support any principled candidate. Between the Republicans and Democrats we have Kucinich, Gravel, and Paul (and sort of Chris Dodd). But in the case of Ron Paul, I see a principled candidate who has a shot at really changing one of the two monster parties that rule our politics. Supporting Ron Paul is about bucking the status quo, it is about subversion from within.

  5. I think you bring up a lot of good points. I just want to know how do you feel about Naomi Wolf with her 10 steps to fascism book? She supports Ron Paul and I’m sure she’s aware of his peculiarities as well as you do. As far as myself, unless you’re going for a Doctorate, I doubt you have much of a lead on me. Nothing, in your very detailed account of Ron Paul, is new to me nor something I haven’t found out myself. There are things that not perfect about this man. Personally, I would distance myself from certain types that advocate him-that’s what any good politician would do. Thing is, he isn’t a good politician. He’s downright goofy. But I (along with a growing number of other cynical/skeptical types) see where he’s going with this. I’m not one to associate him (like many) that propose that because he’s a Doctor that his hippocratic oath will extend to his presidential policy. But I argue this-without a radical change in the direction we’re going (which will be painful), then it’s inevitable all liberty will be lost. Nobody in their right (central, left) mind would say this is going to be easy. But I think you’re missing a very essential part of the message-to limit the executive branch of government-even for him. Print this if you dare. Ron Paul for President 2008

  6. Pingback: Ron Paul On Glenn Beck (videos) « Dandelion Salad

  7. You ignore the fact that Ron Paul isn’t antigovernment. He’s only anti-federal. Our nation is vast. Most European nations are the size of, at most, several US states. When people complain of the “monolith” in Washington D.C. they’re pointing out something real.

    The states, as Ron Paul has and I am certain will continue to point out, are far better equipped to handle regulation. They’re far less likely to stomp on the little guy when they do it. They’re far more capable of pulling in the relevant information for their area.

    The federal government is overly large. Not everyone who thinks this is saying that the government in general is overly large. We are far, far bigger than Sweden.

    I will offer this as evidence that not all – or even not most – leftists have abandoned leftist causes:

    Ron Paul says, and I agree, that most states will replicate things even as the federal government divests them. Those states which don’t are those states which don’t want them – and why should people be forced to accept socialism which they don’t want?

  8. It’s all yadda, yadda, yadda to me. When did Ronaul, or ANY libertarian, say don’t feed the poor? All they say is that Federal government can’t feed the poor efficiently. That means maximizing who you help by doing it closer to home.

    I’m not white. My home town is 40% black. I hate the Civil Rights Act that keeps us minorities clinging to the Federal government to force others to shove us in needy groups. I grew up poor, now I’m middle class as I worked hard, and saved. Some of my family sits on the couch, collecting your approved government checks.

    Socialism CAN WORK — at the extreme local level. Ron Paul even SUPPORTS it. End Federal tyranny so you can create your local socialist enclave, and prove it works!


Comments are closed.