Truthdig.com’s Bob Scheer is at it again! In an article titled, “Cheering for Ron Paul,” the notable writer throws his “progressive” hat in the ring with the Republican darkhorse presidential candidate. Yes, yes, here comes my favorite word as of late; incredulous! There has already been an uncomfortable number of progressives flocking to the Paul ’08 camp. With a progressive brand name such as Bob Scheer articulating republished reasons why we should cheer for the guy, sadly, I expect that number only to continue to grow.
Scheer Nonsense: Redux
Previously, I sifted through Bob Scheer’s claims in a recent article he wrote on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s death. I didn’t think I would be at it again so soon! With Scheer joining the increasingly supportive view of Ron Paul from the left, I had to take up the task once again. With a single-issue viewpoint, Scheer argues that Ron Paul out paces leading Democratic presidential candidates with regards to the Iraq war and its funding. He summarizes this view in his concluding sentence:
Until the leading Democratic candidate faces up to the irreparable harm that will be done to needed social programs over the next decades by the red-ink spending she supported, I will be cheering for the libertarian Republican. At least he won’t throw more money down some foreign rat hole.
Scheer’s main folly is once again a brief yet astounding contradiction! He takes Democrats to task for failing to articulate the cost of the war in terms of social programs. However, while cheering for Paul, he fails to realize the irony of legitimizing a right-wing psuedo-libertarian in that very same conclusion. Scheer cites Paul mentioning the impact of the cost of war on education and proceeds to extend that to postulate the cost of war on various social programs. Whereas Scheer writes that Paul’s presidency would, at the least, not throw money down a foreign rat hole, there is no guarantee he would throw down the scrilla for social programs. According to Noam Chomsky, Paul would dismantle Social Security. As noted by Aura Bogado, Paul, who is oddly compared to Chomsky (mostly due to naive understandings of libertarianism) would also do away with whatever is left of welfare. National health care? Fuggetaboutit! Therefore, it is highly irresponsible when Bob Scheer quotes Paul about the war and education and proceeds to write:
Bush has asked for an additional $196 billion in supplementary aid for his wars, which is $60 billion more than the total spent by the U.S. government last year on all of America’s infrastructure repairs, the National Institutes of Health, college tuition assistance and the SCHIP program to provide health insurance to kids who don’t have any.
In cheering for Ron Paul, these points become irrelevant. First, he voted for the war in Afghanistan, so to follow up with a money figure asked by Bush to continue in Iraq and Afghanistan obfuscates the point. Second, a Ron Paul presidency doesn’t ensure that money being spent in the Iraq war alone would be channeled into social programs. We are talking about a pseudo-libertarian who seeks to dismantle “big government!” The narrative and analytical leaps of Scheer’s article lends itself to an irresponsibility that potentially misinforms voters about the supposed merits of Paul’s bid for the presidency.
The Time Machine
The Ron Paul phenomenon is not anything new in terms of the history of the United States. Let’s step into the mimisdeprived time machine and see why. *traveling back in time* The year is 1848, and a substantial portion of Mexico’s territory has just been taken by the United States in a war of aggression based on a lie. Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina is about to make a speech in Congress opposing the “All Mexico” movement that seeks to annex the entire country into the United States. With a war against Mexicans in the recent backdrop, I powder my face from the flour sack mi mama uses to make tortillas as I sneak into the halls of Congress. Calhoun speaks:
[W]e have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind, of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race…. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged … that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake.
The next day, I pick up an edition of “The Gringo Gazette” and read an article titled “Cheering for Calhoun.” The progressive journalist argues that given the political realities, Calhoun is a worthy politician to support since the ultra-expansionists and the soon to be new empire builders in the coming age of imperialism have gotten out of hand with their wars of aggression based on lies. They claim to want to spread liberty all over the world and it has just brought our nation more problems that what it’s worth. Calhoun is to be cheered for since he is the best political option to defeat the zealous idealistic “All Mexico,” movement. Besides, who cares about dissenters like Henry David Thoreau? It’s not like those folks are electable!
*Time travel back to 2007*
Like Ron Paul, Senator Calhoun considered himself a strict constitutionalist. Like Paul, Senator Calhoun before him was also a loathsome racist. It’s the defining character (or lack thereof) trait that informed the foreign policy position of Calhoun vis a vis the “All Mexico” movement as it is now for Paul and his ultranationalist anti-war stance with regards to the conflict in Iraq. In the 19th century, it’s important to remember that the entire right-wing political class of the United States was not in favor of the more ambitious interpretations of Manifest Destiny. Calhoun’s congressional speech is evidence that racism was used to oppose aspects of Manifest Destiny even though the school of thought was fully informed by racism. Today, all we have to do is turn on right-wing AM radio to see that the same political dynamics are in play. The entire right-wing political class is not united behind the neo-conservative so-called messianic mission to bring democracy to Iraq. On right-wing radio, we can hear the raw opinions of those who feel that the Iraqi people are too savage to have the “fruits” of “western democracy” bestowed upon them. In the political realm, republican politicians articulate positions against the Iraq project in coded language that echo the same sentiments nevertheless. As progressives, cheering for Ron Paul is tantamount to lending undeserved legitimacy to this phenomenon. We should realize our history in order to better understand the current political dynamics in play and we should never ever abdicate core principles to them.
What’s to Blame?
Ultimately, who or what is to blame? Electoral politics. A subset of politically minded people want something different than what the two-party dictatorship of the United States has to offer. The best that the tightly controlled political process can offer are variants within the massive parties. Kucinich offers a different political narrative than Clintonian Democrats. Ron Paul represents a variant within the umbrella right-wing group that is the Republican party. In the end, these two variant perspectives will be flushed out and the final presidential contest will feature candidates corporations ultimately favor. In the meantime, I echo the sentiments of that wonderful blogger over at To The Curb, who certainly stirred up shit when she conclusively wrote of Ron Paul:
It’s really not very complicated: people who are or stand with workers, the poor, women, queer folks, people of color and immigrants will need to look far beyond this candidate. Despite his supporter’s efforts to ignore the man behind the façade, it’s time to get real and deconstruct the pretense. Yes, we are sick and tired of Washington, but just because Bush has failed so deeply does not mean we can latch on to the very first presidential hopeful who wants to bring the troops home immediately, yet simultaneously destroy the rights and benefits we have struggled for centuries to achieve.
As a person of color who was raised in a working class family, I can not simply overlook Paul’s racism and classism. As such, I could never ever cheer for Ron Paul. I could only offer the man my jeers. It’s my hope that those who stand with marginalized communities in the United States do the same.