Why Progressives Don’t Support Ron Paul

I’m a month late on this, but there’s a lot in Conor Friedersdorf ‘s post on progressives and Ron Paul that I agree with.

And if I were a 40-year-old Democratic politician, I’d conclude, after watching Obama, that I could hammer the Republicans as radical war-mongers, rally anti-war and civil libertarian voters, and then behave however I wanted in office without paying any price. Those are the incentives currently being signaled.

I want a left that is better. One where Russ Feingold mounts a long shot bid to primary Obama in 2012 just to pressure him on these issues. Because they matter. And the fact that so few on the left treat them as if they matter — along with even fewer on the right — is alarming. Ballot box push-back is needed.

Friedersdorf criticizes Matthew Yglesias and Adam Serwer because, in their discussion of Ron Paul, they “neglect to mention the War on Drugs at all.” This is ironic, since Friedersdorf’s post neglects to mention abortion rights at all.1

Friedersdorf spends a lot of time discussing what a President Paul could actually accomplish in office — the point being, it’s silly for progressives to worry about Ron Paul’s opposing the Civil Rights act of 1964, or favoring a gold standard.

It is indeed wrongheaded that he wants to return to the gold standard. And if America were on the cusp of protecting the civil rights of black people for the first time, I’d campaign against Paul, despite being quite sympathetic to his stance on other issues. Do you know why? It’s because I care about actual liberty enhancing outcomes, whereas both Yglesias and Serwer are evaluating Paul’s candidacy in a way that is curiously removed from the issues that confront us or what would plausibly happen if he won.

But as President, Ron Paul could do a lot to make abortion less available, or even illegal in many states. (Just one Supreme Court appointment could do the trick.) Crucially, many or even most members of Congress (depending on how the next couple of elections go) would be happy to join President Paul in cutting abortion rights.

In contrast, although an anti-drug-war President could do a lot of marginal good, he wouldn’t be able to end the drug war, because almost no one in Congress would go along with that.

Friedersdorf is right to think that President Paul would be better than Obama on many crucial civil liberties issues. But Friedersdorf makes it sound as if Obama is unquestionably worse than Paul on every plausible civil liberty issue. That’s simply not true. It’s wrong to evaluate Paul on civil liberties without mentioning his opposition to the drug war, but it’s just as wrong to evaluate Paul on civil liberties without mentioning his opposition to women’s right to abortion.

(For a more complete overview of the practical harm Ron Paul could do as President, see Alex Pareene and Patrick Appel.)

  1. Not counting the paragraph he quoted from Yglesias. []
This entry posted in Abortion & reproductive rights, crossposted on TADA, Elections and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 

13 Responses to Why Progressives Don’t Support Ron Paul

  1. 1
    mythago says:

    And by “civil rights”, Friedersdorf means “the civil rights most important to me, and screw all y’alls.”

  2. 2
    philfemgal says:

    Doesn’t Ron Paul’s position on glbq rights issues also leave A LOT to be desired?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Yes, it does! So does Obama’s, to be fair, but Ron Paul is worse than Obama on QUILTBAG issues.

  4. 4
    Emily says:

    I have quite a libertarian streak in my political beliefs, but I will NEVER align myself with or respect “libertarians” because of their abortion stance. I have yet to actually meet a self-labeled “libertarian” who supports abortion rights. And I have absolutely no respect for anyone who calls themselves libertarian and does not support abortion rights. Would any “libertarian” ever support government compelled organ donation that would “save a life”? I don’t think so. F-‘em. They only believe in liberty for the few people who are exactly like them.

  5. 5
    TLR says:

    Thank you for your article. From what I gather, Paul is pro-life in his personal views, but wouldn’t impose those on the public, he would leave the abortion issue up to each state to decide.

  6. 6
    Jenny says:

    Try telling this to Charlie Davis:
    I’d agree that right now, ending the wars are the most important, but I don’t know how better Ron Paul is than Obama regarding abortion.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Charlie Davis doesn’t seem much open to conversation. But he really should consider that pro-life policies kill tens of thousands of women and infants.

    Ron Paul is extremely pro-life, so Obama is a lot better than that,.

    From a practical point of view, framing this as a choice between Paul and Obama is all a bit moot, isn’t it? I won’t face the choice between Ron Paul and Barack Obama; I’ll be facing either the choice between Romney and Obama, or Perry and Obama.

    So I won’t have the option to vote for someone who is anti-war, and I won’t have the option to vote for someone who wants to end the drug war. I will, however, have the option to vote for someone who is pro-choice and won’t defund UNFPA.

    That said, I agree that Paul is great on some issues, and wish he was a bigger presence in the debates.

  8. 8
    mythago says:

    Paul also does not believe in the Seventh Amendment, and believes that the courts should be stripped of their power to review laws that deal with ‘privacy’ issues. Civil libertarian, my pale ass.

  9. 9
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Emily, I’m a libertarian and I favor abortion rights. I never got the impression it was an especially rare combination, though there are also plenty of libertarians on the other side, too.

  10. 10
    Cornelius says:

    Even if you think that Ron Paul should not be elected, his nomination would allow Obama to move leftward in the debates. Romney’s nomination means Obama has to prove he’s tough on terrorism and wants to keep the military industrial catastrophe on steroids. What should a progressive do, especially if there is not a realistically contested race down ballot between a progressive and a blue dog?

    Furthermore, if enough progressives vote for Ron Paul in the primary, Tampa Bay makes Chicago 1968 look like a church picnic. Let’s punish the GOP.

    Why not open this gift that’s staring progressives in the face?

  11. 11
    Cornelius says:

    All or nothing politics plays into the hands of the corporate establishment. This is the gift to progressives that needs to be taken: http://progressivesforronpaul.blogspot.com/2011/10/tho-how-and-why-of-dirty-work-of-green.html
    Let’s not do the brain dead thing and vote in a meaningless primary.

  12. 12
    mythago says:

    Cornelius, spamming paens to Ron Paul is not terribly persuasive.

  13. 13
    Cornelius says:

    Had you bothered to read any of my blog, you would know that I am very critical of Paul’s economic policies as well as libertarianism in general. To allow global corporatism and military imperialism to drain ordinary people of present and future economic viability because a cultural wedge issue moves half an inch in a rival tribe’s direction is morally indefensible. A strategic opportunity presents itself in the form of Paul’s campaign. His candidacy stands no chance at gaining the GOP nomination except for progressive infiltration of the primaries and caucuses next year. The risks involved are minimal since gerrymandering and incumbency have made the Democratic primaries about 98% settled. The potential benefits are numerous: a chaotic GOP convention resulting in the permanent loss of its libertarian faction, a third party coalition ticket finally capable toppling the corporate duopoly, a voice in the general election to undermine the pleas for keeping the pentagon on steroids, and a chance to demonstrate in various states the effectiveness of truly progressive policy. Ron Paul is never going to be able to take away a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Let’s not pretend that Obama II gets us any more than he has thus far. The next economic stimulus is another war if we don’t start acting outside the box.