Don't Believe the Hype (Ron Paul is Not Your Savior)
Congressman and presidential hopeful Ron Paul has always opposed the Iraq war, and that's really, really great. I'm happy for him. The right wing ideologue actually gets the war, the CIA's practice of so-called extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo right - but the balance of what he gets wrong is glaring and is almost as frightening as the amount of friends and colleagues I respect that have signed on as Ron Paul supporters. People seem to like that he appears to be an unusual Republican candidate, but right below the surface of the libertarian mask that Paul wears is an ultra nationalist, gun loving Christian conservative that opposes affirmative action, a woman's right to choose and same-sex marriage. And... oh yeah: he hates immigrants.
Paul is Not an Anti-Capitalist
Despite his record-breaking online fundraising effort, it's more likely that pigs will fly before Paul wins the Republican primary. Regardless, I'm dismayed at the left-wing, anti-capitalist buzz around him, including the comparisons between him and Noam Chomsky. Paul's vision for the harsh privatization of everything from education to social security would only yield monopolies that don't work for everyday people, much like our current healthcare system. The presidential candidate advocates dismantling the few positive governmental regulations that secure working-class rights and benefits, including welfare - again, clearly not anti-capitalist. And while I can admire that any politician would call for ending the US' support of Israel, it follows in the vein of Paul's nationalist, isolationist concept of abolishing the United Nations and other diplomatic efforts to conserve our own opulence while leaving the rest of the world to waste.
I Loves My Guns
Paul calls himself a strict abider of the Constitution, and says that the relationship between the People and government is important. Unfortunately, I wonder how many people would be left if we adhered to this Texan's ideas surrounding the Second Amendment. Paul, who has earned an A-rating by the National Rifle Association, champions the cause to allow people to carry concealed firearms. And although ruling after ruling has clarified that the Constitution does not guarantee people the right to run around lugging assault rifles, Paul loves his guns and according to him the issue is not even up for debate. Add to this the fact that legislation like the 1968 Gun Control Act (which was approved after the John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy were killed with um... guns) was passed in a way in which Paul would likely interpret as unconstitutional, and you quickly realize how fanatical this man is about the Second Amendment.
Paul and the Christian Right
Paul opposes the separation of Church and State. Yes, you read correctly, he opposes it. He says there is a war on religion, and that "Through perverse court decisions and years of cultural indoctrination, the elitist, secular Left has managed to convince many in our nation that religion must be driven from public view." We should remember that when writing about the First Amendment of the Constitution (which clearly states that "government will make no law respecting an establishment of religion"), Thomas Jefferson coined the term "separation of Church and State". If Paul's theocratic concepts were instituted, we would have Old Testament displays at the nation's courthouses, and Christian prayers would be part of each child's school day.
His religious conservatism seems to inform his views on topics as elementary as evolution when it comes to education. When asked if he would encourage presenting so-called facts to contradict the theory of evolution in schools, he answered yes. This "alternative view" on the theory of evolution means teaching the concept of intelligent design- a pseudoscience which real scientists dismiss as another attempt to once again introduce creationism into public classrooms. No thank you. Intelligent design may have its place in church, on the street or at home, but in terms of science, it doesn't propose any hypotheses which can be tested through experiment; it's simply not science. Teachers should certainly not be forced to teach right-wing conservative Christian ideals about God in any classroom. When I take a biology course, I go to learn about accepted theory. When I want to hear about God, I'll go to church.
Paul also says that abortion is the tool by which the State achieves "a program of mass murder". A staunch pro-lifer who writes books on the topic in his spare time, he thinks States should decide the matter (read: allow states to overturn decisions like Roe v. Wade to allow new laws to protect the rights of what the Christian right calls "unborn people"). Under Paul's proposal, States could conceivably pass laws that bar women from obtaining abortions, including in cases of rape or incest, and even when the woman's life is at risk. Any person that values the right of any woman to choose what she will and will not do with her own body should take caution - Paul is to the extreme right of the political spectrum on this issue. I understand that Presidents do not decide abortion policy, but we have yet to see what Bush's Supreme Court appointments will yield in terms of abortion rights in the years to come. Any presidential candidate that would move to allow States to eradicate women's rights doesn't deserve the attention and praise he's getting from the Left.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, Paul says that federal government should play no role in the matter and that anyone can get married and call their relationship whatever they want. On its surface, that may sound fair enough. However, Paul was an original co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act in the House. Passed in the House in 2004, the bill sought to preclude federal courts from transferring the recognition of same-sex marriage across state lines. For example, a same-sex marriage that took place in Massachusetts would not be acknowledged in Alabama. Addressing the House in 2004, Paul made clear that if he was a member of the Texas legislature he would bar judges from advocating "new definitions" of marriage. Those of us who truly believe that anyone has the right to be married and to be recognized as such should realize that Paul's sometimes careful wording around the issue camouflages his Christian conservatism which defines marriage as something that can solely occur between a man and a woman.
Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. headed to Washington in March, 1964 to hear the historic Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act. The legislation, which was passed a few months later, banned segregation in schools and public spaces and made it illegal to discriminate in housing and hiring processes. Malcolm, Martin, and millions of people of color and their supporters knew that such legislation would permanently influence and reduce de jure discrimination across entire nation, including the reach of Jim Crow laws in the South. They also knew that it was a necessary step towards reducing the de facto discrimination that followed. Yet Ron Paul says that the Civil Rights Act was a violation of the Constitution and that it reduced individual liberties. Last year, Paul was one of only 33 Congress members to vote against Voting Rights Act renewal, despite the fact that 390 of his colleagues voted for it. Paul seems to want to go back to the times when racial segregation was the norm and the law.
Paul is against affirmative action because, he says, no one should be punished or privileged for belonging to a group, and everyone should be treated as an individual. In stating this, Paul conveniently ignores the truth that individuals from the white group are treated one way and individuals from the people of color group are treated another way. He detests calls for diversity, and adds that those of us who base our identities on race are "inherently racist". His logic in the latter statement is so far removed from reality that it makes it difficult to respond to - suffice to say that people of color do not have the institutional power to be racist against whites; his statement instead illustrates his own racism. But it gets a lot worse: Paul's political literature has stated that it is sensible to be afraid of black men; that "95 percent of African Americans in [Washington D.C.] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal"; that black male children (but not white ones) should be treated and tried as adults for crimes they commit beginning at age 13; and he referred to two black men that were interviewed by Ted Koppel after the Los Angeles 1992 uprising as "animals". Kanye West was right when he said, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Guess what? If his own political literature is any indication, Ron Paul loathes black people.
Supporters who have gone as far as to donate money to Paul's campaign should bear in mind that he has knowingly also taken donations from white supremacist and former KKK GrandWizard Don Black. Other white supremacists like David Duke also support Paul's bid for President. It's easy for Paul to dismiss affirmative action as something that violates individual liberty, but what hides behind that is the fact that he is a hate-spewing presidential candidate aligned with some of the most blatant, odious racists on the planet.
More "American" Than You and I
Not surprisingly, Paul offensive terms like "illegal alien", "illegal immigrant" or plain-old "illegals" when referring to human beings who live in the United States without proper documentation. Besides "beaner", "spic" and "wetback", I cannot immediately think of other words that approximate the bigotry that these terms are loaded with. In this regard, however, nearly all presidential candidates and even well-meaning everyday people continue to use these terms - except that Paul is not well-meaning when it comes to the undocumented.
While addressing a group of supporters, Paul claimed that in terms of work ethic, some undocumented workers "are more American than some of us." WASP purists like Paul employ a type of historical amnesia which yields an artificial yet neutral-sounding identity that they call "American". Perhaps if Paul wasn't such an isolationist he would realize that there actually are two continents worth of people that call themselves American, and that the ones that do so in the United States are not a chosen bunch. The truth is that the practice of pioneer colonialism in the U.S. illegally and immorally took land from various indigenous populations. Those pioneer immigrants, who illegally brought African slaves with them, tried to enforce and superimpose their cultural and linguistic practices on this stolen territory while almost completely exterminating the people that they took the land from. Those original populations that were not killed were illegally displaced against their will. In practice, these pioneer immigrants illegally crossed national borders, and as a result their decedents continue to reap the structural benefits that were created. But instead of claiming this pioneer immigrant identity (which requires a truthful look into an uneasy past) they appropriate a fear-based, racist "American" identity and demonize contemporary immigrants instead.
In Paul's fuzzy logic, all immigrants are here to suck the country dry of its welfare, education and emergency healthcare systems. If it was up to Paul, those systems would be voided for not only undocumented, but for documented immigrants as well. Forget that both groups pay into the income, property and retail tax system. Ignore that time and time again, studies indicate that the undocumented pay more into the system than they take out. According to Paul, even documented immigrants should be stripped of any government subsidy. He also says that children born to undocumented immigrants on US soil should not be allowed to hold citizenship. The so-called strict abider of the Constitution wants to overturn the Fourteenth Amendment so that children born to undocumented immigrants are stripped of their birthright. Besides the serious moral dilemmas surrounding his radical proposal, the practical limitations are copious. What if one parent is documented but the other is not? What if both parents were undocumented, but from different countries? What if they were from the same country, but the country of origin refused to recognize the child as a citizen of that land? Paul's scheme (like so many of his others) is completely absurd.
Deconstructing 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. Ron Paul is a free market capitalist who doesn't care for the rights of workers or the poor; he is a gun-loving friend of the NRA, he is a radical Christian conservative who thinks that school prayer and intelligent design have a God-given place in public schools, that a woman's right to choose should be crushed, and that same-sex marriage is repugnant; he is a Congressman that has voted against affirmative action and thinks that desegregation somehow violated the Constitution; and he is a candidate that hates immigrants. 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. Paul is certainly not the answer and we need to stop pretending that he is. I recognize and can appreciate that he stands against the Iraq War and everything that the so-called War on Terror has wreaked at home and abroad. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Aura Bogado is a writer and radio producer. She blogs at tothecurb.wordpress.com