In the Republican presidential primary, everyone but Rick Santorum seems destined to have his or her moment. Now is Ron Paul’s. Paul is polling well in Iowa and respectably in New Hampshire. Sharp attack ads against Newt Gingrich helped the media remember he is still running and deflated Gingrich’s balloon.
And Paul is getting some of the adoration from certain pundits that he enjoyed last time. Andrew Sullivan recently endorsed Paul for the Republican nomination. Glenn Greenwald of Salon defends Paul against perceived slights from the media.
The liberal counter-argument tends to be that while Paul is good on foreign policy and civil liberties, he is wildly wrong on economic issues. As Patrick Caldwell of The American Prospect wrote, “While his foreign policy and defense of civil liberties might appeal to the progressive heart, Paul jumps off a cliff when it comes to the economy.” It’s certainly true that Paul’s economic views are extremist and strange. But, unfortunately, Paul isn’t a progressive on much of anything else either.
Here are three crucial myths about Paul:
He has any chance whatsoever of winning the Republican nomination. Paul’s chances of winning the nomination are 7.7 percent, according to InTrade, and significantly better than Jon Huntsman’s, according to Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan cites the polling numbers as his reason for endorsing Paul over Huntsman. “The constant refrain on Fox News that this man has ‘zero chance’ [emphasis in original] of being the nominee is a propagandistic lie,” writes Sullivan. “Nationally, Paul is third in the polls at 9.7 percent.” It appears that Sullivan, who himself endorsed the Iraq War, is unaware of the foreign policy views of the majority of Republican voters. Paul sparks enthusiasm among his supporters and can perform impressively in events with a small sample size where turning out supporters can skew results. That’s why he wins straw polls and may do well in caucus states.
But there is a ceiling on his support. There are too many Republicans who disagree strongly with his views on Iran, Israel and military spending. No one has ever gone negative on Paul because no one has had to. As John Nichols explains, the minute the Republican establishment seriously fears he could win, they will coalesce around his opponents and aggressively attack his more unpopular and quirky ideas, as well as exhuming any skeletons in his closet. Case in point, Sean Hannity recently asked on his Fox News show whether Paul “has been given a pass” on his racist newsletters. Indeed, he has, for instance by Hannity himself who neglected to raise the subject when he hosted Paul on his radio show. If Paul has a chance, that will change.
He supports individual freedom. True, as his fans always say, Paul supports protecting civil liberties from the federal government and opposes the Patriot Act. But it seems never to have occurred to those writers that half the country consists of women who might want to exercise the freedom to control their own reproductive organs. Paul opposes abortion rights and he talks out of both sides of his mouth on the issue. Paul says he wants Roe v. Wade repealed so the issue can be decided by the states. But Paul voted for the federal ban on “partial birth” abortions.
In general, Paul’s commitment is only to limiting federal power, not proactively protecting individual rights. Passing federal legislation to protect civil rights from states or private enterprises, and rigorous enforcement of those laws, is not on Paul’s agenda. Indeed, he opposes doing so. Paul says the Americans with Disabilities Act “should never have been passed,” because “it’s an intrusion into private property rights.” He even says he would have voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If Congress passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to ban discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation, Paul would presumably veto it. As Adele Stan writes in Alternet, Paul’s newsletters—which have garnered attention for their racist passages—also included homophobic conspiracy theorizing.
He is liberal on foreign policy. Just because Ron Paul opposes imperialism and unnecessary invasions of foreign countries doesn’t mean he has a liberal or progressive bone in his body. Paul is a nationalist and isolationist, staunchly opposed to multilateral organizations. This isn’t good for international peacekeeping or other humanitarian efforts, nor arms control. Paul opposes all foreign aid. Promoting democracy and human rights are of no interest to Paul, even through peaceful means. He also opposes immigration and wants to eliminate America’s constitutional policy of birthright citizenship.
As Michael Cohen explains in Foreign Policy, Paul’s foreign policy would undermine many progressive aims. “There is far more to Paul’s view than just his opposition to U.S. military adventurism,” writes Cohen. “Paul also believes that the United States should depart from all international organizations and global alliances. This includes not just NATO, but also the United Nations and the World Health Organization.” Indeed, in 1990 Paul appeared in a crazed video of the John Birch Society claiming the UN would take away Americans’ gun rights, property rights and their right to practice religion freely.
In short, you don’t even need to think about Paul’s bizarre right-wing economic views to find him unacceptable.
You can watch the John Birch video from 1990 here: