who's a real progressive?; or, why i'm supporting ron paul

Who’s A Real Progressive?

~ by David Sirota
~originally published on

It’s rather sad that nearly every article written by a non-libertarian about Ron Paul begins with a disclaimer that the writer is not endorsing Paul for president. Yet, with a virulent case of Ron Paul Derangement Syndrome plaguing partisan Obama loyalists, it bears repeating if only to preempt future mischaracterizations and slander: I am not endorsing Ron Paul for president.

That said, I believe the argument being forwarded by progressive-minded Paul supporters is significant because it embodies a calculating pragmatism that highlights uncomfortable truths both about liberal priorities and about presidential power.

To review the basic Paul profile: When it comes to government social spending and regulation, Paul is more antithetical to progressive goals than any candidate running for the White House. This is indisputable. At the same time, though, when it comes to war, surveillance, police power, bank bailouts, cutting the defense budget, eliminating corporate welfare and civil liberties, Paul is more in line with progressive goals than any candidate running in 2012 (or almost any Democrat who has held a federal office in the last 30 years). This, too, is indisputable.

In seeing Paul’s economic views, positions on a woman’s right to choose, regulatory ideas and ties to racist newsletters as disqualifying factors for their electoral support, many self-identified liberal Obama supporters are essentially deciding that, for purposes of voting, those set of issues are simply more important to them than the issues of war, foreign policy, militarism, Wall Street bailouts, surveillance, police power and civil liberties — that is, issues in which Paul is far more progressive than the sitting president.

There’s certainly a logic to that position, and that logic fits within the conventionally accepted rubric of progressivism. But let’s not pretend here: Holding this position about what is and is not a disqualifying factor is a clear statement of priorities — more specifically, a statement that Paul’s odious economics, regulatory ideas, position on reproductive rights and ties to bigotry should be more electorally disqualifying than President Obama’s odious escalation of wars, drone killing of innocents, due-process-free assassinations, expansion of surveillance, increases in the defense budget, massive ongoing bank bailouts and continuation of the racist drug war.

By contrast, Paul’s progressive-minded supporters are simply taking the other position — they are basically saying that, for purposes of voting, President Obama’s record on militarism, civil liberties, foreign policy, defense budgets and bailouts are more disqualifying than Paul’s newsletter, economics, abortion and regulatory positions. Again, there’s an obvious logic to this position — one that also fits well within the conventional definition of progressivism. And just as Obama supporters shouldn’t pretend they aren’t expressing their preferences, Paul’s supporters shouldn’t do that either. Their support of the Republican congressman is a statement of personal priorities within the larger progressive agenda.

Hence, we reach one of those impossible questions: From a progressive perspective, which is a more legitimate camp to be in? In terms of ideological allegiance to the larger progressive agenda, I don’t really think there’s a right or wrong answer. But in terms of realpolitik, there’s a strong case to be made that Paul’s progressive-minded supporters understand something that Obama’s supporters either can’t or don’t want to: namely, that a presidential election is a vote for president, not a vote to elect the entire federal government. As such, when faced with candidates whom you agree with on some issues and totally disagree with on other issues, it’s perfectly rational — and wholly pragmatic — to consider one’s own multifaceted policy preferences in the context of what a prospective president will have the most unilateral power to actually enact.

With Paul, it just so happens that most of the ultra-progressive parts of his platform (and legislative career) correspond to the presidential powers that are most unilateral in nature. As President Obama so aptly proved when he ignored the War Powers Act during the Libya conflict and started drone wars in various other countries, a president can start and end military conflicts with the stroke of a pen — and without any congressional check on power. Likewise, as President Obama showed when he assassinated American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and then his family without so much as a single criminal charge, a president can now trample or expand civil liberties with the stroke of the same pen. The president also appoints the chairman of the Federal Reserve bank, which now unilaterally grants trillions of dollars in bailouts without intervention from Congress. And, as President Obama proved with his administration’s crackdown on California’s marijuana laws, a president has far more operational control over the drug war than the congressional committees charged with oversight.

By contrast, the policy areas where Paul is most at odds with progressives are the areas Congress has far more control over — specifically, budgets and regulatory statutes —

:::continue reading:::

6 Responses to who’s a real progressive?; or, why i’m supporting ron paul

  1. Hi, Max,

    Ever wondered why Joe Lieberman is in the Senate today and not Ned Lamont who, at the beginning of his campaign, had a strong anti-Iraq war message, who certainly would have won the Senate seat if his campaign team had not advised him to broaden his message?

    Here’s David Sirota’s explanation of why the charges he and the rest of his team mismanaged Ned Lamont’s campaign are unfair:

    I don’t buy it. Just think of what these past several years would have been with a strong anti-Iraq war Senator in Connecticut’s seat instead of warmonger Joe Lieberman and then think about who helped him get there (yet denies he really had anything to do with it).

  2. Max

    I have no idea why you think this is pertinent to a discussion of progressive agendas in a Paul vs. Obama discussion. Please don’t try to play convoluted mind games with me Lucian. I am rather intelligent and also rather impatient and will ultimately have had enough and swat you like a bug if you keep going there. Just agree to disagree and drop it.

  3. It’s really simple, Max – if you don’t see what David Sirota, whom you trust, has to do with Joe Lieberman, super warmonger, still being in the Senate then I can’t connect the dots any more clearly and frankly, after reading his piece, I have to wonder about his motives during Lamont’s campaign. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘swat you like a bug’ but if you’d prefer that I stop commenting, I certainly have no problem with that. You seem to have taken off in a direction which I feel is manifestly unfair to a president who is trying extremely hard and, in essence, though you haven’t said that yet officially, supporting a man who has neither legal nor economics training and is supported by white supremacists. I’d love to agree to disagree, but you’re posting political opinions which I don’t support and can’t let stand unopposed. I can stop commenting, though, if that’s what you’d prefer.

  4. Max

    I have clearly said I am supporting Ron Paul in several public forums including this one. You are not paying attention.

    It is not your place to let or not let my opinion stand. I am entitled to my opinion with or without your consent. That attitude however, that you have the right to enforce your opinion over mine, that you cannot let mine stand unopposed or without interference, is perhaps a very large part of why we disagree. You seem to believe it is your god given right to hammer others into agreeing with you. This goes hand in hand with the attitude it is the United States’ right to hammer on other countries, and not just metaphorically, until they do what the United States wants. And for the federal government to hammer on its citizens until they do what it wants. All of which I disagree with.

    And yes. This conversation is over. I disagree with your perspective, your attitudes of dominion and superiority, you assessment of the president, and your moral perspective on the state of the nation and the presidency. That won’t change. It will only deteriorate to worse and worse assessments of your character if you continue.

  5. I’m not trying to get in the last word, but this is what I remember reading from the comments to your last post:

    “I haven’t decided I am voting for him. I am looking at the candidates and studying him. And from what I can see, he is currently the lesser evil of the choices available, and has some positive aspects that are lacking in any other candidate.
    If you said explicitly somewhere that you supported him then yes, I missed it, but I wasn’t looking for it either since I would never have guessed that. I have not read other posts of yours for a while, preferring to go through them all when I was better able to concentrate on them than during the past few months when I’ve been extremely busy and would have continued saving them up to read through all carefully but then I saw the ‘why I will never vote for obama again’ headline.

    I certainly have never tried to ‘enforce’ my opinion on you, Max – I have an opinion, this is a forum you have admitted me to, so I’ve stated it. I will not comment again.

  6. Max

    “you’re posting political opinions which I don’t support and can’t let stand unopposed” ~ you

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