Previously by John V. Walsh: Impeach Barack Obama
On the question of war and empire, the Republican presidential candidates from Romney to Perry to Bachmann are clones of Obama, just as surely as Obama is a clone of Bush.
There is, however, one exception, Rep. Ron Paul (R, TX) the only contender who is a consistent, principled anti-interventionist, opposed to overseas Empire, and a staunch defender of our civil liberties so imperiled since 9/11. These are not newfound positions for Paul, come upon along the campaign trail or via a focus group, but long standing convictions, rooted in libertarian principles and verified by countless votes in the House and speeches on the Floor. You can take them to the proverbial bank. Nothing approaching this phenomenon has been seen in a major party since George McGovern. And even McGovern did not identify, let alone oppose, the U.S. as an Empire.
Paul must be taken seriously; he is not a candidate without real prospects. He virtually tied for first place in the Iowa straw poll, and now runs third behind the chamelonic Romney and the thuggish Perry in national polls. Paul has money from his grass roots "money bomb" fundraising and he has an enthusiastic base, especially among the under 30 set.
The question must be asked, what is to be done by the antiwar Left? This question may be put in a variety of ways. The Left often acknowledges its obligation to those in developing countries, people of color over the planet whose standard of living and life itself is held back by the depredations of the U.S. Empire. If the Left acknowledges such a primary obligation, does it not need to support an antiwar candidate like Paul when there is no other around? Look at Libya with thousands killed by NATO bombing and the infrastructure of the African country with the highest Human Development Index being systematically destroyed. It is a war that is undeclared by Congress, therefore in violation of the Constitution and thus an impeachable action. Or Iraq where a million have been killed and four million displaced. Paul takes an unequivocal stance to stop this killing. How can the Left justify withholding its support for him?
Is not the very first obligation of the Left above and beyond all else to stop the killing, done in our name and with our tax dollars? Is any other stance moral? And does not the Paul candidacy need to be seen in this light?
The Left has complained for decades that it is unable to reach much of the American public with a message of peace. In large part that is due to a cultural gap — the "progressive" Left does not speak in the same language as much of the country. Nor does the Left share the same worldview as many Americans. Ron Paul does, and he can reach, in fact has reached these people with a solid anti-intervention message. Paul does not ask that his base change its worldview but simply to understand that anti-interventionism is a consistent part of that view. Paul speaks in straightforward terms. Let us stop poking our nose into other nations' business and stop wasting our money doing so. He reaches people never before touched by an antiwar message. How can the Left pass up the chance to help such a candidate?
But what of other issues — like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security which the libertarian Paul wants to phase out, albeit gradually? Paul the country doc, knows full well how people of little means rely on these programs and he proposes no sudden termination of them. But this author and others on the Left want to extend those programs. How do we square that circle? I contend it is no problem, because Paul is committed to preservation of civil liberties and the prerogatives of Congress. I am confident that under those conditions, where the discussion is open and free, my views on these social democratic programs will prevail. I am sure that my Libertarian friends feel the same way about their views. And what more can we ask for in a democracy? Under Paul I do not have to worry about being locked up for my views. I am confident of that under Paul; I am not with any other candidate. Certainly not with Barack Obama.
On the other hand the only way that popular entitlement programs can be scrapped is by taking the decisions out of the hands of our elected officials and putting them in the hands of unelected bureaucrats. That is precisely what Obama is trying to do in the case of Medicare with his so-called "Independent Payment Advisory Board" and the "Super Congress" of twelve people. In this way Congress will effectively be out of the loop, and so we will be unable to affect the decision with our votes. And Obama has already signaled that he is willing to cut these fixed benefit (aka "entitlement") programs, incurring the wrath even of the usually placid AARP. As Alexander Cockburn has remarked, the only way to end Medicare is by pretending to save it — that is, by stealth. That is the way of Obama — but not of Paul.
The slogan "No Justice, No Peace," has often been used by the Left; and for the developing world it is quite appropriate. But in the heart of the Empire it is the other way around: "No Peace, No Justice" — in that order. Until we get the monkey of Empire off our back, neither the desire for lower taxes nor the desire for better social benefits are likely to be realized. The Left cannot afford to ignore this fact or the Ron Paul candidacy. At the least it must be discussed. To simply avoid the question and look the other way as the wars and slaughter continue simply does not qualify as a moral stance.
John Walsh [send him mail] is a scientist who lives in Cambridge, MA.
© 2011 John V. Walsh