Home / The choice between two progressives - Obama and Ron Paul?  
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What a completely ridiculous statement, right? Calling Ron Paul a progressive? So why are some prominent progressives suggesting that Ron Paul is more progressive than Obama?

Liberals and progressives (there is a difference) certainly aren't thrilled with Obama for breaking so many of his promises and continuing Bush-era policies. From corporate bailouts to lack of transparent government to coerced confessions to elimination of civil liberties to an increased war state, Democrat loyalists are having a tough time apologizing for and supporting their president. Signing a martial law bill that he said he would veto or leaving Guantanamo forever open when he said he would close it are no longer actions he can blame on Republicans.

Obama is certainly doing things that most progressives consider outside his presidential authority (not to mention outside their liberal values). As the liberal blog firedoglake put it, "Obama Doesn't Know Why the Fuck He's Entitled to Kill Al-Awlaki, He Just Is, Damnit." They are calling him "disingenuous." He's nothing like who they voted for. Thousands of liberal intellectuals have gone so far as to accuse Obama of human rights violations and war crimes. And now they're rethinking if they should vote Obama a second term.

Perhaps the great orator George Bush said it best: "Fool me once, shame on... shame on you... Fool me, you can't get fooled again."

If there's any upside to this, it's that, more and more, people are focusing on the issues instead of their party's candidate. You know this is happening when Ron Paul wins second place among Democrats. Obama supporters may spit on the voting booth after casting a vote for Paul, but they also are more experienced and educated now. They know that voting for Obama means four more years of endless war and militarism, four more years of disappearing civil liberties, and four more years of crony capitalism. Progressives want real change this time on the most important issues. Now they just have to figure out what those most important issues are.

Perhaps esteemed liberal Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt is the better model for progressive ideals. Granted, he destroyed civil liberties when he interned 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage. But his New Deal and establishing many new government programs and regulations might make him one of the greatest progressive presidents of all time. (At least Republican Newt Gingrich thinks so.) Point being, just because progressives cringe as they witness destroyed civil liberties, social programs might weigh more on their priority scales.

For example, imagine a debate solely between Obama and Paul. For progressives, Obama would win on environment, health care, taxes, unions, abortion, infrastructure, foreign aid, and overall social welfare. Paul would win on corporate welfare, war, surveillance, police power, and civil liberties. On the issue of discrimination, it might be a toss-up between Paul's newsletters and Obama's drug war. For the atheists, there wouldn't be any differentiator as they both believe in God.

Who do you think represents progressive values more: Obama or Ron Paul? What are your most important priorities when voting for president? Do you think Congress would be able to control a President Paul when it comes to social policies as the author claims? Is it pragmatic for progressives to vote for Ron Paul? Which issues are deal-breakers for you with either of the candidates?

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.

So, for instance, Paul's radical proposals to eliminate major social programs are certainly objectionable, and, if he were president, those proposals would certainly have an impact on the overall political debate. But the Constitution mandates that the federal budget is the purview of Congress. That explains why the final budget so often looks so different from the budget initially proposed by the president - and why a President Paul wouldn't be able to do to the budget what he could do unilaterally to, say, America's war policy. Likewise, President Paul may want to get rid of civil rights and clean water regulations, and his executive power over appointments and agency rule-making could certainly do great harm to the enforcement of those important regulations. But again, unlike wars, civil liberties, bailouts and domestic police power, Congress has far more control over those regulatory statutes than any single president - and additionally, many of those statutes permit private legal action (suing, etc.) as an (albeit, imperfect) means of enforcement.

Who's a real progressive? Obama and Paul both hold positions anathema to liberals. Voters need to choose which ones to overlook


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Jan 16, 2012 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=677

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