The Liberal or the Libertarian?Reflections on the Presidential Races of Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul
Some progressive strategists reluctantly lend their support to presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul, citing his principled stand against the Iraqi genocide and against America’s Machiavellian interventions in the affairs of other nations, as well as his consistent championing of civil liberties. Appalled by the gradual slide of the United States towards a police state, these strategists see Paul as the one man who might stem the tide.
I almost fell into the same trap myself. But, before sending Paul a modest donation, I decided to examine Paul’s record a bit more carefully and, in particular, compare it to the record of his fellow congressman and rival, Dennis Kucinich.
I launched my cursory journey by visiting their websites. At Kucinich’s, you are invited to “Take the Test: See which candidate—Democrat or Republican—comes closest to representing your views on 25 keys issues” (you may wish to try it yourself, before going on). How would someone like me—an ex-citizen of an apartheid state and a supporter of civil liberties, privacy, limited government, democracy, and social justice—fare on such a test? Here are my results:
Disagreements, Unknowns, Other (brown)
Disagreements: (1) No Child Left Behind
Disagreements: (6) Death Penalty, Assault Weapons Ban, Patriot Act, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Disagreements: (4) Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Same-Sex Marriage
Disagreements: (6) Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Disagreements: (7) Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action, Same-Sex Marriage
Disagreements: (6) Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Iran - Military Action
Disagreements: (6) Death Penalty, No Child Left Behind, Patriot Act, Border Fence, Iran Sanctions, Same-Sex Marriage
Disagreements: (12) Abortion Rights, Embryonic Stem Cells, ANWR Drilling, Kyoto, Assault Weapons Ban, Guns - Background Checks, Citizenship Path for Illegals, Border Fence, Net Neutrality, Minimum Wage Increase, Same-Sex Marriage, Universal Healthcare
First, these unexpected results reminded me once more how difficult it is to understand contemporary events. Second, they showed that there is only one current candidate, Dennis Kucinich, who actually represents my views. Third, they suggested that each and every Republican except Ron Paul must be classified, in my book, as an enemy of the American people. Fourth, they suggested that, for a Republican, Ron Paul is pretty decent. In some ways he would be better than Clinton; in some ways, worse—certainly not someone worth going to a polling booth for.
To confirm these tentative impressions, I studied Kucinich’s and Paul’s websites. Kucinich’s site was informative enough to offer all the information I needed. In Paul’s case, to get a clearer view, I had to review a sampler of his congressional speeches.
What did I find?
To begin with, Ron Paul is not a corporate-approved candidate. He is steadfast in his opposition (apparently on constitutional, not humanitarian grounds) to the Iraqi genocide, the planned Iranian blitzkrieg, and the ongoing, brutal, oppression of the Palestinian people. He is no friend of the moneylenders, oilmen, and arms peddlers who control every aspect of our polity, and he is a determined opponent of such monstrosities as Democrat Jane Harman’s “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” (only 6 representatives, Kucinich included, voted against this Draconian measure). He foresees the coming economic storm and is committed to its mitigation. He daily risks his life and the lives of his loved ones, standing up to immensely wealthy and powerful psychopaths. As a human being, he appears eminently qualified for the Life with Principle Prize. If placed against the wall, and threatened with execution unless I chose someone, and if I had to choose between Paul and corporate toadies like Clinton, Obama, Edwards, McCain, or Romney, I’d choose Dr. Paul, any day, any time.
But the day has not come yet when I must vote for a principled reactionary. To begin with, on the civil liberties, police state, peace, imperialism, personal courage, and “life with principle” issues, Kucinich’s record appears just as admirable as Paul’s. On virtually all other issues, Kucinich’s is incomparably better. Allow me to give you a few examples.
Assuming that the January 8, 2008 primary elections in New Hampshire have not been rigged (ballot fixing is a distinct possibility nowadays), these elections forcefully demonstrate once more that most Americans routinely vote against their convictions and interests. This in turn is made possible by systemic flaws in our body politic, of which the two most egregious are corporate control of our primary sources of information (on the subject of “our” schools, see George Carlin’s video, Education and the Owners of America). To give democracy a chance, we must wrest this control from the corporations and hand it back to the people. We must restore a free market of ideas to the political arena and totally clean up the mess of sunshine bribery (aka private campaign financing, whose essence has been, for instance, tragicomically captured in Michael Moore’s Congressional Pimp).
Over the years we have gotten used to occasional outbursts on this issue (please consult this source for countless quotations). For instance, in 1987, Robert Byrd, then Senate majority leader, appealed to his colleagues:
It is my strong belief that the great majority of senators--of both parties--know that the current system of campaign financing is damaging the Senate, hurts their ability to be the best senator for this nation and for citizens of their respective States that they could be, strains their family life by consuming even more time than their official responsibilities demand, and destroys the democracy we all cherish by eroding public confidence in its integrity. If we do not face a problem of this magnitude and fix it, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the tragic results.
Political scientists Adamany and Agree share that view:
[The] political finance system . . . undermines the ideals and hampers the performance of American democracy . . . . Officials . . . are . . . captives of the present system. Their integrity and judgment are menaced---and too often compromised—by the need to raise money and the means now available for doing it . . . . The pattern of giving distorts American elections: candidates win access to the electorate only if they can mobilize money from the upper classes, established interest groups, big givers, or ideological zealots. Other alternatives have difficulty getting heard. And the voters' choice is thereby limited. The pattern of giving also threatens the governmental process: the contributions of big givers and interest groups award them access to officeholders, so they can better plead their causes . . . . The private financing system . . . distort[s] both elections and decision making. The equality of citizens on election day is diluted by their inequality in campaign financing. The electorate shares its control of officials with the financial constituency.
The largest roadblock toward the American Restoration is a corrupt campaign finance system that promotes plutocracy allowing laws and regulations to be stealthily auctioned to the highest bidder. Less than 1% of the U.S. population contributes 80% of the money in federal elections. The top 1% in income also received more than half the Bush tax cuts. Tax policy has become an engine for transferring wealth upward. Enron had been poised to dominate energy markets worldwide largely because it strongly influenced the White House and donated to 71 Senators and 186 House members.
Private control of campaign financing leads to private control of the government itself and schemes like the privatization of social security, which would put trillions in retirement funds of Main Street workers at the disposal of Wall Street speculators. Public control of the political process requires public financing . . . . When only 0.11% of the voting age population contributed sums of at least $1,000 to a 2002 congressional candidate, doubling the limit to $2,000 provides even more power to a tiny financial elite. Those large contributions amounted to 55.5% of the candidates' individual fundraising. Think about that. More than half the money driving the political campaigns comes from 1% of the people. And we wonder why popular positions, like universal health care or a living wage, are not enacted. Six of the 10 major party candidates for president in 2004 raised more than 75% of their money from contributions of $1,000 or more, and that includes President Bush, who raised more than all the Democrats combined. Most people cannot pay $2,000 to attend a dinner with a candidate. It is very difficult to run for office at all if you are neither rich nor willing to accept money from corporate interests. I know. I'm trying to do it.
Kucinich likewise backs media reform:
In addition to requiring free airtime for political campaigns, we need to create a greater diversity of viewpoints in the media by breaking up the major media conglomerates, encouraging competition and quality as well as diversity.
Ron Paul, on the other hand, is opposed to media reform, and feels that “so-called ‘campaign finance reform’ is unconstitutional:” “The First amendment unquestionably grants individuals and businesses the free and unfettered right to advertise, lobby, and contribute to politicians as they choose. Campaign reform legislation blows a huge hole in these First amendment protections by criminalizing criticism of elected officials.” Dr. Paul urges his fellow congressmen, instead, “to reduce special interest influence in Washington and restore integrity to politics by reducing the federal government to its constitutional limits.”
I would love seeing the powers of this federal government curtailed or altogether incinerated, but that is not going to solve the central problem of our ailing republic, a sad fact which totally escapes our good doctor. If western history, going all the back to the ancient Greeks, teaches us a single lesson, the lesson is this:
Democracy, taken in its narrower, purely political, sense, suffers from the fact that those in economic and political power possess the means for molding public opinion to serve their own class interests. (Albert Einstein, Einstein on Peace, p. 502).
The issue for seekers of justice, fairness, and peace is leveling the playing field. For libertarians, on the other hand, the right of rich people to corrupt the political process by buying politicians and contaminating the airwaves is unassailable. For them, it entirely overrides the need for an authentically uninhibited marketplace of ideas and for bribery-free elections. The constitution and property rights are sacrosanct and inviolable, even if they drag us to the fascism they abhor.
àFriend of Clean Politics Score: Kucinich: 10. Ron Paul: -10.
THE STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Many progressive writers dismiss environmental concerns as a swindle. The world’s population, they believe, can forever go growing by 80,000,000 a year. We can puncture as many holes in the stratosphere as we wish; we can continue the ongoing destruction of forests, topsoil, oceans, lakes and air; continue to produce as many new chemicals as we wish; go on tampering with the evolutionary heritage of living organisms; persist in the creation of massive amounts of imperishable radioactive wastes; continue to reduce species diversity—and yet survive unscathed.
This is not the place to refute this scientifically naïve view of the world. Instead, let me just say that the majority of the people who are best qualified to judge the matter—independent scientists—are extremely concerned about the very future of the biosphere. For example, in 1992—when the situation was less desperate than it is now—some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this “Warning to Humanity:”
Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about.
Dennis Kucinich’s record and avowals will be applauded by any friend of the earth. Here is just one statement:
I would initiate a "Global Green Deal" to use our country's leadership in sustainable
energy production to provide jobs at home, increase our independence from foreign oil,
and aid developing nations with cheap, dependable, renewable energy technologies like
wind and solar. A clean environment, a sustainable economy, and an intact ozone layer
are not luxuries, but necessities for our planet's future.
Ron Paul, as one might expect from a man whose political views had been inalterably molded by a remarkable, but deeply-flawed, 18th century document, is far more concerned with infringements on the rights of property owners than with the physical and biological foundations of life itself. Against all common sense and decency, against probably his private sentiments for the survival of humanity and the long-term welfare of his own 18 grandchildren, he feels compelled, as we have seen, to defend the rights of corporations (and not the survival rights of fragile ecosystems, endangered species, and humanity as a whole) to drill for oil in Alaska’s National Wildlife Refuge. When it comes to global warming and the laughably modest Kyoto Protocol, that is, when it comes to taking a miniscule step towards protecting the health, pocketbooks, and survival of the world’s people from the externalities of capitalism, Ron Paul sides with the capitalists.
àFriend of the Biosphere Score: Kucinich: 10. Ron Paul: -10.
Besides the slide towards a police state, besides the corporate stranglehold on our elected politicians and our minds, and besides the environmental emergency threatening the well being (or even the future) of humanity, the biggest scandal in America could well involve health care. At least as far back as 1972, when Ted Kennedy and a probable ghost writer penned In Critical Condition, to 2007, when Michael Moore filmed Sicko, the USA’s qualified perhaps as the most paradoxical and heartless medical system on the planet. Americans pay more than any other people for their health care and they develop and possess some of the best technological and scientific advances, yet they lag far behind other countries of comparable wealth. Most Americans are decent and sensible enough to want the cheaper and healthier alternative available to Australians, Frenchmen, or Norwegians. They are prevented from achieving that goal by the few who benefit from this feudal system. These few, in turn, bribe just about every politician, journalist, and school board member to override the majority and confuse it to the point it no longer recalls the difference between fair and foul.
This indictment is not under dispute. The system stands condemned by the numbers that it, itself, chooses to divulge. Just about every week another feature of this fetid system comes to the fore. One article, appearing two days ago in the mass media, tells us that
France is tops, and the United States dead last, in providing timely and effective healthcare to its citizens, according to a survey Tuesday of preventable deaths in 19 industrialized countries.” The implications of just this failure of American medicine are nothing short of astounding: “Had the United States performed as well as any of the top three industrialized countries, there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths per year, the researchers said.
In passing, we may be justified perhaps, in wondering: If murdering 3,000 people is an act of terror, what do you call the murder of 101,000?
By the same token, it could be shown that Americans could save, every year, the lives of some 20,000 infants (babies between the ages of 0 and 1) if they adopted the Swedish system, and they could have prevented hundreds of thousands of unwanted teenage pregnancies if they adopted the Dutch system. Instead, we may note in passing that the USA is performing poorly on just about any measure of health and the quality of life one could think of. For instance, among 21 developed countries, only British children are even unhappier than our own. The well-being of children in this privileged group of countries is highest in the Netherlands, second lowest in the USA. Americans used to be the tallest people on earth (a measure of good health and nutrition), but have been overtaken by the Dutch and many other European countries. Our literal worldly stature is steadily diminishing!
Here is where Kucinich stands:
Health care in the US is too expensive and leaves 46 million Americans without insurance and millions more underinsured. Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate for President with a plan for a Universal, Single-Payer, Not-for-Profit health care system.
Ron Paul is a physician, likely moved by compassion towards all human beings. He must know that poverty is bad for you, that most of our children can benefit from universal, single-payer, Norwegian-style, health care system. He must have seen mal-nourished, emaciated, people in his practice. He must have known people whose inability to pay for basic health care cost them their lives—or their fingers and other body parts. He must have been moved, personally, by the tidal wave of 101,000 Americans dying every year because they are refused “timely and effective health care.” But like other doctrinaires, Paul cannot, and will not, be swayed by common sense and decencies.
To his credit, Paul fully concedes that our health care system is “a federally-managed disaster.” But he ignores the facts that we are the laughing stock of the world, getting shorter (on average) by the day, rushing to the crematorium faster than any other rich people, and spending a much larger fraction of our national wealth on these dubious achievements. Instead, he mistakenly derides the Canadian system as inferior to ours:
The federal government will not suddenly become efficient managers if universal health care is instituted. Government health care only means long waiting periods, lack of choice, poor quality, and frustration. Many Canadians, fed up with socialized medicine, come to the U.S. in order to obtain care. Socialized medicine will not magically work here.
He goes on to say:
It is time to take back our health care. This is why I support:
· Making all medical expenses tax deductible.
· Eliminating federal regulations that discourage small businesses from providing coverage.
· Giving doctors the freedom to collectively negotiate with insurance companies and drive down the cost of medical care.
· Making every American eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA), and removing the requirement that individuals must obtain a high-deductible insurance policy before opening an HSA.
· Reform licensure requirements so that pharmacists and nurses can perform some basic functions to increase access to care and lower costs.
By removing federal regulations, encouraging competition, and presenting real choices, we can make our health care system the envy of the world once again.
For rigid ideologues like Ron Paul, believing as they do that the problem with our wretched capitalistic system is that it is not capitalistic enough, palliatives like making all medical expenses tax deductible are considered remedies. With Ron Paul as president, poor and middle-class Americans will go on dying prematurely by the hundred thousand, and will go on paying more than they should and getting less than they deserve. Unless you happen to be filthy rich, the medical and pharmaceutical industries and its handmaids in Madison Avenue, Wall Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue will keep trampling on your basic human rights, on your freedoms, on your human dignity, subverting them all to enrich the few. If people like Kucinich and Kennedy could have ever had their way, this infamy would come to an end.
àFriend of Healthy America Score: Kucinich: 10. Ron Paul: -10.
THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO
Xenophobia is as old as the hills and more odious, to me, than the malaria vector. If our species is to survive, we must recognize our common humanity, feel compassion towards all our fellow human beings, and even extend this compassion towards all living things. We must let go of narrow parochialism, and embrace all our fellows—the poor and the rich, the Native Americans and the Muslim-Americans.
When it comes to Mexico, the issue is even more multi-faceted. First, the United States took Texas, California, and a few other states from Mexico, without provocation, relying merely on jingoistic propaganda and military superiority. Second, extreme poverty and political instability in Mexico are traceable in part to American policies. The “Free” Trade Agreement, for instance, produced profound changes in the Mexican economy, causing the impoverishment, dispossession, and destitution of many Mexicans. In turn, these Mexicans, in utter desperation, and at a great cost to themselves, illegally enter the United States to perform the thankless tasks of becoming our hewers of wood and drawers of water. Moreover, our government fully supports those Mexican politicians who rig elections and suppress fundamental human rights, thus helping to sustain a corrupt, inequitable system in that country. And, regardless of our guilt, the United States once proudly proclaimed:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Have we forgotten that promise? Has it been erased since from the Statue of Liberty? Are these just empty words?
For Dr. Paul, they are. Here he is, speaking about our brothers and sisters to the South:
Mr. Speaker, press reports also indicate that thousands of foreigners who would qualify for U.S. Social Security benefits actually came to the United States and worked here illegally. That’s right: The federal government may actually allow someone who came to the United States illegally, worked less than the required number of years to qualify for Social Security, and then returned to Mexico for the rest of his working years, to collect full U.S. Social Security benefits while living in Mexico. That is an insult to the millions of Americans who pay their entire working lives into the system and now face the possibility that there may be nothing left when it is their turn to retire.
But things are never that simple. The USA has, in effect, a policy of encouraging illegal immigration, for the same reason that it encourages the movement of American manufacturing to China. In either case, big business profits by not having to pay the so-called minimum wage (a law to which, naturally, Paul is opposed). The illegal immigrants, people who often live at the margins of our society, often unable to keep the wolf from the door, must pay social security taxes. Since they pay into the system, don’t fair play and even the purest libertarian ideology demand that they get their money back when they get older and can no longer earn an income?
Indeed, when it comes to Mexicans, libertarianism, with its focus on individual (not American) liberty and dignity, is shockingly forgotten. Thus, Paul would have us:
What about Kucinich?
Our country is a nation of immigrants. They have enriched our heritage and enlivened our culture. As millions of newcomers continue to work hard, raise families, serve in our armed forces, and study at universities, the Bush administration has waged an assault on immigrant's rights. Undocumented workers have been left in legal limbo, while local police forces have been pressured against their will to hunt down undocumented workers, which jeopardizes their relationships with immigrant communities. Thousands of immigrants have been detained in secret, denied due process, and deported. In the economic sphere, undocumented workers have become convenient scapegoats. Yet the reality, as shown in study after study, is that they pay more in taxes than they receive in government services.
Welcoming immigrants to our shores is one of our country's vital traditions -- the heart and soul of the American dream. . . Among other legislation in this area, I have co-sponsored a bill supportive of refugees from Columbia and Peru and a bill helping nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti to become permanent residents. We need to honor this welcoming legacy by legalizing the status of hard-working, taxpaying undocumented workers in the U.S. It would clear out the backlog in the naturalization process so that those who are eligible to become citizens can do so without endless delays. It would offer immigrants a clear road map to citizenship, so that they can become fully participating members of our communities. And it would work with our partners in Mexico to normalize the flow of immigrants by forging an agreement on migration.
I am a strong supporter of the USA Family Act (HR 440). It offers immigrants a clear road map to legal status in the United States. Among other changes, it grants legal permanent residence to immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for five or more years. It offers conditional legal status and work authorization to all law-abiding immigrants living in the United States for less than five years. And it revokes current laws that bar certain people who live abroad from re-entering the U.S. for a period of three to 10 years.
We cannot continue with a system in which millions of workers and their families live in fear and are subject to economic exploitation. There is no place in our country for second-class status. It is time to restore respect for the rights and contributions of immigrants.
àCompassion to Poor Foreigners Score: Kucinich: 10. Ron Paul: -10.
The word democracy is taken from the Greek, and means “power of the people.” In the ancient Greek world, this is exactly what it meant—majority rule. In democratic Athens, for example, excellence was certainly encouraged, and wealth, but only because the majority wished them to exist. If we reluctantly forgive the Athenians their exclusion of women, slaves, and foreigners from the full franchise (which Paul readily forgives 18th century Americans), and if we ignore the wonderful democracies that prevailed in some tribal and semi-tribal societies (the Iroquois, for instance), then, with the possible exception of Switzerland, Athens’ was the truest democracy of which we have sufficient records. And the Athenians prospered, as a result of their democracy, to a much greater extent than their oligarchic (another Greek word) and totalitarian rivals in Greece itself. Often, when they lost wars, the loss could be traced to their own oligarchic fifth column, not to their external enemies.
Unlike the United States, which fosters oligarchic governments in its empire, the Athenians fostered democracies in theirs. Despite the small size of their state, their democracy allowed them to reach the greatest intellectual and artistic heights ever achieved by the human race.
The constitutional republic of Rome eventually conquered them physically, but, unlike our politicians, libertarians, and mainstream historians, the Romans did recognize the Greeks’ cultural superiority. The Romans copied Athenian statues, for instance, and that is how we know of the existence of most of these masterpieces today. Roman intellectuals often wrote in Greek, and were for the most part preservers and transmitters of the Greek genius, not innovators. A lone Greek scientist, Archimedes, almost single-handedly defeated the Roman Navy.
When Athens was at war, 50.01% of its citizens could choose peace any time they felt like it, and there was no one, or anyone, who could stop them. To preempt bloodthirsty oligarchic takeovers and to rid themselves of other enemies of people power, they resorted to ostracism (their word), which shipped off dangerous anti-democrats to a ten-year, otherwise non-punitive, exile. The Athenians knew that juries could be bribed and intimidated, and took extraordinary precautions. A typical trial session would begin with 500 jurors, and then, at the last moment, these 500 would be divided by lots into groups of 50 with each group being assigned a particular trial (you could try bribing 50 citizens, but not 500!). They knew that power-seekers could not be trusted, and hence many important public offices were filled in by lot. When the majority decided to go to war, the rich had to risk their lives too. They respected private property and wealth, but expected their leisure class to make greater contributions to the public, by sponsoring musical festivals or dramas (another Greek word), for example. Moreover, the Athenians did not give their rich people tax cuts, thereby leading to an ever-growing mal-distribution of wealth. Instead, in times of war, each rich man was expected to contribute one battleship the navy of the republic—that is where our word liturgy (public service; literally, a public building) came from.
Like the majority of our founding fathers, Ron Paul does not like democracy, either because he is unaware of its unparalleled achievements, blinded by the putrid ideology of unregulated capitalism, or feels that democracy does not serve his own class interests. Ron Paul accepts the majority of the founders’ self-interested disdain for democracy, and the anti-democratic document these rich men wrote, as the gospel. In 2003, on the house floor, he opined “that the Republic is gone, for we are wallowing in a pure democracy against which the Founders had strongly warned.” The trouble with our country in 2003, according to Paul, was not that the oligarchs were controlling everything, deceiving and manipulating us, stuffing their pockets at our expense, declaring wars to enrich themselves, rising to high political office by selling themselves to the highest bidder, and engaging in financial rackets which, in a working democracy such as ancient Athens, modern Switzerland, or an Iroquois village, would have prompted their arrest, exile—or perhaps even a hemlock drinking party. No, Paul traces these real problems to a democracy run amok. The ills which afflict us—and to his credit, Paul does courageously points them out—are not traceable to capitalism, but to “the evils of democracy.”
The turbulence seems self-evident. Domestic welfare programs are not sustainable and do not accomplish their stated goals. State and federal spending and deficits are out of control. Terrorism and uncontrollable fear undermine our sense of well-being. Hysterical reactions to dangers not yet seen prompt the people- at the prodding of the politicians- to readily sacrifice their liberties in vain hope that someone else will take care of them and guarantee their security. With these obvious signs of a failed system all around us, there seems to be more determination than ever to antagonize the people of the world by pursuing a world empire. Nation building, foreign intervention, preemptive war, and global government drive our foreign policy. There seems to be complete aversion to defending the Republic and the Constitution that established it.
One does not know where to begin with such a sincere misreading of history, except noting perhaps that a little history is a dangerous thing. As we have seen, the most successful and happiest societies were also the most democratic. In the USA, for instance, Paul holds the majority accountable for the American proclivity to “promote . . . undeclared, unconstitutional wars.” This is palpably false. There is a near-universal consensus among independent historians that the majority of Americans had neither intention nor desire to get involved in either the Spanish War, World War I, or World War II, and that they were manipulated into these wars by bankers and arm merchants. Right now, as we speak, the majority is opposed to the Iraqi genocide; we are in Iraq not because the majority desires to permanently occupy Iraq, deprive China of access to Iraqi oil, and poison the entire Arab population and thereby gain full possession of all Iraqi oil—a $30 trillion loot—for themselves. Most Americans are manifestly too decent to support such an outrage. We are there because a small cabal controls the politicians, who then proceed to blithely ignore the desires of the America people. That is why the majority of the founding fathers—rich white men all—disliked democracy. Let a ghostwriter for the bellicose President Eisenhower have the final word here:
I think people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.
Dennis Kucinich, by contrast, is a friend of old-fashioned democracy. He believes that the problem with us is not too much democracy, but too little, hence calling for the “restoration of our American Democracy.” Democracy, in his view, takes precedence over the constitution, not the other way around:
The Supreme Court, equating money with free speech, will not restrict the power of corporate interests to dominate government. The establishment of our democracy began with the Constitution. Let us renew the Constitution by amending it, requiring public financing to redeem from the perishable fires of corporate control an imperishable government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
àFriend of Democracy Score: Kucinich: 10. Ron Paul: -5.
I could go on forever and a day, often showing that Ron Paul is a well-meaning but misguided champion of an anti-humanitarian, heartless, ideology. Instead of remedying the manifest horrors of capitalism, instead of civilizing and humanizing this faceless, materialistic, anti-spiritual, unjust, system of production, Paul admonishes us to embrace it more avidly. Instead of pointing out the obvious absurdities of a world owned and controlled by 0.00001% of its inhabitants (the exact number of zeros is anyone’s guess), instead of reminding us that behind every fortune there is a crime (perhaps the most recent addition to this inglorious pantheon of wealth and wickedness is the tycoon Alexander Bell), Paul will fight tooth and nail to protect the divine property rights of scoundrels. Rights indeed! That such an unabashed advocate of predatory capitalism can successfully appeal to humanitarians (my yesterday’s self included) speaks volumes of the sad, dysfunctional, state of American democracy and of the ideological chaos that afflicts the humanitarian camp.
But why, you may ask, spend so much time on candidates who cannot possibly, in this rigged system of ours, effect any change? This is a fair question, to which, at the moment, I have no answer.
The more important question is: Can we stop reacting to this corrupt system’s daily atrocities, wrest the initiative, and adopt reform strategies that have real prospects of working? To paraphrase Henry Thoreau, could the millions that are now hacking at the resilient branches of evil be persuaded to strike at its vulnerable root? Can we change the system, once and for all giving candidates like Kucinich and Nader a chance? I have tried to answer this critical question elsewhere.
Dr. Moti Nissani is with the Department of Biology, Wayne State University.
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