Of the multitude of mainstream 2008 Presidential candidates, there are only three who are truly antiwar. Two of them are running as Democrats, one as a Republican. The two Democrats have little money in the bank, are polling in the low single digits and are clearly headed nowhere fast. The antiwar Republican was in much the same boat as Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel the first few weeks of his Presidential bid.
But now his campaign has started to gain momentum: he has broken through the media wall of silence with recent fundraising success and his poll numbers are moving up in the early states of New Hampshire and Iowa. That candidate’s name is Congressman Ron Paul of Texas.
This poses a dilemma for any liberal who opposes the Iraq war and the overall war-mongering and empire building of the United States government.. As I wrote in a previous article, a typical liberal will be opposed to Ron Paul on most issues, though Paul is very ‘liberal’ on the questions of war and peace, civil liberties and drug laws. Yet Paul is the only candidate besides Kucinich and Gravel that can be trusted to keep his word and bring the troops back home immediately. And Kucinich and Gravel are simply not making any headway in their respective campaigns.
How can liberals balance their desire for the social programs proposed by Hillary and gang against the near certainty that candidates such as Clinton and Obama will continue Bush’s Middle East war policies, albeit on a scaled-down level? Which should be more important, ending the military conflict and bringing the troops home or expanding the welfare state? The choice seems difficult one, until one digs a little deeper.
The first point I would to make is that even if antiwar liberal’s plans on voting Democratic in the General Election, it does not hurt the Democrats chances in November, 2008 to switch over and vote for Ron Paul in the Republican Primary. The defection of large numbers of Democrats to vote for Paul would send a very clear and unambiguous message to the eventual Democratic nominee: take an antiwar stance or risk losing liberal votes to a Third Party candidate.
The more important point I would like to make, though, is that even if Ron Paul were to ascend to the Presidency, it would not at all be a bad thing for liberal social policy. Paul is opposed to the income tax and wants to eliminate host of federal agencies, ranging from the IRS to Homeland Security. He is ardently pro-gun ownership, anti-choice and would definitely veto any bill that would expand health care benefits. Yet, none of these domestic positions he holds would likely have a practical impact on the actual functioning of government were he to take office in 2009. As President, he would hold no authority to unilaterally eliminate federal agencies or cut taxes or benefits. Any changes would have to take place with the approval of Congress.
But here’s the thing: if a war-mongering liberal Democrat takes office, there still will be no expansion of welfare programs that liberals love. The ‘catch’ with voting for a candidate such as Clinton or Obama, is that their policies on war and defense budgets will likely crowd out any attempt to make a significant expansion of government programs to help the poor and middle class. A prime example is health care. I, personally, am much more in tune with Hillary’s view on health care than I am with Ron Paul’s. Yet, with the current budget deficits and the expansion of the U.S. military expenditures, where is Hillary or Obama or Edwards going to find the money to expand health care coverage? The answer is: they won’t. Health care in America will remain the same, whether under a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican. Any changes that might take place will be at the very far margins.
However, with a Paul Presidency, there might be some hope for some of those programs in the distant future. Because a President Paul could unilaterally start bringing American troops back home. Not only from Iraq, but also from Afghanistan and Kosovo and Korea. A Paul Presidency could finally result in the long sought after ‘peace dividend’. Let’s face it, from a liberal perspective; the expansion of the welfare state can only happen if America scales back its imperial ambitions. Though Ron Paul does not advocate any expansion of the welfare state, he would undoubtedly do much to downsize the American Empire.
This brings me to the abortion issue and the larger issue of who gets to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice. Although some may feel that Paul would appoint a Scalia-type, I do not think this is a real danger. One must recall that Paul’s philosophy is not really conservative, but libertarian to see what kind of justice he would appoint. President Paul would be unlikely to appoint a justice that would rubber-stamp torture or the Supreme Power of the Executive Branch. This, in my view, would eliminate most Scalias and Thomas’s from his consideration. And the judge’s that would most likely fall in Paul’s political philosophy may or may not be anti-choice. But they certainly would be better than the choice’s presented by any other Republican.
Granted, Paul is not the perfect candidate for anyone who believes there is a strong role for the federal government to play in enhancing the social welfare. But in a world of imperfect choices, and faced with Democrats that have never seen a bloated military budget nor a new war they wouldn’t vote for, Paul just may be the most pragmatic choice for any voter who understands the American government cannot be a force for ‘good’ at home until it stops being a force for mischief abroad.