"Ron Paul 2012" signs are seen at Occupy-related events from time to time. This seems to happen more in the South. By and large, these forces seem marginal and have little hope of achieving wider influence in the Occupy movement, given the movement's basic politics (i.e. class-conscious, anti-austerity, anti-racist, radically democratic, generally skeptical of the two-party system, critical of capitalism, etc.). Still, there are many newly politicized folks who have questions about the relationship between Ron Paul-style right-wing politics and the movement. This is by no means a central question facing the movement today. But, to the extent that there are questions of this kind arising in certain local contexts, the following may be useful. Here are a couple of suggested talking points that the Left can draw on in clarifying the politics of Ron Paul:
- Paul is out of touch. Occupy stands for taxing the 1%, resisting all cuts and austerity, reigning in the unchecked economic and political power of the financial sector, among other things. In sharp contrast, Ron Paul's position is that the 1% are over-taxed, that we need even more cuts and austerity, and that big banks and corporations are over-regulated. This is not a marginal political disagreement. This is a fundamental divide between those who genuinely want to stand up and fight for the interests of the 99%, on the one hand, and those who want to cede even more power to the system—capitalism—that empowers and enriches the 1% on the other.
- Paul stands for the two-party system. Occupy is a grassroots social movement that has taken to the streets in order to challenge the political and economic dominance of the 1%. It has used general strikes, direct actions, mass marches, speak outs, and general assemblies as its tools. It has empowered millions of ordinary people to stand up and fight for their own interests. It has not begged for crumbs from above, it has not placed its faith in leaders on high, nor has it confined itself to pandering to the existing political system. At its best, it has been fiercely independent of our broken electoral system and the two-party straight jacket. But Ron Paul is operating 100% within that broken system, as a candidate for Palin and Perry's Republican Party—with whom he votes more than 80% of the time. Those who support him in this journey miss the entire point of Occupy, which is to empower people themselves—not high and mighty leaders—to fight for their own liberation. We do the work in this society, we make it run. The 1% doesn't pick up their own garbage, they don't pilot their own private jets, and they don't produce the necessities of life they need to survive. The 99% produces all of it—and when we stop doing what we do the system grinds to a halt. That's all the power we need to topple the system that enriches the 1%.
- Paul's politics are racist. This is not a moral judgment about his character (that is another matter). This is about politics. For example, his position on the Civil War is that it was unjust because it infringed upon the "legitimate property rights" of slave owners. Instead, he claims, the Federal Government should have compensated slave owners for their lost "property". Paul is also a staunch opponent of the Civil Rights Act which, he claims, is an unjust incursion on the right of big business to discriminate against blacks. Noticing a trend? Paul doesn't, at the end of the day, really care about freedom and liberation for all--he cares about the property and privileges of business owners. Paul has also made numerous racist anti-black public comments, and he put out a newsletter, The Ron Paul Political Report, which regularly printed far-Right racist commentary. Don't take my word for it, read the newsletters for yourself (see here). Even Paul's most calculated and measured remarks on race evince colorblind racism. Paul is also a staunch defender of draconian, xenophobic anti-immigrant laws. Paul also regularly refers to undocumented people as "aliens". The Occupy movement, in contrast, stands in uncompromising solidarity with black people and immigrants in their struggle for freedom and equality. Tolerating Ron Paul's politics in the movement is an insult to working-class people of color who are being hit harder than anyone else by the global economic crisis.
- Paul is anti-education. Occupy has challenged the profiteers who are hijacking public education and lining their pockets on the backs of heavily indebted students. The movement has called for a moratorium on student debt and free, quality public education for all. But Ron Paul, like most of his Republican brethren, fiercely opposes the stands that Occupy has taken on these issues. He stands for abolishing the Department of Education and slashing education spending. He stands for cutting all Pell Grants, all Stafford Loans, indeed all public financial aid, since these programs "discriminate" against the wealthy. He is for privatizing and corporatizing public education. He stands against teachers and opposes their right to collectively bargain. He claims that education is not a right, but a commodity that should be bought and sold for a profit in the marketplace. His position on health care is the same: health care is not a right, but a luxury commodity that should be sold by private corporations for profit. In other words: if you can't afford to buy it, well fuck you. Capitalist property relations matter more than human life.
- Paul is anti-choice and homophobic. Paul has attempted to ban abortion at the federal level (see the Sanctity of Life Act). Paul also wrote a bill called the "Family Protection Act" that starts with talk of abolishing the Department of Education and ends with a proposal to "prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style." In 1990, a Ron Paul Political Report newsletter complained about President George H.W. Bush's decision to sign a hate crimes bill and invite "the heads of homosexual lobbying groups to the White House for the ceremony," adding, "I miss the closet." "Homosexuals," it said, "not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." Comments of this ilk abound in the Ron Paul Political Report.
- Ron Paul will not end the wars. Only a movement will end war—in particular a mass movement from below that has the power to challenge capitalism, the political and economic system that produces war and imperialism in the first place. Moreover, the mere fact that Paul is against the wars doesn't entail that he deserves the support of Occupy. Pat Buchanan and David Duke are also against the wars. So are the editors of the hard-Right journal The American Conservative. But none of those bigoted reactionaries deserve an ounce of support from Occupy, and neither does Paul. Furthermore, isolationist nationalism--Paul's basic foreign policy—has no place in a movement that is global and fiercely internationalist. Occupy stands in solidarity with the global 99% in its struggle against the global system—capitalism—that holds it in contempt. We oppose war and imperialism not because they violate the principles of right-wing isolationism, we oppose them because they oppress and brutalize our sisters and brothers in the global 99%.