Analysis | Ron Paul: consistent, popular, invisible

Over the past year, Ron Paul has emerged as a serious contender to be the Republican nominee for the US presidential election of 2012. And yet, as Sebastião Martins reports, he remains virtually ignored by most of the US mainstream media, despite consistently strong showings in polls and public positions highly in tune with popular opinion.

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By Sebastião Martins

With Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and other Republican Party usual suspects having already thrown their hats into the presidential ring, the GOP’s blue and red elephant is now marching on its long stride towards the 2012 race for the Oval Office and its countless riches.

After several GOP straw polls since 22 January, the bells have started ringing over the US mainstream media, and the magical words ‘We now have a top tier!’ are being shouted hysterically by talk show hosts and reporters at FOX News, CNN, MSNBC and ABC News. Almost invariably, the confidently announced favourites of “the People” are: Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann.

While variations to this standard podium seem inexistent for now, other presidential hopefuls like John Huntsman and Rick Santorum are sometimes added as exotic possibilities amidst the slippery slopes of this sometimes unpredictable challenge.

How exotic are these two candidates? you may ask. Well, let’s say they are almost as exotic as some of those ‘top tier’ candidates when we consider the unstated, unreported and unannounced success of another candidate who also took a shot at the White House, in 1988 and then again in 2008, we speak of course of none other than 13-term congressman Ron Paul (R – TX), 76.

To give a few salient facts: Ron Paul won the CPAC straw poll at Washington DC with 30% of the votes, beating out alleged favourites Mitt Romney (23%) and Michelle Bachmann (4%); he won the 9-man Republican Liberty Caucus of California by a landslide (17,8%), almost double what the second candidate, Mitt Romney (10,9%) got; and in the New Orleans straw poll in June he pulverised the other ten competitors with a sweeping victory (41%).

With a 30-year-long ideological consistency, which puts his competitors’ chameleonic rhetoric and lack of substance to shame, Ron Paul has garnished widespread popular appeal in a country currently undergoing a hangover-esque sequel to Bush-era political disillusionment, featuring US$15 trillion in debt, unofficial unemployment rates estimated at approximately 22% and still US$1 trillion dollars of military spending.

Nonetheless, the mainstream media treat Ron Paul – when they go so extravagantly and generously far as to cover him – with a sort of contempt that borders on allergy. The Texas representative is seen as a sort of delusional grandpa, with far-fetched, wild ideas about foreign and domestic policies. However, they do go out of their way to recognize that he has ‘faithful supporters’, so as to suggest that he is someone representing the interests of a no doubt similarly-delusional minority of Americans and, as such, that he is not a viable candidate. But let us focus on this issue of Ron Paul’s ‘viability.’

In a functioning democracy, politicians are elected to represent “the People” (i.e. the majority) and uphold their interests. That is the whole purpose of ‘popular representation.’ Let us then measure how popular Ron Paul is by comparing his positions to those of the American public, and in so doing also rate how many people in the US are also ‘delusional’, according to the mainstream media.

Ron Paul calls himself ‘the champion of the Constitution’, as he measures every one of his ever-uncompromising political decisions based on the principles of that Foundational Document.

Regarding foreign policy, his outspoken rhetoric has been calling for an end to its unconstitutional and aggressive interventionism, to the installment of puppet regimes and the use of torture.

When the US began intervention in Libya, Ron Paul called on the President to uphold the constitution and ask congressional authorisation before engaging into war, a stance followed by 55% of Americans according to a CNN poll released at the time.

He favours the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and an end to all conflicts in the Middle East in which the US is currently engaged. Curiously, this position seems in tune with 72% of American citizens, according to a poll released by The Hill in June of this year.

He has this odd idea that resentment and hatred toward the United States is a direct consequence of its military presence and aggression in the world and of its ‘meddling in the affairs of others’, an idea which was validated by the CIA’s no-doubt ‘delusional’ report on the motives behind the 9/11 attack.

As for domestic policies, they seem to mirror the underlying principles of Ron Paul’s foreign policy convictions – to minimise the scope of government to a microscopic minimum.

He believes that the current, unfruitful , unending and costly war on drugs – that has resulted in almost a million incarcerations due to consumption alone and some US$1 trillion spent since it started – should be brought to a halt, and that the decision to legalise those substances should be left to the states. Nonetheless, his personal approach to the matter can be best represented by a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.”

Again, quite incidentally, he sides with the majority of Americans. According to an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in August 2011, 67% of Americans think the war on drugs is a failure and 55% believe marijuana should be legal.

He has been a rock-solid supporter – alongside 79% of Americans according to a Rasmussen Report from 2009 – of auditing the Federal Reserve and a no less enthusiast of ending it entirely to put a stop to its self-addictive tendencies of ‘printing money out of thin air’ and to what he calls its part in the destruction of the dollar and the lowering of the purchasing power of Americans.

He would do away with the IRS, which appears to most people as a shocking proposition. However, in a country where ever fewer people have access to education and healthcare, it does not take an Economy Nobel to realize how taxes have a major role in… fueling foreign policy.

To erase them or at least reduce them considerably would prove a most effective leash both on the federal government’s adventurous tendencies abroad and on its corporate-generosity at home. According to an April study by the National Priorities Project, 27,4% of each tax payer’s income goes to military spending. Also, considering a 2009 Bloomberg estimate of the amounts of money spent by big corporations to rescue themselves from the gripping claws of the global crisis, each American then had an average personal debt to the government of US$10,000 (considering US population at 305 million). Incidentally, 6 out of every 10 Americans opposed the bailouts back in 2008, and 57% of citizens still believe the bailouts were bad for the country.

Ron Paul has vehemently opposed the bailouts, considering them as a delay of an inevitable problem and calling instead for a more Darwinistic approach to finance, letting currently ‘too big to fail’ corporations face bankruptcy for their repeated mal-investments.

Both parties are looked upon with suspicion, seen as mere public relations organizations working under the umbrella of private interests and major corporations such as Time Warner, Goldmansachs, City Group and others – most of which have laid a grip on both political parties.

To give an example, in 2008 Goldman Sachs was one of the top sponsors of both Obama’s and McCain’s campaigns, pumping US$1m into the former’s coffers and US$400,000 into the latter’s. Unsurprisingly, it ended up being awarded with a US$140bi bailout, courtesy of Obama, who extended the Bush policies toward that corporate giant.

Concurrently, America’s 2-party system has been less a platform to elect representatives of the people, by the people and for the people than of, by and for the 1% of Americans who now control 40% of the country’s wealth and earn 25% of its total annual income.

In fact, it would not be that surprising for Americans to currently check the top sponsors of presidential campaigns before giving a hint of credibility to a candidate’s words. It is thus only natural to find many seeking refuge in an uncompromising candidate, like Ron Paul, who is alienated from the corporate umbrella.

Several reports have already pointed Ron Paul as the only candidate who can defeat Obama in 2012. A recent Rasmussen poll gives Obama a 39% chance of winning in 2012, quickly followed by the Texas representative, with 38%. Of course, in a functioning and literal democracy where the just powers of the nation’s representatives derive from the consent of the majority of the governed, this would make Ron Paul the Republican Party’s nominee, simply because his views on the most important issues now reflect the majority of Americans.

However, in a society where power and wealth govern, it is only natural that if the 1% of Americans who control 40% of the country’s wealth oppose Ron Paul, then the mainstream media understands this to mean that ‘half of the country’ is against him. That Ron Paul is routinely described as not a ‘viable’ option is thus unsurprising. After all, he is certainly not ‘viable’ to corporate interests that support a continuation of militarism abroad and corporate welfare at home, which is, let us remember, what really matters.

Sebastião Martins is an MPhil student at the University of Cambridge and a journalist for www.pulsamerica.co.uk, www.irlandeses.org and The Cambridge Student.

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Murray
Sep 10, 2011 10:33

Interesting piece, specifically on the media’s neutering of RP’s chances – a nice demonstration of how hollow democracy has become in the US. However I don’t think it was necessary for the article to try and paint RP’s policies so flatteringly. My knowledge of him is minimal (as the media never cover him), but going on what is written here I fail to see how the dissolution of the IRS would solve America’s problems. It seems instead just more likely to accelerate the process of social fragmentation which has proved so fertile to corporate interests to date.

Sebastião Martins
Sep 10, 2011 11:08

Dear Murray,

Thank you very much for your comments. The sympathetic stance towards RP that you mention is perhaps only apparent due to the fact that he does seem to be the only “pariah” candidate, whose decade-long positions side with those of an American public – also a pariah in the political scenery – which has grown more receptive towards his policies. You are absolutely correct, dissolving the IRS could prove an even bigger problem, but even RP has softened his approach on this issue, often claiming he would simply cut taxes significantly, and this could help bring about the non-interventionist US he envisions. If one remembers Henry Kissinger in “American Foreign Policy”, he states that in the XVIII century Europe had a deterrent against wars amongst monarchs because kings were forbidden from levying taxes, and this may still make sense today, perhaps not necessarily in its extreme form (i.e. fasing out the IRS) but in something of the sort, like reducing taxes in a certain percentage, which would otherwise only be used say, to control the market of another country through invasion – which does not in any way benefit the majority of Americans. In fact, it contributes to the same social fragmentation you mentioned because less is invested in education, boosting the economy or creating jobs.

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