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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Political Deification of Ron Paul and the Collectivistic Attacks of the Ron Paul Movement

The recent ruckus over Ron Paul urging his supporters to lend their hand to Neocon Republican Congressman Lamar Smith has immediately become the apotheosis of the the shady, anti-freedom dealings of the Ron Paul for Congress Campaign, the internal working culture of the right-libertarian movement, the "libertarian" wing of the Republican Party, and the organizations and personalities that are tied to Paul and his political disciples. After all, the message from Paul urging his supporters to lend their hands to Smith is clear: "Principles must take a back seat to party politics (in this case, GOP politics) in the name of retaining congressional power. After all, I cannot be very principled by being as 'independent' in the GOP as everyone wants me to be, or otherwise I'll jeopardize my position of power in Congress by losing my congressional seat, my high-ranking position on the Finance Services Congressional Committee, and the same goes for my seat on the Domestic Policy Subcommittee. Therefore, I want you to jettison those principles and help re-elect a candidate whom I support to power, even if he is diametrically opposed to everything that I stand for."

As soon as the video showcasing an interview made by Texans for Accountable Government member John Bush at the Campaign for Liberty Regional Conference came out a few hours later after late Friday night and before Saturday morning, a devastating rift occurred between two distinct factions within the Liberty movement -- Ron Paul supporters and the true pro-Liberty activists (the latter liking a number of Paul's mostly pro-freedom message and positions but do not see the man as anything more than a messianic political figure looking to secure his entrenched power in the state). The Ron Paul supporters, on the other hand, have politically deified him not as only a man with great philosophical knowledge but as a Pope-like political figure under the rubric of politics who is destined to save them from the political Devil's diabolical and vile political hell and damnation and lead them onto a path to a political heaven (utopic paradise under the guise of politics). Politics, in the eyes of these worshippers (activists) and apostles (C4L staff and leaders), has become their own warped political Bible that they use in order to attain "liberty" (which is really a state-coddled and state-protected brand of statist conservatism). In a nutshell, Ron Paul is their political Jesus Christ who is their one and true political savior and who will reign in their political heaven.

This is the heart and soul of the abstract construct of "cult of personality" -- that is, a politically-charged excess of hero worship or idolatry towards a figure (in this context, a political figure), often expressing extreme adulation with intense flattery and praise in a political or religious (in the case of Ron Paul, both) context. When political worshippers, disciples, and apostles of a political figure (once again, in this case, Ron Paul) see him incapable of any egregious transgressions, bad choices, and serious wrongdoing of any kind, then they will thus be incapable of seeing the immoral, unethical, and political wrongdoing because they refuse to separate the man from the politician. In other words, in their eyes, you can't take the politics out of the man and vice versa. The way they see it, they must permanently be one and the same. The politician's "principles" simply are irrelevant in the context of remaining in office, especially if the goal is to keep himself entrenched -- and even further entrenched -- in political office and in the movement.

Scores of numbers representing the Ron Paul machine say that this is what politics is all about, that compromise is necessary in politics, and that it's crucial for Ron Paul to deviate from libertarian principles to keep his place in Congress, his seats on the committees on which he serves, etc. The litany of excuses have spread all over the web, including Facebook: Ron Paul is "awesome" and must be supported no matter what his reasons are, Ron Paul has to "carefully choose" who his enemies and friends are "in the interests of advancing" his "politics and beliefs," Ron Paul has more credibility in the mainstream public than you [the critic] do [does], Ron Paul "rules," politics is a game you HAVE to play to win, Ron Paul has "done more for the movement than you [the critic]" ever will, Ron Paul makes people aware of the issues, etc. (The last excuse, of course, is debatable, as many non-Paul supporting libertarians have provided excellent examples of what kinds of anti-liberty actions Paul has taken over the years. Wendy McElroy, KN@PPSTER's Tom Knapp, and Stefan Molyneux are excellent examples of pro-Liberty figures who have never had any illusions about Paul's motives and his actions in Congress and have never jumped on board the pro-Paul bandwagon.)

The problem with most of these claims made by the Ron Paulians (who even unapologetically stand by them that is, by the way) is that they are nonsense, and the supporters refuse to look at the real world here. Compromise, especially in the realm of politics, has never gotten the movement anywhere anyway; in fact, it has outrageously and horribly damaged the movement's chances of gaining traction whatsoever. For example, the Audit the Fed bill (also known as H.R. 1207), which has been given enormous amount of media coverage (and granted, it has received a lot of media buzz over its key provisions), has enabled Paul to go on cable networks like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the various talk shows including the talking heads who run them. Has it really gotten the movement closer to freedom, despite the watered-down provisions of the bill, especially when a good chunk of the pro-transparency language has been omitted from the original draft of the legislation? Keep in mind that the Senate version (not the House version) of the bill has been rendered useless and neutered because of the "compromise" to which both major parties have surreptitiously agreed. (The House bill is being stalled deliberately and the possibility of it ever passing intact without any part of the language amended is nil.)

In a nutshell, what good is the bill if it won't achieve the original aim and goal that Paul wanted? What good will these new versions of the bill do? How will they make the Fed more accountable? Even Paul has admitted on camera that the bill (especially the Senate version) has been nullified (in terms of how it will be enforced). Did the activists really think that, via the apparatus of politics, the Federal Reserve, in collusion with the government, was going to say, "Yup! You're right. We have been keeping deep, dark secrets from the public, and we want to destroy the value of the dollar!" Did anyone on board the Paul train really think the bill was going to accomplish anything? If anything, it was a pipe dream; nothing more. [*Note: I don't blame Paul for the compromises of the Senate bill, and the stonewalling of the House bill is done at no fault of his own.]

Compromise is what has gotten this country in the mess in the first place. It's the reason why the state shouldn't be existing at all. We're more than willing to give up liberty in exchange for holding onto the reigns of power because the feeling of the power is more important and better than the principle itself. Party loyalty means something, whereas the principle doesn't.

Moreover, Paul's stances on social issues (from where he is getting the support from in his electoral and political bases) have been met with intense scrutiny in the last few years. The aggravating part to many non-Ron Paulers (and that includes me even more than when I supported him for president in 2007 and 2008) is that is that the Ron Paulians are willing to look the other way when it comes to his willingness to violate individual rights (in some instances) when it's politically convenient and beneficial for him to do so. Wendy McElroy, in her blog posting on Paul (at the time when he was running for the presidency on the GOP ticket on July 26, 2007) titled "Why Libertarians Should Applaud Slap RonPaul," makes an excellent case against him here:

My call for a Slap RonPaul site has elicited some negative and some surprised responses, which I answer. Before doing so, however, I want to suggest that there is nothing outrageous or offensive about a hardline libertarian wishing to slap the face of any politician...of any man or woman who seeks a position of political power over the lives of others, let alone the position of Supreme Commander/President. Indeed, it is offensive to libertarianism to elevate a politician to such a height that slapping his or her face on a game site is considered outrageous. Iconoclastic disrespect for politicians and the political process is a hallmark of libertarianism; god help us if we lose that attitude. In one sense, however, critics of the idea are correct in calling it inappropriate. Although Paul is squarely in the Religious Right, he probably deserves a slap less than other Presidential candidates like the hawkish McCain. I may be displacing the irritation I feel toward the many libertarians who are jumping gleefully onto the Paul bandwagon and, instead, directing the irritation toward Paul himself. Perhaps I should be slapping them and yelling "Snap out of it!" On second thought, nah...that's not it. The man himself irritates me.

Then she goes further:

A friend whose opinion I value explains that he is supporting Paul as 'the best candidate among the declared candidates,' and adds 'I know, that's not saying much.' With genuine respect toward my friend, no that is not saying much and the choice between two evils is still evil. He continues to explain, 'there are three issues I don't agree with Ron Paul on: Abortion, Church & State, Immigration.' Even if those were the only issues upon which Paul is frightening as hell, they are incredibly important issues with far-reaching implications. It is rather like saying 'other than advocating slavery, he is a great candidate.' The man's campaign literature now identifies him as 'a real conservative'; he represents the Religious Right that wants to collapse the division established by the First Amendment.

She also correctly identifies another problem with Paul here (which is something his hero-worshipping zealots refuse to take into account):

Ron Paul Says Privacy Rights and Freedoms Don't Include Abortion. I believe Paul's anti-abortion stance would destroy privacy rights, especially medical privacy. Given that he has voted "yes" on federal bans on abortion, I don't take seriously his loophole explanation that states should decide such matters.

Wendy is absolutely right. Paul's defense on his position on abortion should have angered and alarmed those who pay lip service to human liberty across the board, yet it hasn't. By compromising on those principles, Paul has shown that he would rather throw a mother who had just aborted her unborn child to save her life in jail because of his misguided view that abortion is wrong. I side with Wendy on this matter, considering, although personally I'm against abortion, it is still not the state's decision to decide whether the unborn child must be or must not be saved. I too reject the state's rights arguments because they violate the rights of the individual. Conservatives who gleefully jump on board of the states' rights rhetoric are wrong about this, and so is Paul. Paul, who has adopted the conservative line on this matter, has voted "yes" on many federal bans on abortion.

In simpler language, Paul is enslaving women by coercing them to keep the unborn baby inside them via the power of the state. How does that reconcile with his "libertarian" credentials (which are actually conservative, not libertarian)?

(By the way, one can find more blog postings of Wendy on her feelings on Ron Paul at her website, as the URL to it is given above. Peruse them. Agree or disagree, I urge my fellow readers not to take them personally but do want you to take them seriously.)

[*Note:His records on immigration, the "don't-ask, don't-tell" policy of the military, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (which allows states to have this mythical right to adopt statewide bans on recognizing the right of gays to marry by only recognizing a legal marriage as between a man and a woman). Despite his rhetoric, where's the substance in his arguments? There aren't any, as far as I'm concerned.]

Getting back to the Paul ruckus, the matter is simply not only about Ron Paul (keep in mind that I do not personally have any feelings of ill will or hatred towards the man, and my criticisms of him are serious but not personal). They are mainly about the attitudes and reactions of the pro-Ron Paul crowd that have, since the revelation of Paul selling out the movement, demonized pro-Liberty activists who have supported Ron in the past but no longer do for this reason as well as other unstated ones. The attacks against the principled activists have indeed become personal, unfair, hurtful, and even uncalled for. I can vouch for that, because I have been subjected to a number of unnecessary and unfair ad hominems and criticisms on Facebook and on this blog over the whole matter. (The comments aimed at me can be found here, so there is no need to rehash them at all.)

The sentiments of the Ron Paul supporters espoused online come off as the following: "How dare you criticize the one and great Ron Paul! He is always right and never wrong! You have no right to criticize him or even excoriate him, even if he does make a wrong choice!! Again, how dare you!!!" Wrong on all counts, I'm afraid. Pro-Liberty activists who can separate the man from the politician (and his rhetoric as well) do HAVE a right to be angry over what has happened. They are justified in being angry over this matter. In fact, the blame falls on Ron Paul's shoulders and his entire congressional team to begin with. While it is true that we don't know the entire details of the deal that Paul made with Lamar Smith, he is still accountable for his actions, especially because of the deliberately-concealed information regarding the agreement(and not because there is a lack of it). Furthermore, those who are unfairly and unjustly attacking the anti-Paul pro-Liberty activists should be angry too. They have a responsibility to find out why their beloved man has made this disastrous choice. It is utterly irresponsible to sweep this matter under the rug, as the old racist newsletter ruckus was.

There is also a deep concern that this controversy has raised. I called into Rise Up Radio on the Rule of Law radio network on Monday morning a little after 7 a.m. CST, and I was on the air with John Bush, Catherine Bleish, and Paul supporter Brooke Kelley of the popular YouTube reality show PuZzLeD. The point I raised was, because of this "elephant-in-the-room" (no pun intended) mess, if the Democrats and the average Joe who knows about Paul's record and his position on the War on Iraq and the Bailouts of 2008, what will they think? They will believe that Paul has caved in to political pressure by endorsing a candidate who represents everything that Paul is believed not to represent in their eyes. It is very likely that, if this matter does get out into the limelight, they will make political hay and use this against him, accusing him of hypocrisy, playing party politics, and disingenuousness across the board. Plus, the new listeners and supporters of him message will erroneously confuse libertarianism with his "hip" brand of conservatism. Is that how we want the liberty message to be viewed by the public, let alone the entire world? Is it really worth to throw everything away, just because it's better to trump principles for politics? These matters, whether the Ron Paul machine wants to acknowledge this or not, believe it or not, accept it or not, and embrace it or not, are black and white, not just for the entire movement but also to the public at large. We should be condemning these remarks and move to strive to reach the masses with the idea that voluntaryism and agorism are the best ways to achieve liberty, not via the guns of the state. The state is the agent of violence; thus, why give it more credence than we already have?

There's plenty more to be said on this topic. The criticisms aimed at Paul and his supporters are not meant to be hurtful and disaparaging, but to prove how ill-thought out, divisive, and dangerous the desired pathway to electoral politics is. Activism can bring about change (especially for liberty) in many forms, but that doesn't necessarily require that politics be a part of it. A commitment to integrity, truth, and a respect for individual rights is strongly needed. Let's not blindly abandon that just for the sake of "good government."

Is that too much to ask?


clay barham said...

The battle in America between the Old and New World traditions are seen in our two main political parties. The Republican Party is the older of the two if we take it back to Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, to Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Nelson Rockefeller and John McCain. Republicans are elite meddlers believing the national government should manage the industry and affairs of the American People. They stumbled in the 1960’s with Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. They left the party with people who do not accept original GOP policies.

The Democrat Party was the libertarian, state’s rights, individual freedom and local government party, following Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe to Jackson and Cleveland. They made the biggest swing from their policies at the turn of the century, adopting the Old World policies of Rousseau and Marx. The GOP, except for the Goldwater-Reagan moments, held fast to their better-than-thou beliefs from its origin. In the life of our Republic, the only political party that held fast to the ideals of America, which made her free and prosperous, was the 19th century Democrat Party. I'm afraid it will take reorienting the GOP to take our country back.