Rep. Ron Paul's (R-Texas) presidential bid has been attacked from all sides.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats and others on the left are some of the Texas congressman's most vocal detractors, calling his views on climate change, health care, and dozens of others issues problematic. But despite their skepticism, Paul is the only candidate in either party that will advance several key policies which progressives really care about, and they would be wise to support him for president in 2012.
The Left is generally considered to be more critical of America's aggressive foreign policy. Under the Obama administration the Democratic Party has certainly softened their stance on war and other types of foreign intervention, but left-leaning, anti-war voters are one of the reasons President Barack Obama won in 2008. If those voters really want to see less U.S. aggression on the international stage, Paul is the man to implement those changes. As Robin Koerner argued in a July Huffington Post column, the libertarian candidate has been making the case for non-intervention for 30 years, and that he "...happens to be a member of the Republican Party is a lot less important than the principles that we should be voting on."
Gay marriage is another issue where Paul splits with his party and sides with progressives. Despite his admittedly conservative religious views, Paul doesn't push a constitutional ban on gay marriage or endorse civil unions for homosexual couples. He prefers to keep the federal government out of the issue entirely. Liberals may cringe at the idea of the federal government not intervening to support marriage equality, but Congress has come down on the wrong side of the marriage debate before. Paul's solution, which is to leave the issue to individual states, would prevent that in the future. It's also on firmer legal ground since the founders believed the states capable of handling most of their own affairs.
Criticism of the drug war is very common in California, which also happens to be one of the most liberal states in the country. As my home state illustrates, many on the left recognize the foolishness of the drug war. They cite the loss of the personal liberty, the enormous costs, and the increase in violent crime caused by our current drug policies. So does Paul. Similar to the marriage issue, the solution is to get federal government out of the drug prohibition business. On this point, take note that the Obama administration has maintained the same hostile policy toward drugs as previous administrations.
Obama's hypocrisy isn't limited to the drug war either. Despite campaigning as an advocate of civil liberties and a critic of the Bush administration's position on issues like executive authority, torture, and warrantless wiretapping, the President has continued George W. Bush's policies. As popular liberal blogger Ed Brayton said of Obama's use of signing statements,"...we [liberals] were all highly critical of the Bush administration for issuing signing statements exactly like this one, where he said that he would refuse to enforce this or that provision in a bill or would interpret it in such a way as to preserve executive authority. If you criticized Bush for issuing such statements and you don’t criticize Obama for it, you’re a hypocrite. And guess what? Obama was one of those people. So were lots of members of Congress." One of the few representatives who weren't and the only one currently running for president: Ron Paul.
Liberal critics of my suggestion that they vote for Paul will undoubtedly respond that they can't endorse his economic policies. Perhaps. But at least with Paul, they know what they're getting, a consistent civil libertarian. His voting record is the evidence if they doubt. They know the same can't be said of president Obama. Furthermore, isn't compromise part of getting things done in Washington D.C.? It's certainly better to get part of your agenda through Congress rather than none of it.
If Paul loses either the upcoming primary or general election, however, that's what happens. If another Republican takes the White House, liberals can say farewell to the possibility of ending the drug war or the paranoia over gay marriage. If Obama wins reelection, they get more of the same. America will continue fighting unnecessary wars, prosecuting drug use and trampling on civil liberties.
Photo Credit: Jayel Aheram