Joshua Frank: Ron Paul from the Left

An Open Letter to the Antiwar Left

Ron Paul’s Campaign Deserves Our Attention


The left wing of the antiwar movement has some very serious problems, mainly our inability to recognize that the antiwar sentiment in the United States is resonating far beyond the confines of the so-called “left.”

We cannot step back and effectively analyze the failures of the antiwar movement without peering under the hood of John Kerry’s campaign in 2004. In essence, I think the majority of the left made a huge mistake on this issue by not opposing the Democrats; the movement supported a pro-war position by not opposing Sen. Kerry, who promised to continue the occupation of Iraq. There was no pressure on Kerry to alter his position on the war. No bird-dogging protests along the campaign trail. No outrage over his flip-flopping-let’s-send-more-troops-into-battle rhetoric. Silence during election season is complicity. So let’s be loud.

Despite his good intentions, Dennis Kucinich also failed us four years ago as well by abandoning his antiwar platform in favor of Kerry’s pro-war candidacy. There is little reason to believe ol’ Dennis won’t do the same thing again this year if Hillary is the nominee. It was party politics before issues. Kucinich, unfortunately, wasn’t an activist but a pawn in the Democrat’s game. And the antiwar movement, or at least those who supported his bid, felt the damaging tremors for months afterward. Kucinich has been running in Iowa for almost nine years and is barely pulling in 1% of the vote. So what’s the point?

The backlash to the Iraq war in this country is much larger than Kucinich’s fan club, yet there is no real visible “moving” movement on the ground to end it. In many ways this is our fault as we are not willing to reach out to antiwar folks across the lines. A movement will never move forward with archaic sectarian factions or unyielding adherence to entrenched political philosophies. We must overcome our unwillingness to collaborate and collectively organize.

Case in point being the most visible and enthusiastic antiwar candidate in the country, which we consistently ignore: Rep. Ron Paul. Whether we agree or disagree with Paul’s libertarian solution to every problem, we cannot disregard that his campaign is exploding owing to a broad coalition of people who oppose the war on terror. Paul has built a viable campaign, one that must move beyond the Republican primaries and into the general election. We can’t let Paul become Kucinich of ’04. The more independent antiwar voices we have running against the war machine the better we’ll all be. And Paul has millions in his coffers to push an antiwar agenda.

This is not about Rep. Paul as an individual per se, but about his grassroots following. He’s exciting many newcomers to the movement and that must be welcomed. We certainly don’t share the same views with all who have latched on to his campaign, but on the issue of the Iraq war we are in total agreement. One doesn’t not have to be a member of the left to oppose empire.

As a movement that allegedly grew out of WTO protests in Seattle, which was an unimaginable coalition of interests (labor, environmental, protectionist), one would think the left would be at the forefront in calling for such an alliance again today.

Whether we’re beer-drinking rednecks from Tennessee or pot smokin’ hippies from Oregon, we need to come together. And working to keep the movement away from supporting a pro-war candidate like Hillary Clinton is an important endeavor. One we shouldn’t shy away from over the course of the next 11 months.

Rep. Paul’s call to end the war needs to be supported. We need to monkeywrench the war issue so the media and the big party candidates cannot ignore it. There is a lot of work that must be done and we cannot be locked in the logic of old if we are to succeed.

Ending the war in Iraq will take substantial pressure from all sides of the political spectrum. From conservative veterans to radical peaceniks. Let’s embrace this new reality. The antiwar movement is larger than the left, in fact so much so that we may be at the whim of a real grassroots resistance instead of at its forefront. And if that means bringing this ugly war to a screeching halt, I’m all for it.

Joshua Frank is co-editor of and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the forthcoming Red State Rebels, to be published by AK Press in March 2008.



20 Responses to Joshua Frank: Ron Paul from the Left

  1. aposteriori2 says:

    It sure hurt my head to see the picture of Ron Paul with his arm around Ronald Reagan….even with the caveats that you gave me about it when I first brought it
    up…… I am not ready for a “real Republican” if it looks anything like Ronald Reagan – the Reagan administration sowed he seeds of the downfall and he only looks good at all now because of all the screwups that have grown from his garden who look very very bad even by comparison to him.

  2. hypothesis says:

    So you did not gain anything from the article?

    You are going to let an image of Ron Paul with Ronald Reagan to keep your mind firmly in lock-down mode against all things non-Democratic Party?

    This article alone, about Ron Paul being the “most visible and enthusiastic antiwar candidate in the country,” should at least give some indication of the differences between Paul and Reagan.

    The same people in the current White House are practically the same ones who were there when Reagan was there. Do you really think Paul would keep these people in his White House?

    What are the Democratic front runners plans for the war in Iraq?

  3. aposteriori2 says:

    What if Hillary Clinton put out pictures of her embracing Senator McCarthy as he left the Anti American hearings in Congress?….What if John Edwards suddently started playing up a mentorship that he had with Richard Nixon that he felt prepared him for holding public office as a way to get people to vote for him? Would it be different if we changed the people in the situation?

    Richard Nixon was bad for the country with out a doubt but was he really anywhere NEAR as bad as the NeoCons which Reagan paved the way for – he and his administration were the architects for it all.

    Senator McCarthy and his tactics were bad for the country, very bad – was it any worse than what the NeoCons did to the constitution? for the United States reputation in the world?

    No sir – this is a BAD one in my book. Barack Obama isnt Malcom X – would it be different if he put out a picture of his arm around Malcom as they sat in an office as if they were planning things together? Would Barack use the radical people from the Nation of Islam if he sent out a picture of he and Malcom at a planning session?

  4. hypothesis says:

    Ron Paul has a history of consistency; a history of being anti-NeoCon; a history of being pro-Constitution; a history of being pro-Liberty. This history is fully documented in Congressman Paul’s speeches, publications, and most importantly, in his voting record.

    Ron Paul is not a politician in any way like Reagan, Hillary, Obama, or any other politician of whom I am aware.

    I could care less who Hillary has posed for pictures with, or Obama, or Edwards. They could have posed for a picture with the Grand Wizard of the KKK for all I care. What I do care about is their track record of words and deeds.

    I don’t believe in guilt by association. If that were the case, then me posing in a photo with you would make me a staunch liberal Democrat and you a staunch Constitutionalist libertarian.

  5. aposteriori2 says:

    Easy to say you could care less – and I fully understand that public and famous people pose for pictures with all kinds of different people – it isnt that – it is that the Paul campaign put this image on a mailing as a way to get people to vote for him…..if I put out our picture together as a way of attracting more libertarians to my cause – then I better well have some kind of basis for it or it is simply PANDERING – so either way the Paul add was a bad thing – either his campaign is saying something about the association or they are pandering – no win situation there – why didnt the literature that I received from his campaign have a sample of his pro-constitution speaches in it? why didnt it have him in a meeting with Constitutional Libertarians? Politics as usual that is my guess as to why

  6. aposteriori2 says:

    By the way – I am more liberal then any Democrat who ever walked the earth – just so you know that it transcends our very questionable Party System…..and it is not locked down against all things Non-Democratic Party….just the things that suck like the Neo Cons

  7. aposteriori2 says:

    If Paul has always been Anti Neo Con …….wouldnt the campaign put out a picture of him with someone who was ALSO anti – neo con if the campaign was about that? Is there noone in america today who is more anti-neocon, more pro Liberty and pro Constitution than Ronald Reagan….they got to choose the picture of ANYONE to put in that add esecially because Paul apparently is not beholden to either party……if you got to choose ANYONE to put on a flier about you – who would it be? would you put YOUR picture out with Ronald Reagan to advertize that you are a Constitutional Libertarian? Just agree with me that it was a BIG MISTAKE and I will let it go!!!!!

  8. hypothesis says:

    Considering Ron Paul is trying to win the Republican nomination and the vast majority of Republicans view President Reagan as their last great president (not to mention a very large portion of the general population as well who are tired of Bushes and Clintons, many of whom can vote in their respective states without registering as a Republican), it only makes sense that Paul would use a picture of himself and Reagan to “pander” to his target audience.

    So if pandering is a bad thing, who are you going to vote for who doesn’t PANDER?

    Ron Paul likes to point out to Republicans the things President Reagan did that he agrees with; like when Reagan pulled the troops out of Lebanon because of the unpredictable nature of Middle Eastern passions and behavior.

    And just how much information do you really expect on a palmcard. Here is a bigger one the Paul campaign has:

    What is at the extreme liberal side of the spectrum, might I ask? What is at the extreme of any spectrum?

    I guess I’m not sure what a “neo-con” actually is. And how many Constitutional Libertarians would you recognize? How many would the majority of the people recognize? Other than Ron Paul, I do not know of any anti-neo-cons in the Republican Party. I’m not real sure there are any in the Democrat Party either at this point.

    So no, I don’t believe Ron Paul’s campaign using a picture of him with Ronald Reagan was a BIG MISTAKE. I don’t believe it was even a LITTLE MISTAKE.

    What is it that makes you hate President Reagan so much?

  9. aposteriori2 says:

    I believe ( but cannot support with refernces at this time) that the basic idea that if left to themselves without any oversight – the business and corporate community could be trusted to “do the right thing” was a Reagan philosophy……the idea that the best government was no government….the whole mentality of “greed is good” the whole idea that privatization and deregulation was desirable… set the stage for some of the biggest screwings EVER from business toward people in the middle and lower classes….top down economics……the idea was that when corporate america did well with earnings that they would be passed on down the socio-economic chain…..and now we have the biggest descrepency between the haves and have nots that we have EVER had… consolidaton…..corporate consolidation and de-regulation…..attempted and actual dismantling of Labor and of Social programs and environmental regulations… up of the Military/Industrial complex….extreme build up of the Prison System……I am sure that I am leaving some out as well

    as to what a “neo-con” is – I actually think that you know what I am talking about – however it is food for thought and something to define more clearly perhaps

    more liberal than the Democratic party hardly means “extreme” …..the Democratic Party is in my opinion, made up of centrists and ….if you start in the center and Pander right because of the conservative leanings of current society….and success of the Right framing everything as “liberal is bad” and having the Democrats tacitly and actually accepting that frame out of fear…….then you have a bunch of Right leaning Democrats…..More liberal does not mean extreme liberal….it is a continuum

    Wouldnt Lincoln be a better example of the “last great Republican”?? Other non republican choices- What about Ralph Nader? he has recognizability…..what about Noam Chomsky? my point is that there is an unlimited number of people to choose from if a candidate truly holds themselves above the two party system…..

    How is it that challenging one strategy of Ron Paul’s campaign calls into question my entire basis for everything? I am simply saying that this was ill conceived from what I know of what Ron Paul “stands for” – if we excuse everything that he does out of some kind of unshakable loyaly and water it down because it is easier for public consumption….then how will it be any better than what we have now?

    Pandering by it’s very nature is a bad thing – it needs to be about what folks stand for and what they beleive is right – otherwise they blow in the wind and everything that the government is REALLY doing is a state secret………

    I would vote for you if you ran for president……and I would encourage you to use my picture and folks would know exactly WHY you did and they would feel good about it!

  10. aposteriori2 says:

    Now – I can buy the idea of “limited government” assuming that he means EFFECTIVE government – but I think that a suspected Neo-Con strategy is something like -if government is undesireable then setting things up to show and prove how government is ineffective – is acceptable and desireable to them- this includes strategies of appointing unqualified cronies to top positions and appointing folks that are antagonists of government and social processes to those posts – eg) Bolton to the UN, the Neo-Con whose name I cant remember off hand to lead National Public Radio….Browning to FEMA etc etc.

    Not sure where Ron Paul shakes out in terms of Farm Policy – that needs as much overhauling as the Immigration Policy and the Healthcare System do

    I dont buy that all governement regulation is bad – excessive and unneccesary regulation yes……again Neccessary and Effective would be key……

    Is there NEVER a justification to raise taxes? I think that it is dangerous to take certain things categorically off of the table. Also, in order to attract the “best and the brightest” to government – wouldnt congressmen need raises at certain points too like everyone else? The thing is – the neo-cons are NOT trying to put the best and the brightest in office – they are giving the best and the brightest away to business and industry! Everyone I know who works in the for profit business world is pressured to do things cheaper and with less manpower……without exception….not “better” necessarily – Quality doesnt seem to be job 1 – cheaper and less manpower seems to REALLY be job 1

  11. hypothesis says:

    I am not questioning your basis for everything. Just how you dismiss a person over a picture and why you have so much hatred for Reagan.

    It is quite clear that Ron Paul, even if the only candidate to stop the war in Iraq immediately upon taking office, is not the candidate for you.

    You obviously agree with the neo-cons, the liberals (or is it “neo-libs” now?) and the activist judges who believe that the Constitution is a “living and breathing” document which can be interpreted differently today than it was 100 or 200 years ago. There was nothing in the Constitution which granted the power to the Federal Government to make alcoholic beverages illegal. So what did they do? They legally and constitutionally amended the constitution to ban alcoholic beverages. Of course that amendment was repealed. Fast forward to 1960’s/70’s? Suddenly the Federal Government can make any substance illegal by simply passing a law, no amendment required.

    Unconstitutional government regulation is bad and dangerous.

    Ron Paul believes in a Federal Government restricted and restrained by the Constitution and the limited powers delegated to it by that contract. Him, I, and all the Ron Paul supporters are in a minority, I know.

    The Constitution was radical then and is even more radical now.

  12. aposteriori2 says:

    My initial reaction is – with the ever changing nature of EVERYTHING (you cant step in the same river twice etc etc) how would you keep things from “living and breathing”

    I realize that this is probably a Constitution 101 question – but what about things that didnt exist and issues that just werent there – privacy, internet, genetic cloning etc etc – this is not my area of expertise and I am not comfortable with saying across the board that I am definitely one way or another on this issue – I dont know enough – unfortuately – to dont know what government regulation is constitutional and what isnt

    I do know that corporations and conglomerates screw people over if left to themselves – now, by the same token – if left unchecked – Labor screws people over too – noone seems to have any trouble talking about how messed up Labor is and how they should be limited and kept in check – when at the very same time – the FIRED CEOs are still making HUNDREDS of millions in some cases when they are leaving the companies in supposed disgrace. How many people were screwed over in the Enron scandel and for how long?

    I know about other radical things – Small is Beautiful type stuff…..and I am as stuck in the “travel to your job and have friends and relations relatively far away and I know my neighbors a little as I am leaving the neighborhood in the morning to live the bulk of my life somewhere else and when I come back from that at night” syndrome……I could eat from my garden and have friends and family in my village and have fewer gray hairs and need less money and resources and help save the world but we are a society based on growth and consumption.

    I know about Bucky Fuller who is sure that we have plenty for everyone if we would just pay attention to allocation

    I know about “radical” people in the world of technology that say that the technology is there to have PORTABLE power to people all over developing and impoverished nations for pennies that are minimally polluting and energy efficient andcheap and light and effective but that they cant figure out how to make any money off of it in our current system.

    We have the technology to “save the world” it isnt just an answer from a Miss America contestant………

    I truly have a value of “not having sacred cows” about stuff…..I attempt to have no particular devotion to anything worldly in and of itself – now I realize that I DO have them…..but my value is about what is effective and fair – open and honest and reasonable and just – so if that is what the constitution promises and delivers for us – then so be it! But to stick with the constitution blindly because it is the constitution – no sir – and I know that this isnt what you are prescribing…..I am also decidedly NOT for giving away our liberties and rights just because a “new enemy” shows up and threatens us….in fact I err probably the OTHER WAY about making an effort to not let FEAR run my life – I think that I am better for it and I wish that I were even better at it than I am!!!

  13. hypothesis says:

    You see, most of the problems you abhor about our government can probably be traced the the unconstitutional actions it has taken over the years.

    The flip side is that most of the things you probably view as “good” things our government has done were probably unconstitutional as well.

    It stems from the government TAKING more POWER than what they were GRANTED. All other powers and rights were reserved to the PEOPLE and to the STATES.

    If you do not know or understand the Constitution, even within your vast knowledge database, then our discussions are pointless when it comes to the politics at the federal level.

  14. aposteriori2 says:

    To the people THROUGH the state and local governements? or to the people seperate from the States and in addition to it? And then does it move the problems of POWER and Governement misuse down the line to each state and explode it into 50 different problems instead of one? Is it that it gets closer to the people then the government becomes more accountable? I am sure that there is something built in to the overall system so it all works together when it is done right between the States and the Federal Governement.

  15. aposteriori2 says:

    Heard on NPR about Paul and the reporter was saying that one of Paul’s core values is to allow people their perspectives and their freedom of individual beliefs (which I like) which explains some of the things and people that get “attached” that makes me nervous… used to having to sort out the chaffe from the wheat that it didnt occur to me that there was some kind of potentially positive value attached on purpose! See how cynical a person can become without fully being aware of it!

  16. hypothesis says:

    Yes, to the PEOPLE through the State and Local Governments. Of course.

    And yes the problems are moved to the State and Local levels. At least that would be closer to the “small is beautiful” concept.

    Each State has it’s own Constitution, it’s own contract with the PEOPLE. Remember the ol’ Republican “contract with America”? Well there already was a contract with America: it was and is called the Constitution.

    I’m glad you may see some positive in Ron Paul. Perhaps you could think of it this way:

    We’ve had many years of the same ol’ same ol’ in Washington D.C. And here we are.

    What if? What if Ron Paul was elected President? Would he do away with Social Security? Medicaid? Medicare? Would he do away with the income tax? Would he do away with the I.R.S.? Would he do away with the billions of dollars we give to Israel every year? He may very well want to, but these things are Acts of Congress. He cannot undo Acts of Congress without further Acts of Congress.

    So what could he really do to change things? I’m not really sure. I suppose anything that falls strictly within the realm of Presidential authority.

    Could he bring the troops home from Iraq upon entering office? I’d say yes. But if Congress convened and voted to declare war against Iraq, then he’d be bound by the Constitution to wage that war. But Congress has thus far done no such thing.

    Could he erase the Department of this or that? Not if they were created via Acts of Congress.

    Even if there were a majority of Republicans in Congress, Ron Paul would not necessarily get their support. Most of them don’t like his positions on the issues. When there is one vote “Nay” in the House, it is his vote, which means all the other Republicans voting voted “Yay.”

    To me, the best thing that would happen is that he would go from being “Dr. No” because of his votes in the House, to “Dr. Veto” for vetoing the vast majority of the Bills brought before him. Then, if Congress really, really, really wanted to pass that legislation, they could override his veto.

    I also wanted to point out that by design, the Constitution had an additional check and balance built in that has been removed via the amendment process. At one time, each State’s Legislature voted for that State’s Senators, not the people.

    So you had the People voting for their Representative in the House and that was it. Otherwise, they voted for their Representatives and/or Senators in their State who in turn voted for their Senators in the Senate. And of course they voted for the President too, but not really. Actually, as you know, they vote for their Electors who may or may not vote according to the majority vote in their State, sometimes depending upon each State’s law.

    So why is this change to voting directly for Senators a bad thing. I’m not totally sure, but I sense it has something to do with the whole popularity contest aspect that it became. Now, to be a Senator, you have to have money to advertise and campaign to the People so you can get elected. Before, it used to be, that one would have to sway the State’s legislature to elect them. Maybe the difference is like the “Coaches Poll” in college football as opposed to a poll of the general population of college football fans. The coaches, although a smaller group of people, consider things that the general population don’t even think about. (I don’t know if that is a fair comparison, but hopefully you get the idea.) Anyhow, the State legislatures would consider a number of things about a candidate for Senate than those who base their vote on TV sound bites.

    To me, this amendment was a bad one because it was a move more towards Nationalism (or Democracy if you like) as opposed to Federalism (or Republicanism if you like).

    OK, I’ve ranted and rambled enough for now.

  17. aposteriori2 says:

    From what I can tell the founding fathers seemed to be about balance – so I can guess that the differences that they put in to the House and the Senate were about balancing things out…..the new quote from Thomas Jefferson is PERFECT – kind of eerie how it fits right now!

  18. aposteriori2 says:

    “A seemingly unflappable Ron Paul was on Meet the Press this a.m. … He told Tim Russert that the Civil War was unnecessary, that Ronald Reagan was indeed a “failure” as president, and that the country in the last 100 years has moved toward facism.” from “Hotline on Call”

    guess we are talking about the same things that Mr. Paul is talking about! He hit almost all of the topics in our outline – if we HAD an outline!

  19. hypothesis says:

    I hope to watch his Meet The Press appearance tomorrow. I got other things going on today. I’ve read that Ron Paul represented himself quite well.

    Outline? Outline! We don’t need no stinkin’ outline!

  20. aposteriori2 says:

    Remember when you would miss something on TV and it would be “gone” forever – or you would have to look it up at the library in the newspaper archive – or when you would miss the yearly showing of the Wizard of Oz and had to wait a whole year to see it again! Nice to have the techno-flexibility these days!

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