Berkeley, California based listener supported station KPFA did an interesting and informative program on the candidacy of libertarian Republican Ron Paul on Tuesday. KFPA talk show host, Mitch Jeserich, hosted the discussion on his Letters and Politics show as Republicans (including Paul) compete for favor in the Iowa Caucuses. [UPDATE 10:41 PM CST: Paul comes in close third in Iowa race].
The program began with Nation magazine correspondent John Nichols, who characterized the Iowa event as “a sort of Kabuki theater, where most of the people who go don’t actually participate in the delegate selection process, they just go to participate in a glorified straw poll.” But that poll result, “doesn’t have anything to do with delegate selection. So while it is said that this is the beginning of the [Republican] nominating process, it’s really sort of a false construct.”
The real beginning of the process comes next week in New Hampshire, Nichols noted, where a more traditional primary will take place. And Nichols doubted that the Republican “party bosses” will let Paul get very far.
Nonetheless, much of the progressive blogosophere has been engaged in a fierce debate over Paul, who insists that he did not author various racist statements famously identified in his Reagan/Clinton era newsletter. Despite this, and Paul’s opposition to right of women to choose, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, and other 20th-century reforms, bloggers who offer qualified defenses of his campaign note his opposition to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war on drugs, the Patriot Act, and Federal implementation of the death penalty.
“Ron Paul is the only major candidate from either party advocating crucial views on vital issues that need to be heard, and so his candidacy generates important benefits,” contends Salon writer Glen Greenwald. Ditto says Robert Scheer in The Nation, given Paul’s “devastating critique of crony capitalism and his equally trenchant challenge to imperial wars and the assault on our civil liberties that they engender.”
Other writers, such as Bill Weinberg of the World War 4 Report, don’t see it this way. “If we ever see a President Paul, he’ll be bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, all right,” Weinberg warns “—to wage a race war in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Houston.”
Nichols told Jeserich that he thinks the Paul cause is “a very dangerous game.”
“I understand that there are people who are passionate supporters of civil rights, Medicare, and Medicaid, who simply want to send a message and this is a way to do it,” Nichols explained. “But Ron Paul is a pretty complex player, and he has a lot of history on these issues that is pretty unsettling—in some cases repulsive.”
The conversation then went to Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report, who was asked for his opinion of Paul.
“I hope he does well,” Ford began. “I don’t like him, but it’s really a reflection on what’s happening in the Democratic Party, that the only conversation that the corporate media finds compelled to cover that has anything to do with empire . . . is coming from the Republican Party or from this libertarian within the Republican Party. So for those of us who would like to hear the term ‘empire’ uttered, Ron Paul is the only show among the two parties. He’s the only game in town.”
Jeserich asked Ford about the more controversial comments coming out of Paul’s newsletter.
“Paul comes from a cultural, political milieu that is totally saturated with racism,” Ford observed. “He is a hyper-American nationalist. And many people say how could that be, he is talking about the end of American empire; that’s not what we associate with hyper-American nationalists. But there has always been an American nationalism that was isolationist.”
Ford noted that isolationists have for a century opposed the integration of forcibly acquired nations like the Philippines and Cuba on racial grounds, citing fears of “mongrelization.”
“These strains have always been among us, and I think that Ron Paul actually is part of that older strain, very strong, that just doesn’t get talked about in the American political conversation.”
Jeserich asked Ford what he thought about progressives who see Paul as someone who could potentially make President Obama address issues that otherwise won’t be raised?
“Obviously they’re looking for the magic wand and some kind of way to oppose these corporatist policies of Obama that he shares, in fact, with the Republicans,” Ford replied. “They’d like a magic wand; some kind of button to push in the electoral arena, that would allow them to avoid the hard, hard work of grassroots movement building that is necessary.”
An interesting show, definitely worth podcasting or downloading.