Theory matters. Such is the mantra of so many socialists–and it is when cults of personality build up around individuals, such as the racist, sexist, classist Ron Paul, that we see why.
Paul, the ideological grandfather of the Tea Party movement, has become a political enigma by garnering support not just from disgruntled right wingers, free-market enthusiasts, neo-Nazis and Klansmen, but also from individuals claiming to be on the left of the political spectrum, including those who believe they are on the radical left.
What reasons could self-proclaimed leftists have for supporting a man who has had incredibly racist articles, at the very least, printed in his name, if he was not the author himself? A man who has come out against abortion rights? A man who holds a completely unrestrained market at the center of his ideology?
"Well, at least he wants to bring all the troops home" or "He's against the war on drugs" are the common refrains his blindly dedicated devotees on the left have stuck to. "Not even Obama will do these things."
Of course, such arguments are almost instantly revealed as a belief in the politics of "lesser evilism" as soon Paul is portrayed as being "better than Obama," even if he still has "a lot of positions I disagree with."
But this is not the key problem. In a two-party, capitalist political system, there will always be those who argue that we have to resort to lesser evilism in order to prevent things from getting really bad.
The dangerous problem that self-proclaimed leftists create when they support Paul is that they disregard theory and begin to rank individual policy points as more or less important than others.
When people support Paul because he wants to shut down all U.S. military bases abroad and bring the troops home, they ignore why he has this motivation. Unlike activists on the left who have been campaigning for decades to end U.S. imperialism, Paul is a staunch isolationist–he still wants American hegemonic dominance in the world, he just doesn't want to waste precious U.S. resources to act as world police.
All one needs to do is look where he wants to put the returning troops to see where his priorities lie; the military in Ron Paul's America would be used to create a border with Mexico that makes the Korean DMZ look like Disney World.
While there is no doubt that we have far too many military bases and personnel in too many countries, the answer should be withdrawals accompanied with disbanding, rather than withdrawals only to re-station our military along our southern border.
As for Paul wanting to end the war on drugs and legalize just about every kind of drug; while this might be the first step in beginning to treat a societal and public health issue for what it is, rather than criminalizing the people who need help the most, it is important to remember that Paul also wants to get rid of any and all public funding for health care.
While some may be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for not saying that we should let the uninsured die in the street (it was a fanatical Tea Partier who shouted "Yeah!" when Paul tried to respond "No" during that debate), his policy speaks volumes more than an answer he gave to sound like more of an nice guy than he actually is.
Ron Paul may be crazy, but he is not stupid.
He realized, when answering Wolf Blitzer during that debate, that only the cruelest human being would actually say they wanted people to just die in the street, or boo veterans, or applaud the idea of well over 200 executions. But that does not change what his stated positions would actually result in: no health care, except for what private companies are willing to provide, and no publicly funded emergency rooms or health clinics.
As a result, Paul's end to the war on drugs would only mean private companies could enter into the heroin- and meth-dealing business, while those facing addiction problems would be left to die in the not-so-proverbial streets.
Ron Paul is the prime example of why theory is important and why individual issues alone are not enough. The "how" and "why" are just as important as the "what."
If members of the left begin to forget this, we face a growing danger of reactionary, right-wing politicians like Paul being elected; probably not in 2012, but with greater possibility each year that Paul and his son Rand (named for the most famous egoist of all time, Ayn Rand) grow in popularity.
This is why those on the left who combine their politics with theory must object to support for Paul every time it appears.
It must be made clear that Paul is not some savior, delivered from on high to "restore America" or make America "proper." The only people who benefit from Paul's popularity are those who truly wish to see us cast back into the Gilded Age jungle, where robber barons rule and the rest of us are left to live or die by mercy or luck.
This article was originally published by Socialist Worker.