January 15, 2012

The Republican primaries have begun! Mitt Romney won both Iowa and New Hampshire, having received 24% and 39% of the vote. Ron Paul finished third in Iowa and second in New Hampshire, having received 21% and 23% of the vote.

Interestingly, the corporate media and conservative commentators have pretended that Ron Paul does not exist, presumably with the intent to marginalize his foreign policy positions; and have repeatedly suggested that conservatives do not want Romney to be the Republican nominee. Obviously, there is a gap between what the media wants voters to think and what voters actually do think. So, for those of you who are supporters of Romney or Paul, despite the best efforts of the media, I would like to offer some things to think about as the primary season continues.

Firstly, Ron Paul has the youth vote! This should worry conservatives because some of his positions are quite anathema to Republican dogma, his foreign policy being the most obvious. However, it seems to be his overall libertarianism, from which his foreign policy stances flow, that is attracting so many young people. Friedrich Hayek and the “Austrian School” of economic theory inform Paul’s economic policy positions, which support entirely free markets with minimal government intervention. In other words, Paul wants to take us back to pre-New Deal, and even pre-Progressive era policies. Just imagine if Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt never existed; also Google Augusto Pinochet while you’re at it.

Secondly, I think Paul’s libertarianism misses the mark. He wants to remove government to allow the “market” to work better. Here’s the problem: the market is governed by the profit motive, maximizing efficiency, and externalizing whatever it can. Voting for a libertarian candidate is giving Big Business, and its underlying values, free reign to continue their abuse of our natural resources, our well-being, and our democratic process. Government is not going to “go away,” government is what makes society, and business, possible in the first place. While it may seem attractive to weaken government, or fantasize about removing it, this simply transfers the decision-making power to corporations. Ultimately, someone will be making decisions that affect your daily life, do you want them to be accountable to the public or not?

Thirdly, the main difference between the Tea Party movement and the Occupy movement is where people consider the real threat to exist. The Tea Party is misguided in thinking that Big Government is the biggest threat to their “freedom,” while the Occupy movement understands that government has been taken over by Big Business. Mitt Romney is currently campaigning on the idea that because he has business experience he is prepared to be president. What I would like Romney and Paul supporters to consider, as has been pointed out by Paul Krugman recently, is the simple truth articulated by George Lakoff in The Political Mind: “Government is fundamentally different from business. The first responsibility of a business is to make money; the first responsibility of a government is to protect and empower its citizens.”

Fourthly, President Obama has protected the American people better than George W. Bush. We have not had another terrorist attack, Osama bin Laden has been killed, and the Iraq War has come to an end. Personally, I have reservations about the Obama Administration’s expansion of drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia due to the fact that innocent civilians are often killed, but I suppose it is preferable to a U.S. occupation of the entire Middle East. Here’s my point: if you support Ron Paul for his foreign policy positions you can forget about the United States relinquishing its role in the world. We are an empire, like it or not. The fact that Obama has pursued the foreign policy that he has should be evidence enough, considering that he was an anti-war candidate, that our role in the world is somewhat beyond our control. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is more hawkish towards Iran than John McCain was in 2008. We may see military action against Iran under Obama, but you can count on it if Mitt Romney is elected president. The last thing our military families and budget deficit need is another war.

Fifthly, President Obama has sought to empower the American people by striving for universal health care. The for-profit health insurance industry, the Republicans in Congress, and the Tea Party made sure that the health care “reform” that was passed was more beneficial for profits than people. The repeal of “Obamacare,” which is so dear to the hearts of Tea Partiers, is only necessary because their opposition to health care reform resulted in a watered-down, further enrich the private interests who are the source of the problem in the first place, piece of legislation. President Obama has further attempted to empower the American people by passing financial regulatory reform, creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and wants to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire in order to bring in necessary revenue to reduce the deficit, all of which was opposed by the Republicans in Congress.

Sixthly, Mitt Romney thinks that he is qualified to be president because he knows how to manage a business. Thus, I assume he considers the United States a business; and a business tries to make as much profit as possible in any way that it can: laying off workers, not paying taxes, moving jobs overseas, ignoring ecological impacts, ignoring health impacts, regulating itself, and writing its own rules, if possible. Government exists to protect citizens from such abuses, but what happens if the president thinks the government is the very thing that government is intended to control and regulate on behalf of its citizens?

Finally, most people are familiar with the infamous tale of Mitt Romney’s dog being tied to the roof of the family car for a 12-hour trip (in a kennel). When asked about the incident on Fox News, Romney replied that the dog probably preferred being on the roof rather than inside the car. As president, will Mitt Romney assume that middle class families prefer to work longer hours than ever before without wages increasing? Will he assume that middle class families prefer to pay more for college than ever before? Will he assume that middle class families prefer to pay more for health care than ever before? Will he assume that middle class families are just “envious” of the 1% rather than concerned about the common good? Personally, I don’t want the middle class to become Mitt Romney’s dog.

Update: June 27, 2013

Arguably, it was Mitt Romney’s infamous “47%” comment that cost him the election. I would say that such comments reinforce the image of Romney portrayed in this article.

 


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