27 September 2011
Grumpy old men: the mating dance of Ron Paul and Ralph Nader
Following their joint appearance on the Fox Business Channel in January, Michael Tracey conducted separate interviews with Ralph Nader and Ron Paul for an American Conservative article (available to subscribers only)on the possibility of a "grand alliance" between the two contrarian elder statesmen. Tracey himself acknowledges that the concept is "counterintuitive" given the libertarian Paul's presumed opposition to the regulatory state that Nader did much to promote. But Nader proposes several areas of "foundational convergence" for his and Paul's followers, including "Military budget, foreign wars, empire, Patriot Act, corporate welfare -- for starters." To that list Paul adds drug law reform, which he describes as "one place where conservatives and liberals can get together [b]ecause it's sort of a nullification approach -- a states' rights approach." Though a conservative Christian himself, Paul is disturbed by the overt, exploitative religiosity of his fellow Texan, Gov. Perry, whom he calls "too cruel and vicious." As for religion, Paul says, "we weren't ever taught to carry religion on our sleeves," and reminds Tracey of the New Testament admonition to "go quietly into your closet to pray and not be demonstrating in any particular way." He doesn't think political candidates should be answerable for their religious beliefs unless "you start using religion precisely to gain political advantage." Overall, Paul is less committal about an alliance than Nader, though it's unclear whether Tracey asked him the same questions. Nor has Nader gone so far as to endorse Paul for the Republican nomination, as some so-called "Blue Republicans" have, or as an independent candidates. But he clearly admires the Texan for what he opposes: the Federal Reserve, corporate welfare, bailouts, etc. And that may be the signal that Nader has finally gone beyond the pale. My point isn't that he or Paul is automatically wrong to oppose any of these things, but that Nader, in particular, is all about what he's against at this point in his public career. Any "grand alliance" of Nader and Paul would be "anti" a lot of things. There's a lot of stuff going on to be "anti," of course, but self-styled progressives have to ask themselves, if they still support Nader, why they do so. Progressives, I presume, are for some things, and a progressive campaign, if we see one next year, should be about more than tearing things down.