by: Ryne Poelker
The story for many hard lined left-wingers is typical. You could be anywhere really—a store, a bar, a protest after party—and a young man engages you. He’s attractive, intelligent, charismatic. Issues surrounding politics arises. His energy and enthusiasm begins to shine. He speaks of the wars, imperialism, occupied Palestine, U.S. funding of dictatorships. Your eyes widen. “Yes, yes!” you say back to him enthusiastically. “I agree with you!”
He gains excitement with your political approval; a sense of connection arises. He goes on, throwing in a familiar political joke about how corrupt both parties are. You laugh hysterically, maybe accidentally snorting.
“Wow, I agree with what you’re saying,” you may tell him. He responds, “It’s so hard to find another attractive guy that shares these views. I’m so glad you came up to me tonight. You’re so cute.” You then grab each other, look into each other’s eyes, and begin to anticipate an alcohol tasting kiss. But then—
Then it all comes crumbling down. He asks, “So you must be a fan of Ron Paul, right? I mean he’s the only last chance we’ve got who’s running.” The world before your eyes falls apart. The romantic dreams of frolicking in a sunny field halt. You can’t look at him the same way anymore. The story of most Ron Paulers may be less tragic than this one, but all are tragic nonetheless.
Though they can be annoying and obnoxious, I hold a soft spot in my heart for the left-leaning Ron Paulers. They usually are attracted to his campaign for the right reasons: his opposition to endless wars, oppressive occupations, anti-drug laws, privacy crack downs, denial of free speech rights, etc. With Obama taking almost three years to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, his failure to pass anti-discrimination protections in employment, and his opposition to LGBT marriage rights, Ron Paul’s appeal continues to strengthen with independent/far-left LGBT voters.
Moreover, the history of the Democrats and the queer community has no doubt helped Paul. After all, it was the “lesser evil” party that originally passed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act in the first place. It was also the “lesser evil” party that orchestrated police crack downs, raids and arrests at gay bars in cities across this country up until the 70’s and 80’s. And it is the “lesser evil” party today that is closing down shelters and services for homeless LGBT youth. Yes, the Republican fringe is oppressive and homophobic to the max. However, Democratic politicians have also proven to be sell outs in the name of queer rights. They have given our communities a false hope. Too many times they have turned our dreams for leaders into nightmares of repressive tyrants.
This political negligence has come with consequences. 20% of gay men now vote Republican and Ron Paul has become the Log Cabin favorite for many. Dan Savage has labeled him the least evil among Republican candidates. Andrew Sullivan, the token “A-Gay” libertarian of America, has endorsed and repeatedly defended Paul to queer conservatives. Many queers are now even suggesting that LGBT rights are important but are secondary issues in the overall political arena.
But when one takes a look at this cabin, they begin to see many cracks in the walls and some unsettling flaws in the framework.
For one, homophobia has never been a factor for Ron Paul to distance himself from Bible-shouting bigots.
Michael Heath, the head of Ron Paul’s Iowa campaign staff, is also on the board of directors for Peter LaBarbera’s certified anti-gay hate group, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality. In 2009, Heath headed Maine’s Christian Civic League and campaigned to overturn marriage rights in that state. Paul has also received endorsements from a variety of Neo-Nazi groups that call for anti-gay brutality while also receiving their financial donations. Above is Ron Paul pictured with Nazi member and KKK Grand wizard Don Black.
Those are his associations, but what about his stances?
Ron Paul has continually been on the fringe of queer issues. Paul wrote a bill called the “Family Protection Act” that starts with talk of abolishing the Department of Education and ends with a proposal to “prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style.” In the third Republican debate on June 5, 2007, Paul also said about the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy: “I think the current policy is a decent policy.” He later voted for the repeal as it got more popular, despite it appearing to be in conflict with his previous views.
Ron Paul has also been a critic of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision, in which sodomy laws – laws that criminalized and punished homosexuality — were ruled unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Like everything else, Paul believes such Draconian laws that punish same-sex love should be left to the states rather than federal courts.
On marriage rights, Ron Paul has a unique stance. Paul opposes all federal efforts to define marriage, whether defined as a union between one man and one woman, or defined as including anything else as well. However, in 2004, he spoke in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996. Paul also co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which would have barred federal judges from hearing cases pertaining to the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. Paul has said that recognizing same-sex marriage at the federal level would be “an act of social engineering profoundly hostile to liberty.” Again, he believes the denial of marriage rights should be left to the states.
Then, of course, there are his newsletters.
Ten years or so of publishing done in his name, earning him money and yet he had no idea about them and had no role in writing them. Riight.
In 1990, a Ron Paul Political Report newsletter complained about President George H.W. Bush’s decision to sign a hate crimes bill, adding, “I miss the closet.” “Homosexuals,” it said, “not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”
The newsletters also spewed some lovely material on the topic of AIDS, blaming the disease on gay men. In them, it states, “Those who don’t commit sodomy, who don’t get blood a transfusion, and who don’t swap needles, are virtually assured of not getting AIDS unless they are deliberately infected by a malicious gay.” It also accredits the spread of the disease because gay men “don’t have a reason to live past their fifties…sex is the center of their lives” and “they enjoy the pity and attention that comes with the disease.” The newsletters are infested with more vile filth, too much really to stomach.
It’s not just queer issues that are the problem. It’s his civil rights stances on other issues.
Ron Paul is so anti-immigrant that he believes in massive increases in deportations and the total dismantling of birth right citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants. He relishes on the fear and exaggerated paranoia of the anti-immigrant movement by constantly labeling them as aliens draining social services.
Furthermore, Paul also opposes the Civil Rights Act and the Civil War against the South. He claims that the Civil Rights Act was a paramount and unjust infringement on the right of business to segregate and discriminate against blacks. Ron Paul has also been against federal protections of women from discrimination and has supported efforts to ban abortion completely.
Then there’s economics.
With this track record, it’s clear Ron Paul isn’t about the rights and freedom of people. He is about the rights and freedoms of the capitalist market to exploit, plunder and pillage. The only liberty he believes in is the liberty of business owners and wealthy property owners. If he had his way Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, a minimum wage, safety on the workplace, public education and environmental protections would be gone. No social safety net for the poor or working-class. The market would be free to poison and pollute our communities. The uninsured would be left to die and rot. Unless you are that 1%, you will be screwed royally. There’s nothing anti-establishment about him. He’s a hog for companies and the golden profit.
Yes, Ron Paul is beautiful on foreign policy and drugs. Yes, he knows how to speak nice and remind you of your grandpa. But at the underlying foundation of his politics, there is a web of bigotry, greed and decimation. The story of the queer struggle is a story of massive political disenfranchisement. That reality undeniably will benefit Ron Paul. We’ve been under complete assault by the far-right and betrayed by Democratic centrists. Over forty years since the beginnings of the gay liberation movement and we still find ourselves at a deadlock on many fronts. The desire for a political champion that is simultaneously at such an anti-imperialist caliber is more than understandable for LGBT folk.
But there are other routes if one seeks to put their vote to use. There are the Green Party and third-party alternatives. I further predict there will most likely be a rise in far-left independence given birth from the occupy movement.
However, I’m also reminded of my friend and fellow socialist Sherry Wolf who said, “Our fight is in the street, not the ballot box.” Direct action and mobilization are what bring home the goods. Every spike in legislative gain came from frightening the shit out of the political elite. The Stonewall Riots, the Compton Cafeteria revolt, Act-Up, The Gay Liberation Front, Dan Choi chaining himself to the White House fence, the marches on Washington—that is where our political wealth rests upon. Movements have leaders, but it will ultimately be the masses who will need to untangle their own chains.
As another presidential candidate, the socialist Eugene Debs, eloquently proclaimed, “I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.”
Ron Paul is not your Moses, my friends. He won’t even lead out of the wilderness, but rather into a jungle infested with far more dangerous predators. The politics of some cute queers may be tempting or heart breaking, but your power is in struggle. Our bodies are our real vote. My family, take your political will into the streets of rebellion. Liberate yourselves.
Ryne Poelker is an undergraduate student of History and Gender Women Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ryne has found himself at the forefront of many struggles from defending abortion clinics to getting arrested with OccupyChicago. Ryne is a socialist organizer who was worked with a queer rights front group called Join The impact, the Illinois Abortion Clinic Defense Team, Gender Just and the Campaign Against Police Sexual Assault. He aspires to someday write social justice history and queer novels.