Free Liberal

Coordinating towards higher values

Mike Gravel, Free Liberal?

by Paul Gessing

With Ron Paul in the race for President, the Republican nomination for “free liberal candidate” is all sown up. With Dr. Paul adhering to strict principles in line with the United States Constitution and every other candidate the GOP has to offer being an extreme hawk, there is really no believer in limited government besides Congressman Paul running for President. Given the abysmal offerings of the Republican Party and their mismanagement under President Bush, one might be forgiven for thinking the Party is doomed.

So, how about those Democrats? Hillary Clinton and John Edwards supported the Iraq War and both of them have spoken threateningly of Iran. Obama opposed the war, but his ideology is more old-line progressive than free liberal. Bill Richardson also opposes the War, but his record as New Mexico’s Governor is also that of someone who believes that bigger government is the answer to most every problem. As regular readers may know, I had previously expressed favorable opinions on Sen. Russ Feingold, but he is not running.

All is not lost on the left side of the political spectrum though and, while everyone who values their liberty should consider supporting him, Ron Paul is not the only hope of free liberals. In fact, there is a breath of fresh air blowing in from the north – the great white north that is. Former Senator Mike Gravel has announced he plans to run for President and, although he has not been in the public eye for some time, his resume screams free liberal.

In 1971, Gravel played a key role in the release of the Pentagon Papers – a large collection of secret government documents pertaining to the Vietnam War – which were made public by former Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg. Gravel inserted more than 4,000 pages of the Papers into the Congressional Record, which were later issued by the Beacon Press as the “Senator Gravel Edition” – the most complete edition of the Pentagon Papers to be published.

Also in 1971, Gravel embarked on a one-man filibuster against legislation renewing the military draft. Using various parliamentary maneuvers, Gravel was able to block the bill for five months before President Richard Nixon and Senate Republicans agreed to allow the draft to expire in 1973.

More recently Gravel led an effort to get a United States Constitutional amendment to allow voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives. He argued that Americans are able to legislate responsibly, and that the Act and Amendment in the National Initiative would allow American citizens to become “law makers”. Considering the lack of responsiveness and downright detachment of our national leaders from the average American, some form of initiative and referendum process at the national level is a great idea.

While his past work and accomplishments have made our lives better by challenging authority, Gravel is not resting on his laurels. Much of his platform is designed with an eye towards limiting government intrusions into our daily lives and forcing government officials to be more accountable to the people.

Unlike most of his colleagues in the Democratic Party, Gravel opposed the Iraq War early and consistently. Better still, he opposes military action against Iran. Those are big issues, but Gravel is not running on foreign policy alone. He also supports the FairTax, a tax reform that would eliminate the IRS and replace it with a national retail sales tax. This is a pro-freedom reform that would eliminate special-interest rent-seeking and would make America’s economy the stronger and fairer than ever before.

While opposition to war in Iraq and Iran, not to mention the Patriot Act and much of the burgeoning national surveillance state, combined with endorsement of the FairTax are enough for many, the news is not all good for Senator Gravel. The one major blot on his platform is his support of nationalized, socialized health care. While he is certainly not the only Democrat to support such a plan, the idea that socialized anything will work is an unfortunate misreading of basic economics.

Our current health care system is expensive and inefficient, but that is the result of the socialization that has already become such a big part of health care in this country, not the other way around. Once health care spending is done by governments, the provision of care will be rationed and all of us will be forced to pay more in the form of taxation or by waiting in line. A free market system that shifts responsibilities and decision-making back to individuals is the only viable health care solution.

Despite my concerns about Gravel’s health care proposal, at least he is proposing to waste money at home treating sick people, not overseas, threatening innocents with death and destruction and wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars. The fact is that Sen. Gravel is the most “free liberal” of the Democratic candidates for President. I hope he will add a fresh and different perspective to the debates.

Paul Gessing is a senior editor for The Free Liberal.