Tommy who? I can just hear my American friends asking. He's just the Greatest Canadian of all time according to a poll taken in 2004, which is odd since he was a rather unprepossessing little man. He's dead now, of course.
Tommy Douglas, the prairie preacher, became the premier of North America's first social democratic government (province of Saskatchewan) and went from that to federal politics where he championed, and eventually gained, universal health care for Canadians.
Two seminal events shaped the young Tommy Douglas (as most Canadians know). The first was a leg injury he received as a boy before emigrating from Scotland to Canada. There were complications and the leg was going to be amputated until a Winnipeg surgeon stepped in and operated on it for free while medical students watched the procedure. The second was watching the infamous Winnipeg General Strike riots from a rooftop and witnessing an RCMP officer fatally shoot one of the workers. Both experiences shaped Douglas' worldview.
The son of a Scottish iron worker, Douglas began his career as a Linotype operator in a printing plant, but quit and went back to school to become an ordained minister. Long story short, he moved from the pulpit in a small Saskatchewan town to federal member of Parliament in 1935 and to socialist Premier of Saskatchewan in 1944. By 1962 he was instrumental in getting universal medicare going for the province, retired as premier and went on to lead the fledgling federal New Democratic Party.
So what's he got to do with Ron Paul? Coincidentally, both men have a dark stain on their records. Douglas once wrote a thesis favouring the practice of eugenics before the Nazis got into it. And Ron Paul has those racist comments in his newsletters from the 1980s hanging over him like a cloud.
But there's more to it than that. Both men are spectacularly untelegenic. Both looked old even when they were young: Skinny guys with suits that don't quite fit right. Both held true to their morals, values and ideals, and presented them in clear, plainspoken language. And both were marginalized, and in Paul's case still marginalized, by corporate funders and the mainstream media.
In both cases big money and special interests actively worked against them.
Whereas Tommy Douglas represented a Canadian citizen landscape that couldn't exist without a tightly knit, protective community (harsh climates tend to kill the less fortunate), Ron Paul represents a different history, one in which individuals are free to pursue their own livelihoods without undue interference from big government and by extension, big institutions and big corporations. It's the modern reiteration of the pioneering spirit of Ohio, the Midwest, West Virginia and the spirit that opened up the American west to the Pacific Ocean. It's based on independence, moral character and hard work.
While we Canadians and some modern liberal Americans might see that as naïve, Paul's views and policies are directly connected to America's roots -- creating equal opportunity for all. Which is why he strikes such as surprisingly strong chord among ordinary Americans. To them it's just plain common sense. Just as Douglas and his policies made sense to Canadians.
Why is this important to Americans? Because Paul is the only candidate, including Obama, who is actually and actively addressing the American condition. He begins with American exceptionalism abroad, and clearly sees his own country as an unbridled imperial-military power, spending blood and treasure on ventures, not to protect Americans, but to protect the foreign interests of global corporations.
Exactly one year ago Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing exposé on the trillions of dollars of bank bailout money that was unsupervised, misdirected and misappropriated by the U.S. banking elite. He cites two wives of Wall Street bankers receiving $220 million in bailout money from the U.S. Fed in what amounts to forgivable loans. He goes on to say in another interview that the same kinds of low interest "loans" went to companies based in the Cayman Islands, and even to companies such as Toyota that were in direct competition with General Motors, which was also receiving huge bailouts at the same time. Does anyone down there find this just a little outrageous (not to mention bordering on criminal)?
But who was responsible for uncovering the information? Ron Paul, who, through Congress, was able to crack open the Fed's books on the bailout years between 2007 and 2009. It was the first time in history that anyone had a look behind the highly secretive curtain around the Fed.
Both Taibbi and Paul have cottoned onto the fact that the U.S. Fed is now the de facto bank of the world, the first globalist bank. And both think, correctly, that this is not at all in the best interests of ordinary Americans. Paul seems to be the only U.S. politician with the guts to say, "the Fed must die." But one might ask, where is Obama in all of this? Clearly, he's M.I.A. on this massive financial hijack, hiding behind Tim Geithner and the boys from Goldman Sachs.
On the domestic front, both Ron Paul and Tommy Douglas supported civil liberties. In the 1960s Douglas called for an investigation of the RCMPs surveillance practices -- even while he was unknowingly being investigated by the RCMP. Ron Paul follows the same pattern: a repeal of the Patriot Act and a standing down on the new government authoritarianism being currently being applied to the American people through Homeland Security, NDAA, super-prisons and all the rest.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Paul's argument is Mitt Romney who seems, to the delight of global corporations everywhere, to have no position whatsoever, other than being Obama lite. And in Canada we have Stephen Harper. Enough said.
Despite what liberals might think of Ron Paul, he just might go down in history as America's Greatest Politician as we look back at the prospect of the American empire collapsing, or even more disturbing, Canada being rolled into one North American union.
But that's a thought for another day.