03 December 2011

Ron Paul

I know a few people who have been touched with Ron Paul Fever, and it seems like new examples crop up all the time. So it seems I cannot put off any longer making the case against Representative Paul.

I get the appeal. He vigorously opposes American military adventurism and the military-industrial complex. He has pointed out how the financial industry has perversely benefitted from the financial crisis they created. He speaks in defense of civil liberties and has fought against attacks on them like the PATRIOT Act. He calls the War On Some Drugs the madness that it is. And often he says this stuff well. When we cannot even reliably expect Democrats to step up on these subjects, Rep. Paul's rhetoric can be refreshing, even thrilling.

But if you dig into him, it becomes clear that Representative Ron Paul is an evil crackpot.

He stands against bad government policies because he wants to dismantle practically the entire Federal government, which makes him against just about any good government policies you can think of, too. Including, for example, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And Social Security and Medicare. And the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many conclude from this that Rep. Paul comes from a radical libertarian political philosophy. You have probably met folks from this school before; because Heinlein made the libertarian utopia of the lunar colony in his novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress feel so plausible while you're reading it, they think that a stateless anarchist utopia actually is plausible, et cetera. I think that kind of libertarianism doesn't hold any water, but I can at least respect its radical grounding in personal liberty, and its bullheaded commitment to philosophical integrity is at least intellectually honest.

The argument goes that Rep. Paul's opposition to the Civil Rights Act reflects his libertarian conviction that, morally wrong as segregated lunch counters may be, they are the price we should accept for a government with a seamless commitment to the important rights of private property and free association. A government empowered to meddle in who a restaurant will serve has the capacity for all kinds of other mischief more destructive to our important liberties. Such libertarians will usually argue that the free market will naturally put an end to such a restaurant as the public, repelled by the odor of racism, will refuse to patronize it.

I find that school of libertarianism unpersuasive. It's wrongheaded in part because it ends up opposed to the obvious good of the Civil Rights Act.

That's bad, but supposed libertarianism doesn't quite give us Representative Paul as an evil crackpot. The thing is, it turns out that the reading of him as a libertarian is just plain wrong. Ron Paul will tell you that his devotion to sharply limited government comes of being a “strict constitutionalist”, and he frequently references Constitutional limits on Federal power. But this “strict” reading of the Constitution has a strange flavor. It contradicts constitutional scholarship and legal precedent, which upholds the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, Social Security, et cetera. He sees no separation of church and state in the Constitution. And he does want the government doing more in one area: stopping abortion, in service of which he has introduced a bill defining legal personhood as beginning at conception and has run a bizarre anti-choice propaganda television commercial for his campaign in which he alludes to his “faith.” What kind of “strict constitutionalist” and “libertarian” is that?

Let's add some more ingredients. Representative Paul opposes the United Nations, because he's worried that it will produce a One World Government that will lead a atheist socialist revolution that will come take your guns. Ron Paul is a gold bug who wants to abolish both the Federal Reserve Bank and the Federal income tax, and return to the gold standard, a form of crackpot economics that should sound familiar.

If you know to recognize them, the signs are clear that Ron Paul is, at best, a John Bircher, the school of crackpot American conservatism which called Dwight Eisenhower a communist agent and William F. Buckley purged from the Republican party for being too reactionary even for him. I have video of Representative Paul addressing the John Birch Society as an honored guest a few years ago.

Which brings us to the evil crackpottery. James Kirchick at The New Republic has tracked down some of Ron Paul's old newsletters.

What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays.

I have a few samples from the newsletters; the flavor is unmistakable.

David Weigel at Slate's article Ron Paul And The Coming Race War offers us this example from a pitch for people to sign up for the newsletter:

I've laid bare the coming race war in our big cities. The federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS (my training as a physician helps me see through this one.) The Bohemian Grove — perverted, pagan playground of the powerful. Skull & Bones: the demonic fraternity that includes George Bush and leftist Senator John Kerry, Congress's Mr. New Money. The Israeli lobby, which plays Congress like a cheap harmonica. And the Soviet-style “smart card” the Justice Department has in mind for you.

There's good reason to think that Paul didn't write these newsletters himself, but the Washington Post reports persuasively that Paul must have known what the newsletters contained. So while Paul may not be in his heart the kind of virulent bigot portrayed in his newsletters, he was clearly willing to let people think he was.

Case in point: here he is giving a speech in front of a Confederate Battle Flag, saying that the Confederacy was right:

Bircher, neo-Confederate, Tenther.

Evil crackpot.


If you want more, I have a bushel basket full of links:

  • Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic writes at length about the newsletters, the reaction to them, and why Ron Paul should be held accountable for them.
  • That long story on Ron Paul from Kirchick in The New Republic from early 2008 gets referenced by many of the articles which came later, so in addition to being good in its own right, it's essential reading if you have an interest in the meta-story of how the news media is covering Ron Paul.
  • Orcinus is one of my favorite blogs on the web, delivering journalism and analysis about the crazy far right in the US and its complex relationship with more conventional conservatism and the Republican party. It has some great stuff on Ron Paul, including an overview of Kirchick's article, an index of Paul's voting record in the House of Representatives, his detailed examination of Rep. Paul's grounding in scary, evil rightwing crazies' ideology and the implications of his obvious appeal to those folks.
  • Mike at Aporetic connects Paul to racist neo-Confederates not only through the newsletters, but also through damning quotes from goldbug Austrian economist Murray Rothbard and the League of the South.
  • Over at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, left-libertarians Steve Horwitz and Jacob T. Levy make a vigorous case that libertarians need to stand up and reject Ron Paul and the strain of “libertarianism” he and Rothbard and others represent.
  • Edward H. Sebesta at Anti Neo-Confederate unpacks Neo-Confederate BS in a 2007 interview with Paul.
  • Digby gives us several useful comments. There's video of Ron Paul speaking as an apologist for the Confederacy, repeating the canard that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, which just isn't true. (I have a fisking of the specifics of that video.) There's an examination of why Paul's antebellum “libertarianism” may sometimes make him a legislative ally, but not an ideological one, and a follow-up underlining that Paul is not really a libertarian, just an opponent of the Federal government, which has troubling implications.
  • Building a Better GOP offers a conservative's argument that Paul represents a Neo-Confederate conservatism disguised as libertarianism.
  • Over at Daily Kos, chaunceydevega looks at Paul and plumbs the meaning of neo-Confederate slavery apologetics.
  • In a speech, Paul asserted States' right to nullify Federal law, in direct contradiction to Article VI, Section 2 of the US Constitution.
  • Corey The Reactionary Mind Robin points to two problems with Ron Paul: his pseudolibertarian federalism and the fact that the left has failed to produce a visible spokesperson in opposition to the military-industrial complex.
  • Representative Paul on his own House website supporting secessionism.
  • Fred Clark at Slacktivist responds to Corey Robin, makes a telling distinction between civil liberties and individual liberties, and offers a roundup of links to yet more commentary about Paul.
  • Living national treasure Ta-Nehsi Coates weighs in, comments on Paul's mercenary willingness to publish the newsletters, underlines how defenses of Ron Paul connect to the history of racism in American politics, and makes an instructive comparison between Paul and ... of all people ... Louis Farrakhan.
  • Sarah Posner at the UK Guardian has a review of the homeschooling curriculum Paul sponsors, noting the influence of Christian Reconstructionists and Neo-Confederates.
  • Corey Robin comments on the pervasive defenses of the Confederacy among libertarians. One might consider this blurring of the lines between libertarians, neo-Confederates, and Birchers a sort of defense of Ron Paul ... though one that damns the libertarian movement.
  • Anonymous has an archive of data from American Third Position, a fascist white pride organization, declaring that “we also found a disturbingly high amount of members who are also involved in campaigning for Ron Paul. According to these messages, Ron Paul has regularly met with many A3P members, even engaging in conference calls with their board of directors.”
  • Apropos of un-libertarian views when it comes to reproductive rights, Paul supports the State of Texas raping women with sonogram probes. Really.
  • Video of Ron Paul making a clumsy, incoherent defense of his position on the Civil Rights Act. What, did he think he'd never get the question?
  • Ron (and Rand) Paul's stand against net neutrality demonstrates that his “anti-government” stance is, in practice, not pro-freedom but pro-corporate.
  • Charles P. Pierce at Esquire sketches how Paul wins the support of Americans of the Paranoid Style.
  • Reason Magazine — who are real libertarians — has an investigation into how the newsletters came to be, and a damning timeline of Paul's comments about them.
  • At Addicting Info, Summer Ludwig has a quick 10 Reasons Not To Vote For Ron Paul and Justin “Filthy Liberal Scum“ Rosario lays out the racism angle in Is Ron Paul A White Supremacist? Absolutely!
  • Adele M. Stan at AlterNet finds Ron Paul's creepy supporters and connects the dots from there to Paul's own Christian Reconstructionism.
  • The Examiner reports claims that Anonymous has documented direct links between Paul and neo-Nazis. (But I haven't found confirmation or details on this one.)
  • Talking Points Memo has a story about Paul's Iowa campaign actively courting Christian theocrats who want “Biblical law” including the death penalty for homosexuals.
  • Salon has a report on his plans to speak at a conference of radical theocrats, a number of whom are unmistakable antisemites.
  • “Former African Dictator Mobutu Sese Seko” followed up his Vice articles Ron Paul Is A Racist Leprechaun and Yeah, Ron Paul Is A Racist After All with numerous scans of Paul's old newsletters and a damning review of their contents at his personal blog, where he also has replies to common pro-Paul arguments.
  • Respectful Insolence has a long post providing links to troubling information about Ron Paul, including a lot about his alliance with quack medicine.
  • Alternet's Adele M. Stan has 5 Reasons Progressives Should Treat Ron Paul with Extreme Caution, including a close relationship with scary Christian theocrats.
  • Phenry has a four part Daily Kos diary hitting a range of highlights:
  • Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast explores Paul's relationship with Christian Reconstructionism, illuminating why Paul's faux libertarianism is winning the support of many Christian theocrats.
  • Wonkette has a list of poorly-supported comments from Ron Paul about the Constitutionality of various topics.
  • The New York Times reports on how Ron Paul just shrugs about his creepier supporters.
  • Tim Wise has harsh words for liberals who think that the issues they agree with Paul about outweigh the ones where they don't.
  • Salon has been covering Ron Paul and the implications of his ideas pretty well.
  • Digby calls Ron Paul's anti-Federal pro-State philosophy “antebellum libertarianism”, in reference to the Civil War, and explores how this connects to Christian Reconstructionist theocrats.
  • Will Wilkinson at The New Republic writes A Libertarian’s Lament: Why Ron Paul Is an Embarrassment to the Creed.
  • A damning “defense” of Ron Paul from Eric Dondero, a former congressional staffer of his.
  • Jonathan Chait at New York magazine observes that Racists Love Ron and Rand Paul For Some Reason, tastefully declining to speculate what that reason might be.
  • NewsOne has more links demonstrating that neo-Nazis regard him as one of their own.
  • P. David Hornick's piece Ten Worst US Purveyors of Antisemitism #5: Ron Paul isn't terribly good, but it's interesting that it appears on the movement conservative PJ Media website.
  • Harvey Gold at Addicting Info has a review of why the gold standard is a stupid idea, though I'm looking for a better one.
  • Elizabeth Flock at US News & World Report tells us that a new report shows Paul to be one of the most corrupt congresspeople.
  • Newsone lists suggestive, but not quite conclusive, ties between Ron Paul and avowed White Supremacists.
  • Kevin Carey at The New Republic reports that Paul wrote a book about how he's against school.
  • And if after all of that you want to dig even deeper, Ron Paul Exposed and Ron (and Rand) Paul Supporters offer a mountain of resources and anti-Paul rants, but I cannot vouch for the signal-to-noise ratio.

This article has been linked on Reddit and a local BBS and other places.

24 comments:

Cat said...

Thanks for putting this together!

Unknown said...

Ron Paul is a radical. His ideas call for radical change. Your blog here seems to indicated that radical change is not what we need. You sir, are the one who is crazy. There are men in Africa who think that their HIV will be cured if they rape a virgin. There are bombs going off right now, somewhere. There are 2,000 occupy locations. We lose 25 languages a DAY. There are more people alive now then ever before, and this overpopulation is consuming the worlds resources at a rate that we can not even measure. I can literally go on and on. The world has gone mad. You think we should have more of the same? That is what is crazy. Sure, Ron Paul and the Libertarians wish to do some radical stuff. Bring it on. We simply can not keep doing what we are doing. It's just crazy.

Jonathan Korman said...

I vigorously agree that the times call for radical change. But that does not mean that every proposed radical change is wise.

Doug Muder said...

One place where Paul diverges sharply from libertarianism in his immigration policy. Like all the other Republican candidates, he wants to limit immigration, control the border, and end birthright citizenship. I'm not sure what he wants to do with the undocumented workers already here, but I know he doesn't want "amnesty".

Now, any of these ideas may or may not be good. My point is that they are not at all libertarian. A pure libertarian believes that governments should not stop people from living where they want to live and working for whomever will hire them.

When someone purports to uphold certain principles and then finds exceptions, you need to ask: Why these exceptions? If you're making exceptions, why not, as Jonathan points out, make an anti-Jim-Crow exception?

And that leads to the bigger question that I ask about all libertarian politicians: Who really believes this stuff and who just sees it as a handy philosophical excuse to defend vested interests? I put Paul in the latter category.

Paul Christy said...

I consider it excellent news that you folks are starting to attack Ron Paul. Apparently he is becoming important enough to bring down--I love it! Ron Paul is the only candidate speaking the painful truth. With enough harassment from you lefties, he might get elected!

Jonathan Korman said...

Thanks for picking up on the immigration angle, Doug. I didn't want to wrestle with it because so many pseudo-libertarian conservatives are anti-immigration that I would have had to explain the conflict between libertarian principles and anti-immigrant policy, but it's a key example of Paul's lack of libertarian credibility to which a lot of proper libertarians have objected.

Peggy Karp said...

Thanks for this expo. I read some of the Daily Kos posts. I had no idea Paul was such a racist nut-case.

Unfortunately the kernel of truth in some of his assertions make people from the left climb onboard the Paul bandwagon. The Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations are indeed organizations devoted to preserving the power of the world's elites. People in all walks of life form organizations where they can get together and discuss how best to promote their interests. Teachers do it, union members do it, and the ruling class does it. The difference being of course that some groups are upfront about their goals and others aren't. But it's all there in plain sight for anyone with eyes to see.

Anonymous said...

Verily, we will get the government we deserve.

When, over the next couple years more legislation comes from the two party system that makes the NDAA2012 look progressive and freedom loving, remember there was an alternative.

-Shannon

Jonathan Korman said...

I do not believe that Ron Paul is the only alternative to erosion of civil liberties.

Anonymous said...

True, just the only remotely viable one.

"Evil" is the list of civil, military and financial atrocities perpetrated by the current administration (and cronies) and advocated by every other serious contender for the position of commander in chief

"Crazy" is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Jonathan Korman said...

If electing a Bircher President really is the only viable alternative to conventional politics, then all is lost already.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend that all my progressive and left leaning friends do something different. Register Republican, and nominate Paul.

Paul is the only candidate on the GOP side that seriously wishes to address monetary and fiscal reform, the only candidate that is wary (instead of hawkish) on the increasing encroachment on our civil liberties, the only candidate that is remotely concerned about the police state, against the walling off of our nation, the spy state, killing, arresting, incarcerating, US citizens without due process, military on the street, the violation of the war powers act, ending the atrocious drug war, the endemic racism of the judicial system, assassinating scientists in other countries, preemptively nuking Iran, and ending military adventurism. Hes also the one that advocates getting government out of the marriage business entirely.

To name a few.

After you nominate Paul, if you still want to, you can turn around and vote for Obama.

But you will have sent a message to the GOP, a message that their creeping neo-con fascism has awoken the American people, and it won't stand.
This will likely lead the GOP to radically change tactics on a variety of issues. Equally, it will encourage the DNC to recoup those votes by offering a more progressive platform.

It should be fairly self evident that the way to assure business-as-usual, a not so gradual slide into tyranny and loss of sovereignty through bankruptcy as the direct result of crony-capitalism. The only way TPTB are going to be persuaded to change is through real threats to their dead-lock control of the system where good behavior is never punished, and bad is always rewarded.

You have a chance to make a statement to the two party system come this primary that the DNC is not affording you.
And, after all, I have it on great authority that he can't win.

I am registered GOP just to do my part to keep the *really* Crazy, evil people, like Santorum, Bachman, and Perry out of the race.

Anonymous said...

"then all is lost already."

Indeed, I suspect it is. Progressives, were they in a bus, headed over a cliff, suddenly confronted by a man who could turn the bus around, would ask him his position on race before they allowed him to grab the wheel.

Whereas the right, 80% duped by neocons, would insist that the cliff was an enemy to national security, and must be fired upon rather than turning the bus around.

As for me, rather than having a "fever" I simply see a man who is the only one with a unique, remotely viable vision. A man who predicted the housing crisis, the banking crisis, 9/11, and the subsequent encroaching police and perpetual war state, many of which he predicted a decade in advance while the economic experts of the country sang praises, and declared an end to economic hardship and the politicians declared a future of world peace through superior firepower and unbridled hegemony.

I agree though, it is likely lost. Which is why I'll consider my 60 mile round trip to the voting booth my contribution to the systematic destruction of these United States, and go back to preparing for the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

To Quote Keith Olberman;
"Good Night, and *Good Luck*."

Jonathan Korman said...

Again, I respect the impulse to support Ron Paul because of his correct stance on these important issues. But if I agree with Stalin that Hitler is a threat, I still cannot bring myself to cast a vote for Stalin.

Since Ron Paul's attacks on the national security state are part of an attack on the legitimacy of vital public institutions, grounded in a profound misunderstanding of American history, I cannot bring myself to vote for him even strategically. And since many of his supporters do not understand where he is really coming from, I think it's important that they find out.

Anonymous said...

Thats quite a bit different than describing someone as "an evil crackpot". Such terms might be better left to the alternatives. As far as I know, hes the only one who doesn't advocate killing Minor US citizens on Suspicion.

Anyway, quite the contrary, those positions are founded on a superb understanding, both of the nations history, and more importantly, its pre-history.

The sad part is, rather than delve into those subjects, and actually try to understand nuanced positions, the average partisan would rather wildly misrepresent his positions, such as the bizarre claim that "He sees no separation of church and state in the Constitution"

Where if one merely follows the link, and reads critically, it is obvious that such assertions contradicted by the source cited. One would call it "lies", I believe.

Jonathan Korman said...

Under that link, Ron Paul says, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” That is not a “superb” understanding.

Endif said...

I love that the overwhelming majority of commenters here are anonymous.

Says a lot about who's willing to come here and stick up for Paul.

As does the fact that they clearly did not read any of the references cited in the post.

Sabotabby said...

Thank you so much for this! I have the Ron Paul argument with supposed progressives, especially supposed progressives in the Occupy movement, all the time. You'd be amazed at how many Ron Paul supporters show up at Canadian protests, which makes no sense to me. (Then again, they usually pall around with the September 11th conspiracy theorists.)

Thanks for shedding some light on his actual politics in such a methodical fashion. Mind if I link this in other places?

Jonathan Korman said...

Sabotabby, it's here on the public internets so anyone can read and link it. Knock yourself out.

A Critic said...

"I find that unpersuasive, and call this school of libertarianism a wrongheaded philosophy in part because it ends up opposed to the obvious good of the Civil Rights Act. "

Coercing people to forfeit their right to free association is an "obvious good"?

This isn't 2nd grade and the feds aren't our teachers and they shouldn't be assigning seats.

I would love to have my freedom of association recognized. I think it'd be fun to go someplace with a wad of cash and refuse them my business. Now I can't tell which places are racist (minorities especially blacks often can because they get awful service, which is the "obvious good"/unintended consequence of this policy.)

I really would love to see the look on a white bigot's face when they are denied entry to the coolest club in town.

And I would be thrilled to have the opportunity to open up a competing establishment near any bigot's place.

Of course, we can't have racists losing their life savings or having important life lessons drilled into their dense little skulls, now can we? Much better that blacks and other minorities get second rate service on a good day and it's so much better that they get ten times or more business than they otherwise would. Not.

Subsidizing and protecting racism to fight racism makes no sense.

My preferred rule would be a sign of regulated size and color posted on the front door of any and all discriminatory policies. We could call it the "shoot yourself in the foot" sign.

A Critic said...

"Representative Paul opposes the United Nations, because he's worried that it will produce a One World Government that will lead a atheist socialist revolution that will come take your guns."

What's crazier is the number of leading politicians, politically influential academics, and corporate leaders who for many decades have been preaching the future joys of "the New World Order", a one world socialist government. Richard Perle, aka "The Prince of Darkness" wrote a little column at the start of the 2nd Iraq War entitled "Thank God for the Death of the U.N." where he says "What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order."

Ron Paul isn't a crackpot for pointing out the leading political philosophy of the majority of nation-states.

Anonymous said...

A great article on why Paul is so much more problematic to progressives than say, well, any of the other GOP candidates who are so much worse.

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/31/progressives_and_the_ron_paul_fallacies/singleton/

-Shannon

Jonathan Korman said...

Yeah, I take Greenwald's point that the appeal of Ron Paul reflects a horrifying failure by the Democrats, and the left in general, to raise our voices effectively against the Obama administration's failings in civil liberties, executive overreach, war, and the military-industrial complex. And I agree with him that it's good for America to have him on the national stage raising these issues.

But I also know too many people who think that these virtues are Paul's whole story ... or worse, think that their agreement with him about issues make him a trustworthy leader who we should listen to in general. And in that I think they are wrong, even dangerously wrong.