So, most of what needs to be said about the bits of news about Ron Paul and his newsletters, and his fundraising mailers, and the stunts he’s pulled with his staffers, and his weird personal aversion to sharing restrooms or shaking hands with gay men, has all pretty much been said. All I really want to add is that none of this is new. Pretty much everything being discussed right now has been a matter of public record for at least 5 years, and oftentimes much closer to 15 years. However, most of the chatter in recent years has been coming from various liberal blogs, warning disaffected liberals away from Ron Paul, and attempting to highlight his many, many white-supremacist connections, and his astonishing unwillingness to ever reject their support. Mainstream sources have had access to this information every bit as much as random blogs, but having dismissed Ron Paul as a fringe candidate, have left him free to to obscure these connections and to mainstream his positions and their sources. In the ideal world, it would work the other way around: we would note where these ideas came from, who was backing Ron Paul, and thus deem him a fringe candidate.
As far as the newsletters go, there really are only three possibilities:
- He was aware of them at the time, and permitted them to be published, because he supported their messages. Let’s call this the “racist in his heart of hearts” option.
- He was aware of them at the time, and permitted them to be published, not because he personally supported their messages, but because he wanted to curry favor with those who did. We can call this the “George Wallace” option.
- Even though his name was on the newsletter, and he was the one publishing it, he had no idea what was being written under his name, because he never read his own news letter and exercised no editorial control over it. I like to call this option “Clueless Git,” despite not being British.
Given all this, I submit the following
- For pretty much any practical purpose, 1 and 2 are functionally identical, and could correctly be described as abject racism on the part of Ron Paul. Even if George Wallace wasn’t “really” racist, in his heart, and merely opportunistic, the impact on the African-American community really is the same. Moreover I’d argue that anyone willing to inflame racial animus, real human harms and all, merely on the basis of political calculus, is still some sort of racist, or at very least, a sociopath.
- Given Ron Paul’s defenses of the newsletters as late as 2001 -before his convenient amnesia struck- and his willingness to appear on white supremacist radio as late as 2006, #3 is vanishing unlikely, despite Paul’s own protestations and those of his supporters. There’s a pattern of behavior here, and negligence doesn’t fit it, at all.
- Speaking of which: #3 may not imply that Ron Paul is a racist quite as directly as the former two, but it does imply that he’s a horrendous judge of character, incapable of vetting or overseeing subordinates, and utterly incapable of keeping employees from going off the reservation within the relatively small-scale context of a podunk newsletter. As troubling as the racism all is, being this staggeringly lacking in leadership capacity, over the course of several years, is also a pretty serious -likely even fatal- flaw for a presidential candidate.
Moreover, irrespective of which scenario may be the true story, here, one common denominator remains, alluded to in my previous post. Ron Paul needs to take responsibility. Whether he wrote these words or not, whether he was aware of them or not, they were written in his name with his blessing, and thus, he owns them. It’s not enough merely to say that someone else wrote them and he wasn’t aware of them and he disavows them: he has to apologize for them and affirm that they in no way reflect his present views. However, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to believe that will happen: instead, we see a repeat of what happens whenever his popularity among white supremacist groups gets mentioned: he evades, he pushes back, but he always carefully stops just short of condemning the views themselves and of distancing himself from them.
The other thing worth noting is that any argument that we should ignore all this and “just look at his record” (as though right-libertarianism is super minority-friendly or any of his policy positions are particularly inconsistent with the views presented in his newsletters) essentially amounts to a case of special pleading. Any other candidate, even for lower office, would easily be sunk-and rightly so- for much milder language than appears in these letters. In many cases, political careers have ended over milder statements and more tenuous connections to white supremacists. Paul supporters want us to give Ron Paul a pass on all of this, though, in exchange for the handful of progressive-seeming positions that Paul has taken for all the wrong reasons. The proper response, quite frankly, is to ignore and marginalize Paul, and to find someone whose framework for progressive policy stances isn’t built on a foundation of racism, xenophobia, and anti-semitism. This is one example of a flawed voice that is far, far worse than no voice at all.