Ron Paul & the Art of Pandering to the Paranoid

Congressman Clueless.

The late Molly Ivins dubbed him “Congressman Clueless” and he’s a radical libertarian who would have the U.S. go back to that unregulated capitalist utopia of 1906, when a third of Americans lived in unmitigated poverty and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published.

Yet every eight years or so enough misguided, clueless people who know absolutely NOTHING about what this man really stands for jump on the Ron Paul Bandwagon that I have to parade out my “no, he’s really f@#$in’ scary assholes” list like some assistant district attorney at Charles Manson’s parole hearing, hoping that common sense takes over and this nightmare of a politician will just go the hell away.

The guy is nothing more than a vaguely malevolent crank.

He has a long reported history of racist vitriol, most notably found in his series of newsletters released in the late 70s and carrying through the mid-90s.

There you could find insightful commentary like:

“Boy, it sure burns me to have a national holiday for that pro-communist philanderer Martin Luther King. I voted against this outrage time and time again as a Congressman. What an infamy that Ronald Reagan approved it! We can thank him for our annual Hate Caucasians Day.”

and…

“even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.”

One of my favorites is…

“opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions”

No, really...I let them publish this nonsense under my name for two decades THEN finally asked them to stop

Paul has, of course, repeatedly denied that he wrote the newsletters, claiming they were ghostwritten without his consent, but that argument holds little water to me.

In 1996 he was asked about them and insisted they were not racist remarks, never denying he wrote them. This from the Dallas Morning News (one of eleven interviews in which he was asked if he wrote them, never once denying he did):

Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation.

Then in 2001 he switched things up and only “acknowledged being aware of the publications, and their incendiary content”.

Only when he unsuccessfully ran for President did he suddenly make an effort to “clarify” this issue.

Needless to say, this kind of disgusting, racist ranting has led to Paul becoming the poster boy candidate of white supremacist groups.

Support from unsavory individuals is, of course, not necessarily germane to a candidacy. But the reasons for that support, if the reasons are firmly grounded in policy admiration, do tend to bring new hues into the discussions of those policies. For example, here’s some of the glowing commentary on David Duke’s website:

Paul has built a loyal following of people attracted to the politician’s libertarian stance on constitutional rights and opposition to the war in Iraq.  […] During Paul’s rally, he proposed getting rid of the Internal Revenue Service, Selective Service, income tax and the Federal Reserve, and withdrawing from the United Nations.

[…] The two biggest issues facing America at this time are the Iraq War and the illegal alien problem. Ron Paul has called for an end to “birth-right citizenship” also known as “anchor babies.” Ron Paul has also called for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Of all the candidates, Paul is the only one who is “two for two” on these key issues.

It is a laundry list of the “serious” policy discussions of the craziest far-far right militia movements. Abolishing the Federal Reserve? Abandoning the U.N.? Eliminating the income tax? Anchor babies? They were fucking born here, thus immediately granted citizenship by that thing you claim to love most…the U.S. Constitution.

Now I won’t argue that some of those ideas are worth exploring, yeah I’m looking at you U.N., but for the most part it’s bonafide lunacy.

But what scares me most is what lies at the heart of many of his positions.

For a bit more depth, let’s go to a commenter on the “white nationalist” website Stormfront (man, talk about 10 minutes of suffering on my part…the site and it’s supporters are disgusting human beings):

[Ron Paul] is the least toxic candidate by leaps and bounds. On issues particularly important to White Nationalists or the Pro-White in general, of all of the mainstream candidates:

— Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of “Hate Crime” Laws.

— Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of Amnesty and “open border” movements.

— Ron Paul wants to end birth-right citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants.

— Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of welfare programs that among other things, would redistribute the income of White families into the hands of lazy non-Whites.

— Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of Globalism and all attempts to create a North American Union.

— Ron Paul is the strongest opponent of military support and foreign aid to countries like Israel.

— Ron Paul is the least likely to support government crackdowns on Pro-White organizations, and the most likely to veto such measures.

That’s why, as a “libertarian”, he has the support of so many people decent folks wouldn’t be caught dead with. Because he is, in the wink-wink nod-nod rhetoric of the far-far right, that kind of libertarian.

Nurse Ratchet "Oh boy, he got out AGAIN"

The isolationist, tribal, to hell with the rest of you kind of libertarian. The kind that is diametrically opposed to equality, to progress, to social responsibility, to national responsibility, and to the very notion of the shared common good.

And this is the figure that can garner support from many otherwise supposedly moderate libertarians? For what reason?

Is Ron Paul simply the Sanjaya of the impending Republican campaign season, or are people so invested in his empty rhetoric and straw men arguments that they are willing to suspend all notions of substance and reason?

Paul is a colorful figure, fine. This cannot be argued.

But when batshit crazy people have passed up an entire bucket of absolutely batshit crazy politicians – like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, both of whom substantially trailed him in recent straw polls – in order to lend their batshit crazy support to him, I think what you can take from that is that Ron Paul is the chosen King of the Batshit Crazy.

Now to be fair, this isn’t exactly a new conclusion by anyone.

Back in 2008 Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote:

The scariest thing about no hope GOP presidential contender Ron Paul is not his fringe, odd ball racial views. It’s not that he polls in single digits in all national polls and has zilch of a chance to get the nomination. It’s not that at times the GOP candidates sound just as racially isolationist as he does. It’s certainly not that he will wow a national audience with his trademark shoot-from-the-lip zingers even if ABC and Fox recants in a moment of compassion and dumps him back in a seat in their January 6 televised GOP New Hampshire presidential debate.

The scariest thing about Paul is that even though only a few hard core Paul backers will waste a vote on him, millions more seem to agree that his off beat views, especially on race matters, make sense. They even stand logic as high as it get can go on its head to defend their leader against all comers.

That’s especially true when it comes to Paul’s views on race and ethnic politics. That’s not a small point given the open but more often sneaky role that race and ethnicity will increasingly play in the presidential derby.

Paul’s views are a corn ball blend of libertarianism, know-nothing Americanism, and ultra conservative laissez faire limited government. This marks him as a type A American political quirk.

Now there’s the fourth reason not to laugh at Paul. And this is really what makes him scary. There are apparently millions that don’t see a darn thing wrong with any of this and pillory anyone who does. They are even scarier than him.

Even if we toss race aside this guy just scares the living hell out me though.

One of the main pillars of this whole facade he has crafted is his “knowledge & understanding of the United States Constitution”. It is often cited as a primary reason for supporting him by the libertarian crowd.

But even that falls apart under closer inspection.

What’s the “great Constitutional scholar” up to now? Advocating nullification of parts of the Constitution by states that disagree with federal laws.

This regresses the nation back by nearly a half-century to the days of the Southern Manifesto, a racist document designed to allow states to avoid integration and civil rights.  Nullification has also been used to fight slavery but I find it odd that a strict Constitutional advocate would push for support of only those parts of the document that fit with his philosophies.

Those who support nullification point to the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution to support their claim that states have the right to “nullify” laws.  Constitutional law professors say otherwise.

Edward Lazarus, a lawyer, teacher of Constitutional law and columnist for FindLaw, writes:

At Best, Invoking Nullifcation Is Simply Grandstanding; At Worst, It Is a Troubling Sign of Turmoil and Discontent in the Face of a Frightening Recession

It is hard to know what to make of the fact that a bunch of opportunistic politicians are now holding out a tarnished artifact of constitutional history as a serious interpretation of the Constitution and of our national structure. Perhaps this can be written off as mere grandstanding – symbolic gestures by politicians who are hoping to tap into a potential backlash against the inevitable growth of the federal government as it comes to grips with our economic crisis.

But nullification is a deeply pernicious idea. It strikes at the core of the constitutional bargain that was struck after the Revolution when the Articles of Confederation failed – the working principle that we are all in this together and that the purpose of the federal government, a government in which every state is represented, is to calibrate the shared sacrifices that all of us will have to bear to preserve the country’s economic vitality and help it prosper.

In place of this unifying idea, nullification substitutes the easy way out – by making the claim that we must all be allowed to judge our own contribution and take our own path, no matter how much our cross-purposes and divergent interests might undermine the common good.

Ron Paul, who is not a Constitutional expert, sees things differently. But of course he does, because to do otherwise would undercut the very foundation of his political platform.

Talk about wishful thinking Ron.

In other words, if regressives like Paul can’t get their way in Congress — and he seldom does — just ignore parts of constitution and returns to the days of the Old South when Alabama and other states thought slavery and repression was still legal in this nation.

This is typical for Paul, who has never strayed far from the antiquated, bigoted philosophies of the past.

Fortunately, the mainstream never seems to take him all that serious upon closer inspection. Despite lofty visions of his small — but vocal — army of supporters, he received just one-half of one percent of the vote as the Libertarian candidate for President in 1988 and trailed far behind the four remaining contenders for the GOP nomination for President when he finally gave up the ghost in 2008.

While we seem to be in a crazy time in American political history, I find it hard to believe the GOP could find itself insane enough to nominate someone so far on the fringes as this man.

Let’s just hope that in the upcoming election cycle this fact remains true or we will truly be facing some dark days ahead.

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