Backpeddlers to the Left of Me, Hypocrites to the Right, Here I am, Stuck in the Middle with Ron Paul

Greginak comments on why the Ron Paul discussions are stupid:

For one there is only so much one can say about any subject before there are few  returns. To many attempts to analyze what the newsletters meant when they the newsletters themselves are unambiguous. RP ended up being a stand in for all sorts of other discussions with RP being pointlessly shoehorned in.

I don’t think the inclusion of Ron Paul is irrelevant or extraneous. Paul is one of three remaining contenders for President of the United States in an age when who the President is actually matters. Nevertheless, I agree with Greginak that supporters should own the newsletters.

As a teacher, I tried to get as much as possible out of the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, and I got in the habit of meta-analyzing everything I did. There are enough posts on Ron Paul at the League (including a Moore Award nominee. Congratulations, Ryan!) that we can now lay out a proper meta-analysis. Detractors of Ron Paul, it seems, fall into several camps.

Hypocrites on the Left – I see lots of parallels between Ron Paul and Julian Assange, and I support both of those dudes on the grounds that the good things they do far outweigh the bad things they do. That’s it, bottom line: making sure America does not cause evil in the world > my President being a dude I want to go have a beer with.

Hypocrites on the Right – Hypocrites on the right are hypocrites essentially, for criticizing the debt/deficit without being willing to put military spending or spending on domestic wars on the table.

The Water is much colder than it looked – Mistermix suggests that early Ron Paul endorsers have backpedaled. I don’t think they have. The Ron Paul baggage has been generally available since the 2008 campaign, and for Serious Bloggers to have endorsed Paul in 2011 and then to have retracted their endorsements because “the newsletters surfaced” means either (A) Serious Bloggers are not so Serious about research; or (B) Serious Bloggers realized they “were on the wrong side of history” – i.e. they caved to pressure. To support a known racist/homophobe/antisemite like Paul is to admit to being a racist cum homophobe cum antisemite. (Personally, I would backpedal, if Christopher Carr were my actual, real name. Good thing for my future in journalism my real name is Schmadox McGeesus-fruits.)

Overwhelmed by the Stench – Pop quiz: Abraham Lincoln or Ron Paul?

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race. I say upon this occasion I do not perceive that because the white man is to have the superior position the negro should be denied everything. – Lincoln at Lincoln/Douglas debate, September 18, 1858

Who would deny that Lincoln did more than any other President to bring about the social and political equality of the black and white races? If Lincoln were running for President today, would we not vote for him because of his explicit racist views? Even though he freed the slaves? I realize that eighties/nineties Ron Paul missed the memo about racial pandering and questionable financial arrangements coming back to bite him in the ass (and he may even hate minorities), but… alone among all candidates, Ron Paul opposes The Drug War, which is the most crippling form of institutional racism in existence today. According to Human Rights Watch:

The racial disparities in the rates of drug arrests culminate in dramatic racial disproportions among incarcerated drug offenders. At least two-thirds of drug arrests result in a criminal conviction. Many convicted drug offenders are sentenced to incarceration: an estimated 67 percent of convicted felony drug defendants are sentenced to jail or prison. The likelihood of incarceration increases if the defendant has a prior conviction. Since blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites on drug charges, they are more likely to acquire the convictions that ultimately lead to higher rates of incarceration. Although the data in this backgrounder indicate that blacks represent about one-third of drug arrests, they constitute 46 percent of persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts. Among black defendants convicted of drug offenses, 71 percent received sentences to incarceration in contrast to 63 percent of convicted white drug offenders. Human Rights Watch’s analysis of prison admission data for 2003 revealed that relative to population, blacks are 10.1 times more likely than whites to be sent to prison for drug offenses.

Honest OppositionGlenn Greenwald puts it quite well:

It’s perfectly rational and reasonable for progressives to decide that the evils of their candidate are outweighed by the evils of the GOP candidate, whether Ron Paul or anyone else. An honest line of reasoning in this regard would go as follows:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Without my adopting it, that is at least an honest, candid, and rational way to defend one’s choice. It is the classic lesser-of-two-evils rationale, the key being that it explicitly recognizes that both sides are “evil”

Like Mr. Kuznicki, I’ll recommend the entire piece.

Bizarro Burkeans – In my opinion, an extremely on-point Greenwald actually misses that the best argument against Paul getting the nod is an accidental Burkean one, here espoused by BlaiseP (although he’ll deny his argument is Burkean):

A political endorsement, like a conversion experience or a poker game, eventually resolves to pushing your little stack of chips forward and saying “All In”.   It doesn’t mean you completely understand what you’re committing to in the process nor are you required to approve of everything implied in the choice you’ve made.   It means you’ve weighed all in the balances and made a decision based on the alternatives.  In this election, there are few good alternatives;  you have made your choice.

In a choice between words and bombs, I observe words inevitably precede the bombs:  those who have made the choice for Team Ron Paul must be clear about their positions on the rhetorical bombs he’s been throwing about of late.  If given free rein to do exactly what he says he wants to do, the economy would grind to a halt as it did in the days of Jimmy Carter, a point I’ve made before, as you very well know.

Therefore, this business about Words or Bombs is a false dichotomy.   Words lead to Bombs of many sorts and Ron Paul scares me to death:  not because he would lead us to war on other nations but to war of iconoclasm, tearing down much that is good in our government.

Here is Nob Akimoto:

I admire the intentions of people who hold up Ron Paul’s anti-interventionism as a means of ending suffering.

At the same time, I’ve also questioned whether or not sufficient thought is placed on the second-order effects of US withdrawal from multilateral institutions and general lack of US involvement in international system affairs.

From Jesse Ewiak:

My problem is, those who support Paul and people like me have far different ideas of what will happen in January of 2013. In short, all the bad policies of Paul (gold standard, Federal Reserve, entitlements, abortion, gay rights, etc.) will actually get passed or at least a fair hearing as they’ll be largely supported by a Republican Congress that would come with a Paul victory.

On the other hand, those massive cuts to the defense budget? Sorry, overridden by a 2/3 majority of Congress who have pork projects. Limiting of the drug war? Sorry, overridden by a 2/3 majority of Congress who still believes we need to throw minorities in jail. Attempts at a fair bargaining in Israel? Overridden by a 2/3 majority who are owned by AIPAC.

BlaiseP, Nob, and Jesse make some very good points here. Assuming that public opinion matters and is the dominant force of legislative change in the American democracy, voters generally oppose the gold standard, support neutering the Fed, generally oppose cutting entitlements, favor legal gay marriage, are fairly mixed and incoherent on the defense budget; a widely-cited Zogby poll suggests that Americans believe the War on Drugs is a failure.

Nevertheless, even in a nominal democracy, we can’t discount the power of special interests to put a lid on and suffocate even universally popular legislation, and none of the issues commonly discussed as part of Ron Paul’s platform is as black and white as we’d like to believe. Political realities obscure discussion and impede progress. Special interests compel action against popular mandate.

Does that mean we should just give up? Would setting up tents in the park be a more effective means to getting the kinds of policies we want?

Please do be so kind as to share this post.

21 thoughts on “Backpeddlers to the Left of Me, Hypocrites to the Right, Here I am, Stuck in the Middle with Ron Paul

  1. I enjoyed the post and would like to take a stab on the broader narrative before getting into the quibbles and nits that inevitably come from my background.

    On the whole my biggest objection to the fetishization of Ron Paul is that his position is fundamentally based on a notion of non-governance. That is, his goals are to abdicate power and responsibility as much as possible, into a vacuum through which the hand-off process is vague and not well understood.

    Competence in governance is an important element to consider and whether or not a particular leader believes his subordinates have a legitimate job is a key consideration in determining the strength of their ability to run an organization as large and labrinthine as the US government.

    With a handful of exceptions, the Obama Administration is different from the first six years of the Bush-43 Administration in that it seems to have favored technocratic competence over ideology (much to the disappointment of some partisans) in cabinet positions. Contrast the relative performance of federal agencies such as FEMA between the two presidencies and one would see a tendency toward rewarding organizational competence in political appointees over ideological purity. Granted this has led to some not so great appointments from a liberal’s pov. But I would gladly take the Shinseki VA or the Steve Chu DOE over their counterparts in the Bush Administration. Eric Holder is too blaise about the drug war, but compared to Alberto Gonzales is a paragon of competence and attentiveness in running his department.

    This is where I wonder about the basics of the  Ron Paul idea start to fall completely apart from me. Paul not only has very little active managerial experience (this is in itself not a disqualifier) but that we’ve seen over and over again in his associations that he has questionable judgment. I worry that a Paul Attorney General appointee, or a Paul EPA Administrator, or a Paul FEMA director would all care more about their ideological commitment to libertarianism than actually doing their jobs. (That’s assuming he even appoints people to those positions at all)

    While we chaff about the cabinet/chief of staff level decisions an Administration makes, there’s a lot of bureaucratic level decisions made by political appointees that happen that accumulate into the day to day job of running government. Would getting rid of trade representatives and US Ambassador to the UN actually do anything but handicap the US in dealing with the world? Would removing FEMA’s political management make charities more likely to function in the wake of a major natural disaster?

    I don’t know, and I”m honestly not willing to find out.

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  2. I know I’m going to sound like a broken record, but if you want to curb the power of the executive office, it is folly to keep focusing on presidential races, essentially waiting every four years for a knight in shining armor to say no thank you to power.  Focus on congress.

    Also, those of us who want real change in these issues need to learn to talk to those who are OK with these policies.  (AKA – THe vast majority.)  We are really, really bad at it.

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    • On a subnote to this, I think it’s telling at just how BAD Paul has been at getting any semblance of a legislative agenda passed despite being in Congress for the last 15  years, the vast majority of them as part of the majority party. You’d think he’d have SOMETHING to his name by then.

      Clearly he’s not very good at turning his ideas into actual legislation. Which is a terrible property for someone in his line of work.

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      • “On a subnote to this, I think it’s telling at just how BAD Paul has been at getting any semblance of a legislative agenda passed despite being in Congress for the last 15  years, the vast majority of them as part of the majority party. You’d think he’d have SOMETHING to his name by then.”

        Which parts of his goals for the national government would you expect to have attracted sufficient support to pass?  Anything that even one-third of voters would support if they took some time to think about it?  The problem isn’t necessarily that he’s terrible at getting his agenda implemented; it’s that the agenda itself is extreme enough that other members of Congress are unwilling to support any of it except when they know there’s no chance of it passing.

        That said, some things that he supports may come to pass, but I believe that it will be because events have forced the changes upon the country rather than because the voters have changed their minds.  For example, over the next 20 or so years I expect to see at least the beginning of the end of the US ability to project military force globally; not because neo-isolationists like myself will convince other people that it’s a good idea, but because a shortage of liquid fuels means diverting the amounts necessary to run that many ships, tanks, and planes over those distances from civilian uses will become intolerable.

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  3. I’m sure this will throw some gas on the fire but the thing about RP is so many of his supporters, admirers and people who know him say that he hasn’t wavered in his positions in decades. He is honest and trustworthy because he believes the same things he always has. Even if i didn’t know his views that would freak the hell out of me. I’m 46, my views have changed, not drastically since i was liberal when i was 26, but i know a lot more and i do look at things differently. Some of my beliefs have modified, in some cases moving in a left-libertarian direction, and some things i don’t think are important anymore. There is no way i can say i believe all the same things i did 20 years ago. But RP really seems like his beliefs haven’t changed in 20 years. That sounds more like brain death then honesty. If my views haven’t continued evolve and grow over the next 20 years then i will regret not having done a living will with a DNR order. I don’t trust ideologues of any stripe.


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  4. The parallel between Paul and Lincoln is bizarre.

    Lincoln was speaking at a time when racist views, even amongst those who opposed slavery, were the norm.  Even the ‘radical abolitionists’ of the time largely accommodated themselves to the imposition of  segregation/subordination in the South after Grant’s presidency.  Let us remember that Lincoln was advocating a gradual end to slavery in existing slave states, and no slavery in the new territories of the Union, in those debates with Douglas.  Douglas was supporting the ‘democratic’ right of whites to determine whether there would be slavery in each state and territory, that was a large part of the debate between Abe and the Little Giant.

    The views in Ron Paul’s newsletter were expressed at a time when explicit racism had disappeared from any kind of mainstream discourse.  They were not expressed at a time, when most whites  believed that blacks and whites could not live together on equal terms.

    I doubt that Lincoln ever became completely non-racist by current standards, but he did become better and better over time on this issue, up to the (cautious) support he gave to political rights for African Americans in the South shortly before his assassination (possibly not a complete coincidence).

    So Lincoln at all times expressed views which were advanced by the standards of his own time, and kept improving.  The same can very definitely not be said about the Paul newsletters.

    Anyway the problem is not that Paul was connected with something obnoxious in the past, but that he persistently tries to deny how obnoxious it was and fails to offer a proper apology for allowing such toxic material into the newsletter.   Not many people are claiming that Paul is a racist, and libertarians are not not denying that some of his key policies will bring enormous benefits to African-Americans.  So what is achieved when Paulites keep bringing this up in discussions with other libertarians?  What’s wrong with asking for a libertarian candidate who has not made the same mistakes as Paul, mistakes he is failing to deal with properly?

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    • I don’t think we have made as much racial progress as we like to tell ourselves we have. Certainly we’ve made tremendous progress as a society, but there are a lot of cultural and institutional forms of racism that persist to this day. In terms of contrasting cultural and institutional forms of racism, the parallel with Lincoln was not bizarre.

      According to this Gallup poll, as recently as 1993, less than half of Americans supported interracial marriage. I’m not sure what those statistics might be in Galveston, Texas, but I imagine there was less support.

      “Anyway the problem is not that Paul was connected with something obnoxious in the past, but that he persistently tries to deny how obnoxious it was and fails to offer a proper apology for allowing such toxic material into the newsletter.” 

      I think that is the problem; few people are paying close enough attention to politics to notice much except Paul-racism. It’s been a good strategic decision to downplay the newsletters. Just look at Paul’s poll numbers. He has a legitimate chance to become the President of the United States. No libertarian since AuH2O has come this close, despite the fact that you, or me, or any of the other libertarian-leaning readers of this site who regularly pay attention to politics would probably prefer Gary Johnson.

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      • Really?  1993 is the most recent you could find?  A quick google search found a poll from this past September – nearly 20 years more recent – showing the number to be 86%.  So while I agree with you that we have not come as far regarding race as many of us would like to think, we have come much farther than you seem to be suggesting.

        That said: yes, Abraham’s Lincoln’s views on race should disqualify him as a candidate for president in 2012, were zombie Lincoln a candidate.  We may not be as far as we would like to be, but we ought to strive for progress, not settle for 150 year old racial prejudices.


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        • The reference to the poll was meant in the context of the newsletters. Barry Stocker’s point was that they were totally unacceptable when they were written.

          I like your answer to Zombie Lincoln for President. It’s honest.

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          • A more interesting question perhaps is: should Lincoln be venerated as a American hero even though he was a racist? How is answering “yes” tp this question less disturbing than suggesting Bobby Fischer should be venerated as an American hero?

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          • In reference to Stocker’s point, I think it should’ve been a dis-qualifier in 1993, too.  I guess  I missed the referentiality, but obviously the kind of racism evinced in the RP newsletters was more culturally acceptable 20 years ago.  I was but a lad ten years prior to that and I grew up surrounded by overt racism, so better angels and all that.

            But this is a small quibble in an otherwise pitch-perfect article.

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  5. Anyway the problem is not that Paul was connected with something obnoxious in the past, but that he persistently tries to deny how obnoxious it was and fails to offer a proper apology for allowing such toxic material into the newsletter.

    Exactly.  All of this could have been dispensed with back in 2008 in the easiest way imaginable.  Paul issues a statement saying “These newsletters were written by Lew Rockwell, possibly with the help of a few others.  They were obnoxious then and they remain so today.  I made a terrible mistake in trusting these people to publish under my name.  I am deeply sorry for it, and I hope that the American people will forgive me.”

    What’s wrong with asking for a libertarian candidate who has not made the same mistakes as Paul, mistakes he is failing to deal with properly?

    The attention given to Paul has really deflated the Gary Johnson campaign, and Johnson is a better candidate in every way that I can imagine.

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    • “What’s wrong with asking for a libertarian candidate who has not made the same mistakes as Paul, mistakes he is failing to deal with properly?

      The attention given to Paul has really deflated the Gary Johnson campaign, and Johnson is a better candidate in every way that I can imagine.”

      I agree, but I’m willing to settle this time around, weigh the pros and cons of Obama/Paul/Romney/Santorum, and hope Johnson is a serious GOP contender in 2016. Best case scenario: election 2012 shatters the bipartisan consensus and there’s a reallignment in our favor.

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      • Christopher –

        Could you paint a picture, please, of what a shattering of the bipartisan consensus and a realignment in libertarian favor might look like?

        I agree with Tod above that the focus on the Presidency is grossly off-target when it comes to furthering a libertarian agenda in national politics. A Libertarian President will not be implementing the policies you’d prefer with a Congress controlled by either of the parties.


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        • “Could you paint a picture, please, of what a shattering of the bipartisan consensus and a realignment in libertarian favor might look like?”

          An end to the Drug War, a rebalancing the full spectrum of the foreign policy establishment so that Obama is closer to the ‘right edge’ vice the center (i.e. the end of people like Santorum being able to say stuff like this with a straight face), and a general bi-partisan consensus that is the exact opposite of the bi-partisan consensus represented by Bloombergism.

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  6. They have. I know a lot of Democrats and Progressives who were supporting Ron Paul and now suddenly they hate him. It’s crazy! Some of them said it was because of fans which is so unfair. How could a fan push another fan away? Some are even going back TO OBAMA! WTH?? I don’t know. I guess 2 they don’t understand. It sucks tho.

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