Far be it from me to pass up an opportunity to add to the cacophony of Ron Paul posts. When is the last time someone with such a small probability of becoming the next president drove so much pundit traffic? (Goldwater seems like the likely answer, although even he had a better shot when all was said and done.)
Let’s stipulate up front that the racist newsletters are bad business. They are ugly, completely and totally wrong and immoral, and their existence (not to mention Paul’s unwillingness to repudiate them) is mark of a severe character flaw in the man in question. I won’t apologize for them, I won’t defend them, and if I met Ron Paul in person, I would tell him up front that I think a real American and a man who would be president owes it to his supporters, his country, and himself to state in no uncertain terms that they are wrong and evil.
Some endorsement this is turning out to be. How can I say I support him after all that? Two reasons, somewhat related:
1) What have (or, more accurately, haven’t) you done for me lately? Where in Paul’s platform or policy record do we find these sentiments instantiated? Certainly not in his opposition to the War on Drugs, which (as he constantly and condescendingly reminds us) is one of the single most crippling burdens borne overwhelmingly by people of color. Sure, he thinks we should slash government benefits to the poor (also disproportionately landing on people of color), but he doesn’t need to be racist to think that. He is, after all, a Republican. Ultimately, I just think the racist newsletters don’t really amount to much. Which brings me to…
2) I’m not a political essentialist. By all accounts, Barack Obama is a nice guy. He’s a good father, a good husband, a family man. To hear his supporters tell the story, he really is a liberal in his very heart who has just been constrained by the circumstances. Maybe that’s all true. Let’s, again, stipulate it. It still remains the case that he governs like a mass-murdering sociopath. He kills brown people on the other side of planet because he feels like it. He thinks there is nothing particularly problematic about ordering the execution of American citizens without a trial. And, lest we forget, he is responsible for more deportations than any other president. Ever. If salvation requires faith and good works, this is a man who will burn in hell.
Ron Paul is a guy who believes we should curtail or dismantle the US empire and the War on Drugs. I see no reason to doubt that he believes those two things sincerely – and, unlike the racist sentiments in his newsletters – he will tell you so. Repeatedly. On national television. If you think he’s lying, that’s on you to prove. I don’t believe it. And, what’s more, the president has significant authority to do both almost entirely by fiat.
And ultimately that’s what matters. Would he be a good president? On a whole host of issues, he would not. Would he be a better president than the other options on the table, warts and all? That’s a determination for each person to make on their own. I’ve presented my argument. I think breaking the back of the military- and drug-war-consensus is worth a great many costs, and I’m willing to admit that I, personally, would have to pay very few of them. Let that be part of your calculus, too, if you like.
Good men can be bad presidents, and bad men can be good presidents. We have the former already, so convince me that I don’t want the latter.