I’ve suspected for a long time that Ron Paul was deliberately courting the racist right, whether or not he himself is racist. For an “outsider” candidate like Paul, he can use all the votes he can get – including ones from avowed racists. For a little bit of background, read my open letter to Ron Paul (which I still haven’t received any response to).
His recent appearance on Meet the Press served only to re-enforce this idea, just as I was finally started to change my mind about Paul. I had decided that the areas where Paul is weak (immigration, abortion, racial issues) a Democratic congress would make up for, while the areas Paul is strong (foreign policy, privacy, the drug war, the death penalty) would really shine.
But this interview convinced me that Paul really is unforgivably bad on racial issues. It starts off great, with him explaining his plans to reduce federal spending and his foreign policy ideas. But when Russert starts asking questions about race issues, Paul crashes and burns. Here’s the relevant passage:
MR. RUSSERT: You would vote against the Civil Rights Act if, if it was today?
REP. PAUL: If it were written the same way, where the federal government’s taken over property–has nothing to do with race relations. It just happens, Tim, that I get more support from black people today than any other Republican candidate, according to some statistics. And I have a great appeal to people who care about personal liberties and to those individuals who would like to get us out of wars. So it has nothing to do with racism, it has to do with the Constitution and private property rights.
In other words: despite the fact that the CRA’s benefits have far outweighed any negative consequences, Paul would still vote against it. Why? Because, apparently, white people’s property rights are more important than black people’s individual liberties.
Over at the comments thread on Hit and Run amidst the pissing and moaning by Paultards that Russert actually took their candidate seriously enough to ask some grown-up questions, commenter Joe is addressing the issue well:
Even if you don’t like the sections of the Civil Rights Act that banned discrimination in places of public accommodation, you need to acknowledge that adopting racial equality as the law of the land was a great step forward for freedom and justice. […] All sorts of institutionalized policies intended to maintain segregation and the racial caste system were in place before the 1964 Act. […] The racists who objected to black people sitting at lunch counters most certainly did solicit the government to help them oppress their neighbors. They supported all sorts of oppressive laws at the state and federal level, which the CRA repealed.
Joe also got in a great one liner in response to someone who said the CRA had devastating effects: “Yeah, think of all those white people who didn’t get to have their own water fountains and schools.”
This fits a pretty consistent pattern of Ron Paul claiming not to be racist, but supporting racist causes.
Folks on the neo-nazi discussion board Stormfront believe Paul speaks their language. It’s worth noting that Tom Metzger has advocated “covert” racism as a means to advance the neo-nazi cause, which might be part of why neo-nazis believe Paul is on their side despite his claims not to be a racist.
How have other politicians who have attracted unsavory supporters reacted? Mike Gravel once gave a speech on direct democracy to a holocaust-deniers group. Asked about it later, Gravel said:
They gave me a free subscription to American Free Press — they still send it to me today — and I flip through it sometimes. It has some extreme views — and a lot of the ads in it are even more extreme and make me want to upchuck.
You better believe I know that six million Jews were killed. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum. I’ve seen the footage of General Eisenhower touring one of the camps … They’re nutty as loons if they [Carto’s group] don’t think it happened … Anyone who denies the Holocaust is patently off their rocker — it’s a ridiculous position … and the idea that the [documentary] films were a hoax is just bullshit,” insisted Gravel. He said he never renounced the group after he learned of what it stood for simply because “I’m not in the business of denouncing anyone. I’m in the business of promoting the National Initiative.” However, he quickly added that if he had to do it again, he doesn’t know whether he would skip the event or attend and “speak on the National Initiative and how they’re dead wrong on the Holocaust. Their views are just lunacy. But I don’t think I’d bother to go.
Not a lot of ambiguity there.
Cythnia McKinney seems unable to shake the specter of antisemitism, since her anti-Israel positions have attracted a number of openly anti-semitic supporters, and her own father made a pretty racist statement. But McKinney issued the following statement:
The people who made those remarks were not associated with my campaign in any formal way, and I want to make clear from this hour that any informal ties between me and my campaign and anyone holding or espousing such views are cut and renounced. The fact that the remarks occurred after some verbal and other provocation initiated either by members of the press or so-called security people attached to members of the press is no excuse for the content of the remarks themselves.
Denunciations of entire religious or racial groups, statements ascribing this or that behavior or motivation to “the white man” or “the Jew” have never been part of my lexicon, my public or even my private dialogue. Anyone who makes blanket denunciations of Jews or “the Jew” is certainly not a supporter of mine, not a staff member, not a consultant to, nor is welcome to be a volunteer in my campaign. Such people are in fact not living in the real world.
She goes on here. Again, not much ambiguity.
What has Ron Paul said about his racist supporters? According to the Austin Chronicle “As to why the neo-Nazi group was drawn to his newsletter in the first place, he credits his strong and consistent support of individual liberties.”
He was also asked about it in the New York Times Magazine this year, and dodged the question.
Paul is willing to stick fanatically to his principles when it comes to the Civil Rights Act, but as I pointed out in my open letter, is willing to deviate from his principals when it comes to abortion. Not to mention the fact that he was willing to stick by the racist statements in his newsletter for years because he thought it was politically advantageous to do so.
Paul’s strategy seems to be this: repeatedly say that he’s not racist to try to set his non-racist supporters at ease, while still quietly courting his racist supporters. Reason’s Dave Wiegel hits the nail on the head when he says that Paul is being “esoteric” on civil rights (but unlike Wiegel, I’m not ok with it).
Another example is his irrational position on immigration. In the meet the press interview, Russtert points out that Paul actually used to support open borders. Why has Paul changed his mind? He says “We’re in worse shape now because we subsidize immigration. We give food stamps, Social Security, free medical care, free education and amnesty.” This is very interesting, because when he wrote about immigration in his creepily titled essay “The Immigration Question” he took a more cultural position on immigration, saying the US was being Balkanized by “widespread illegal immigration” and is “filled with millions of people who donâ€™t speak English or participate fully in American life.”
I’ve been over before why most anti-immigration rhetoric is bullshit. What interests me is that Paul seems to have abandoned the more cultural critique of immigration (which appeals more to the racist right) and taken up a more economic argument. Here he can assure people he’s not racist, that he’s just looking after practical concerns, while still courting his racist supporters. Both the cultural and economic argument are utter bullshit, and Paul knows better, he’s just pandering to a certain vote.
Also, I was sad to see Paul backtracking from his quote about Huckabee. When Paul said “when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross” I thought it might be evidence that Paul wasn’t as theocratic and nationalist as his essays had suggested. His distancing himself from his own statement makes me think that he personally isn’t, but he is still courting the Christian nationalist vote all the same.