As polling shows Mitt Romney rising in Iowa, Ron Paul continues to fight off allegations of racism and bigotry due to newsletters published under his name some 20 years ago.
We’ve touched on this issue several times in recent days, including my post on Wednesday where I explained that I didn’t believe Paul wrote the newsletters, though I believe he bears responsibility for them.
Paul’s campaign is obviously nervous about the issue, and rightly so. And political action committee promoting his campaign, Revolution PAC, is running a touching new ad defending him against the bad publicity that has come with focus on the newsletters:
Just the same though, this part of Paul’s past should concern libertarians since Paul has become the standard-bearer for our philosophy. David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute, touch on this yesterday:
Libertarianism is a philosophy of peace, freedom, toleration, and individual rights — just the opposite of the collectivist racist and homophobic ideas that appeared in newsletters written under Ron Paul’s signature. As I wrote in Libertarianism: A Primer, “Libertarianism is the view that each person has the right to live his life in any way he chooses so long as he respects the equal rights of others.” Those ideas have played an important role throughout American history, from the American Revolution to abolitionism to the Tea Party.
And now Ron Paul is attracting support for his advocacy of the ideas of small government and free enterprise. As the Times notes in a dispatch from Iowa, Paul “is drawing supporters for his libertarian and antiwar views. …For the students, much of Mr. Paul’s appeal derives from civil libertarian views like ending the federal ban on marijuana and other drugs, as well as his desire to end foreign wars and his small-government credo.” That’s the message that has moved Ron Paul to the top of the polls in Iowa.
Still, he did allow associates of his to write racist and homophobic screeds in “The Ron Paul Political Report” and other newsletters. And that has created a stench around his candidacy. Some people want that stench to envelop and stain the libertarian movement. Jamie Kirchick, the anti-Paul jihadi who brought the newsletters to light in 2008, asks, “Why Don’t Libertarians Care About Ron Paul’s Bigoted Newsletters?” But of course many libertarians have expressed revulsion at the newsletters. Ilya Somin noted at the Volokh Conspiracy (one of the few conspiracies not denounced in the Ron Paul newsletters) that he himself had condemned the newsletters in 2008, as had his co-blogger David Bernstein. And Virginia Postrel, the former editor of Reason, and various current writers at Reason. And a leading Austrian economist, Steven Horwitz. And Ed Crane, the founder and president of Cato.
Kirchick identified Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic as a libertarian who supported Ron Paul despite the bigotry in the newsletters that bore his name. But in fact Friedersdorf wrote a long and tortured article acknowledging the “egregiously offensive … racially bigoted … execrable” content of the newsletters. He went on to say that there was still a good case for supporting the only candidate who has consistently opposed the Iraq War, indefinite detention, drone strikes, anti-Muslim bigotry, and the war on drugs.
The fact is, there’s a small band of self-styled “libertarians” who over the past two decades have associated the great ideas of Austrian economics and libertarianism with bigotry, reflexive anti-Americanism, and vitriol directed at everyone from the Trilateral Commission to Cato and Reason. They have very little association with the larger libertarian movement or with such libertarian-inspired movements as the Tea Party, the drug reform movement, or the school choice movement. Virtually their only point of contact with the broader constituency for smaller government is through Rep. Ron Paul, who, for whatever reasons, has unfortunately continued his association with the people who have tarred him and the causes that are drawing many voters to him.
Libertarians have been fighting ignorance, superstition, privilege, and power for centuries, and we will continue to do so in the future. Libertarians reject bigotry and advocate equal rights for every individual. Ron Paul’s very bad decision to outsource his writing to reprehensible characters doesn’t change that.
Much of what Boaz touches on are reasons that I never got much into what Lew Rockwell, who many believe wrote the newsletters in question, or the Mises Institute have put out. Unfortunately, these associations are what is currently hurting Paul and may wind up costing him successes in the Republican primary. And because of that, his message of limited government, which has recently attracted Kelly Clarkson to support him, could be easily be dismissed by statists.
Like I wrote on Wednesday, I’m backing Paul out of protest. But I’m disappointed in the way this sordid mess has been handled and explained.