My low-level research on Ron Paul has paralleled his rise in the polls. What I have done is to give a number of opportunities to people who I know favor his candidacy and to people and organizations who I think support him to react to the latest accusations against him. This is low-level research as I said. (I am a respected conventional social scientist; no need to bore me with injunctions about scientific rigor.) This low-level research is more than most people try to do in pursuit of a rational vote, I think.
The latest accusations are also old. I am referring to the report that newsletters entitled: “The Ron Paul Letter” and such, published in the 1990s, contained both clearly racist and clearly anti-Semitic statements. (I mean anti-Semitic, not anti-Israel. He had some of those too but that’s another story altogether.) I have asked Libertarians, and what I call “orthodox libertarians”,( non-party members who are doctrinally aligned with the Libertarian Party) what they thought of the charges. This is a deliberately open-ended question. It gives the respondent a wide latitude to answer even if by changing the subject.
I received no answer or no clear answer from anyone, on my blog or through Facebook. One orthodox libertarian with whom I argue often on this blog gave me, gave us, a reading list. Of course, I don’t need, don’t want a reading list. My reading schedule is full until June 2012. Besides, there is something presumptuous about giving others reading lists. One should do it with much restraint, if at all. I imagine that my correspondents, my reader, who favor Ron Paul could have given me instead any number of easy-to-grasp, reasonable answers. After all, as thinking people, they have, or they had, to make up their minds, to decide for themselves unless they are eager to avoid the topic of those accusations altogether.
Here are some possible answers:
I don’t believe it.
It does not matter because it was a long time ago.
The statements attributed to him (that Paul himself does not deny) are not enough to prove either racism or anti-Semitism.
I don’t care if he is a racist.
I don’t care if he is anti-Semitic.
He, Paul, was not paying attention to his newsletters, as he said himself. So, the statements show nothing about him. Therefore, I don’t care.
Here is what this attentive libertarian-leaning conservative thinks about this issue. I have two explanations that are not mutually exclusive and that tell us much about him as a potential president
I think Ron Paul is both a racist and an anti-Semite but in a mild, passive way, if there is such a thing. Racism first. It has several possible sources. We are used in America to the poisonous, virulent kind of racism, to the brand that is associated with lynching. I doubt Paul has this in his heart. I think his passive racism is rooted in indifference, in callousness only. When an ardent follower of his, an orthodox libertarian insists (on this blog) that one kind of Africans massacring hundreds of thousands of another kind of Africans with machetes and bricks is none of our business, he demonstrates precisely this kind of callousness.But he certainly does nothing to encourage one kind of black people to murder another kind of black people. He just thinks that both killers and victims are too unlike us for us to be concerned. (There is a huge paradox there in that libertarians tend to define as “us” those who share citizenship in our state, the same state they say they want to eviscerate.) Besides, we don’t know enough to hold off the machete or the brick. Besides we don’t even know who started it. . . .
Similarly, I suspect (“suspect,” I don’t know) that Ron Paul shares in the casual anti-Semitism of his Southern social class. He is an MD. It’s common (not universal by all means) for medical doctors to have received a poor undergraduate education in the liberal arts because of the focus on “pre-med” competitiveness. His anti-Semitism, if any, is of the passive kind. It will never lead him to favor the slaughter of Jews but it allows him to live comfortably with a hazy knowledge of the harder European brand of anti-Semitism and of its historical consequences. Plus, medicine is a field of endeavor where one might bump hard against common Jewish unscrupulous industriousness. (Not my formula; I cribbed it; how sad I am it’s not mine!) Dr Ron Paul would not discriminate ever against Jews but he would not be exceedingly alert to the occurrence of such discrimination in his environment. That’s not because he is evil but because he is extremely dogmatic. Ideological dogma helps you stay consistent by telling you what to ignore.
I am adding something separately so no one will accuse me of sneakiness. It’s not difficult to find, on talk-radio and even around my coffee-shop, individuals who spout the perfect libertarian anti-interventionist line and whose discourse against Israeli “aggression” quickly drifts into the expression of characteristically anti-Semitic sentiment. I agree that politicians in general and Ron Paul in particular cannot generally be held responsible for the words of all their followers. Yet, when an occasion arises spontaneously to condemn what’s disgusting among one’s disciples, one should seize this opportunity vigorously and loudly. Mr Paul has not done this.
In addition to moderate, passive racism and anti-Semitism, Mr Paul displays a sovereign disdain for factualness. As I have pointed out several times in this blog, Mr Paul does not only make light with facts when he deals with an unexpected question, or a “gotcha” question from a reporter, or from a rival, a question for which he is not prepared. He will sometimes volunteer false information the better to make a point:
The Iraq war and the Afghanistan war are not only very wasteful, they are
stupidly wasteful. So, for example, the US armed forces spend 20 billion
dollars each year in those war theaters on air-conditioning alone.
There is a chance that 2 billion dollars would not be impressive enough so, why not add a zero, two zeros? What the hell?
I have met this kind of shameless mendacity before. It’s common among leaders of virtuous small sects who have spent many years in the wilderness, addressing only small groups of the already converted, the elect, those who will never contradict. In the seventies, I knew members of tiny Trotskyst groups, splinters of splinter of splinters, the shavings of multiple ideological schisms. They would speak well, with winning logic, and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of history. And then, they would come up with a howler that reminded you instantly that schizophrenics too can sound intelligent. Not that I claim Ron Paul is insane. His mind is just way out on a limb and he does not care that it is, and he probably even enjoys it.
Underlying the passive racism, the matter-of-fact anti-Semitism, and the indifference to fact lies a tremendous intellectual elitism that is fundamentally undemocratic. Ron Paul, like his fellow isolationists from the Left, does not really care what the great unwashed masses of voters know, understand or believe. He thinks they should vote for him because he is right on everything, or on everything that matters. If they don’t, too bad for them.
As I have said repeatedly, on domestic issues, I am closer to Ron Paul than to any other candidate. And I don’t treat lightly the other big difference I have with him, and with Libertarians, on foreign policy and on defense. Yet, interestingly, if this last difference did not exist, I still would not vote for Paul for president. I would not vote for him for some of the same reasons that would have turned me off Barack Obama if he had been a libertarian-leaning conservative, one favoring radical shrinkage of the federal government. There are personality issues that disqualify.
And, naturally, I have not dealt here again and explicitly with the fact that Ron Paul’s foreign policies views make him as dangerous as President Obama to the survival of this constitutional republic. Or, possibly, he is even more dangerous since Mr Obama l finally revealed himself a secret admirer of covert military action against those who would destroy us. The 01/2/12 issued of the Weekly Standard has several nice pieces about the moral giant Vaclal Havel who died last week. One article reminded me that Havel was firmly in favor of the expansion of NATO.
In the Wall Street Journal of Thursday December 29th 2011, the political columnist Daniel Henninger gives his own take on Mr Paul’s recent surge, pre-Iowa surge, in the polls. Henninger argues that though Paul has his own strong, small but consistent following, the upsurge is simply the latest expression of the mass of “not Romney” voters seeking a good horse to ride. In this perspective, the Paul upsurge is of the same ilk as the earliest vogue for Perry, then for Cain, then for Gingrich.
Meanwhile, every day, brave young Syrians die for wanting the liberties we take for granted. None of our business, of course.
PS My constant concern about anti-Semitism does not mean that I am Jewish. I am not, never have been, never will be.
AND I AM PRETTY SURE THE MAYAS’ MATH SKILLS WERE GREATLY OVERRATED. THE FATAL DATE WAS ACTUALLY 1212. I DOUBT THE WORLD WILL REALLY END THIS YEAR, 2012, BUT IF IT DOES, I HOPE WE WILL HAVE TIME FOR ANOTHER END -OF-THE-WORLD PARTY.