Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Callous Mendacity of Ron Paul Supporters

War fatigue, disenchantment, disappointment, consistency. These words no longer have a place as characteristics or reasons. Their application - as with so much rhetoric in American politics - has morphed from a rationale to hold political opinions to an excuse to reject political perspective. Ron Paul is many things, but amongst them, he's a force of revelation. Exposing - for all to see - the face that America conceals under a mask which mythologizes a false shared equality and a false shared opportunity. He has shown, again, the blood that lies beneath the thin layer of American soil that we forget to claim as our true ground. He has extracted the ghosts of Barry Goldwater, Storm Thurmond, George Wallace and the whole of the Confederacy. And his followers - comprised almost entirely of the permanently empowered white male majority - dare to insist that history - both America's and Ron Paul's - be set aside to "grapple" with the advancement of their pet issues. 

Writers more patient and forgiving than I have engaged this farce on their terms. I reject that impulse. There are priorities that render isolated disagreements with a president's policies small. There are sins that are nearer, older, crueler and more encompassing than the Military Industrial Complex's institutional impulses. And there are considerations that expose the negligent superficiality innate in trying to paint acidic poison as an oasis that will cleanse this country's soul of dried blood. The forces that would dismiss this; the forces that would belittle its significance; the ones that would point to the fire in the distance while ignoring the rot on their person forget that much of that blood is not foreign. They forget that much of that blood was grafted onto this country not for love of evil, but through a systemic effort to reason - through laws, religion, culture and principle - that evil is a naturally mandated good. They forget that America's original sin had a rationale. 

Before there was liberty, there was the states' right to deny it to you. Before there was freedom, there was the states' right to limit its scope. Before there was a United States, there was the states' right to own some of its citizens. Before the equality of all was acknowledged, there was the states' right to violently enforce a century-long apartheid to ensure that equality for some would never have to be recognized. Before property rights described the ownership of things, it described the ownership of people. To be deaf to the chorus of old, to be ignorant of the clarion calls that united secessionists, segregationists and slave owners is to relive the privileged, unreflected luxuries that perpetuate a malediction that America refuses to account for. 

There are some who would have you look at positions that flow from these premises as things to be judged in isolation; divorced from the associations and impact granted by history. They would have you forget that it was words ("3/5ths", "nigger", "states' rights", "property rights", "individual liberty", "government intrusion") that clarified the premises which translated to actions (slavery, racism, secession, slave-ownership, segregation, Civil Rights opposition). They would have us drink in America's ritualized amnesia and deny not just Jim Crow itself, but the culturally compelled fragility that lingers as a consequence of pretending that Jim Crow could never happen again. An embrace of Ron Paul - even a passing one - is not an embrace of the positions where he "sounds" reasonable, but an embrace of a man who reaches those "reasonable" positions by associating with, drawing from and advancing ideas that are rooted in the darker recesses of American consciousness.

I submit that those who claim that Democrats/liberals should feel conflicted about Ron Paul; who pontificate from a perch of unreflected self-righteousness that he embodies virtues that all "principled" non-partisan liberals should engage with are guilty of the highest distortion wrought from the most unearned of privilege. These people - often white, often male - speak of principle, of liberty, of morality, but they speak of them as though every moral person must work within their calculus. They speak as though privileged thoughts represent the cusp of considered balance. And in so doing, they write screeds dressed as edicts; blithely demanding sacrifices - both political and material - from women and minorities while writing off that sacrifice's inherent disproportion. Ensconced in false authority, they ask of those not-them more than they ask of themselves, and then call their judgment justified and considered. I reject their frame, as I reject all frames drenched in the soft evils that grant this discussion life. Indeed, I reserve my right to take their arguments and their words for what they are: the cessation of moral authority.  

To be American is to contend with more than just the considerations of the moment. To be American is to contend with - and consciously push against - a centuries long historical arc that's considered the destitution of one group a just toll for the elevation of another. So when I speak of Ron Paul; when I outline the various reasons why and how he's anathema; when I point out how his public existence is inimical to America just as surely as his philosophy is inimical to liberalism, I feel, justifiably, viscerally and morally - though I now know this is not true - that I should have to go no further than this:
However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was the massive violation of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business's workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge's defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats begin forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color blind society. Instead, these quotas encourage racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.


Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 
I deem softcore and hardcore Ron Paul boosters mendacious; I acknowledge them as liars, not merely for their capacity to lie to others about what Ron Paul believes, but for their limitless ability to summon a combination of ignorance and privilege to lie to themselves. The most potent truth endemic to Ron Paul's political philosophy is that everything he proposes - everything - has not only been tried, but has been rightfully rejected by Americans once truth made the appeal of his ideals in the abstract an unqualified failure in function. His "solutions" don't speak to a vision of America that wasn't tried, but rather to a reality of America that didn't work. His attachment to ideas long after their horror has been made manifest doesn't make him brave or a visionary. It makes him wrong. Not in the way of someone misunderstands facts, but in the way of someone who internalizes conclusions that augured the oppression of whole demographics long after that result is proven.

To honestly engage Ron Paul, you can't argue and ask others to argue his ideas within the limited confines of his articulation, but rather through the consequences of his ideas when they were tried. We lived in a world where the federal government refrained from intervening when a white majority had used the powers constitutionally granted to the state to resign their fellow black citizens to an inferior, poorer, America where their status as political nothings left them permanently endangered. This is what the states, untethered from the federal government, reserved as its right to do

Violence in Alabama was organized by Birmingham Police Sergeant Tom Cook (an avid Ku Klux Klan supporter) and police commissioner Bull Connor. The pair made plans to bring the Ride to an end in Alabama. They assured Gary Thomas Rowe, an FBI informer and member of Eastview Klavern (the most violent Klan group in Alabama), that the mob would have fifteen minutes to attack the Freedom Riders without any arrests being made. The final plan laid out an initial assault in Anniston with a final assault taking place in Birmingham.

On May 14, Mother's Day, in Anniston, Alabama a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen, some still in church attire, attacked the first of the two buses (the Greyhound). They tried to leave, but a person in a car kept blocking the bus as it tried to leave. The KKK members then slashed its tires. They forced the crippled bus to stop several miles outside of town, and it was firebombed shortly afterwards by the mob chasing it in cars. As the bus burned, the mob held the doors shut, intent on burning the riders to death. Sources disagree, but either an exploding fuel tank or an undercover state investigator brandishing a revolver caused the mob to retreat, allowing the riders to escape the bus. The riders were viciously beaten as they fled the burning bus, and only warning shots fired into the air by highway patrolmen prevented the riders from being lynched

That night, the hospitalized Freedom Riders, most of whom had been refused care, were removed from the hospital at 2 AM, because the staff feared the mob outside the hospital.
 We lived in a world where the hypothetical liberties of inanimate property transcended the lived liberties of actual people. This is what the defense of those liberties looked like: 

The privilege entertained by reducing Ron Paul's ongoing opposition to the Civil Rights Act to an off-hand footnote is the privilege frequently indulged when white people feel validated in drawing a high-minded distinction between explicitly racist words and explicitly racist results. To argue for Ron Paul's political consideration is to cast yourself as an enemy of the engines of progress. To separate the man from the implications and applications of his concepts, is to look askance at the oppression of your brothers and sisters and say that not only doesn't it matter, but that you don't care. Ron Paul supporters don't merely lie, they cowardly scatter when challenged to engage in the entirety of what giving him a national podium means for people-not-them. His rise doesn't just offend: it hearkens back to a time when it took the generational sacrifices of a whole race to understand that locally centered oppression caused by groups of "individuals" is not inherently more "free" than government power exercised as a means to protect locally unrecognized freedoms. I recognize no power, no authority that can call itself moral or valid and subtly demand that Americans consider someone who'd return us to that evil.

It takes more than saying you want liberty to grant liberty. It takes more than saying you're for a less powerful government to ensure a less powerful government. In a world consistent with Ron Paul's ideals, we get neither. He is not - nor has he ever been - against authoritarianism. He is not - nor has ever been - for freedom. Ron Paul's overriding principle is inextricably woven into the very forces that would localize fascism and cast the legal allowances that construct modern civilization into oblivion: blanket opposition of all federal action. In his conception of government, local power - as decided by the states - remains untouched by federal intervention. When Ron Paul says "liberty" he never intends for liberty to include, encompass, ensure or incorporate civil rights. Innate to his argument is the allowance of any excess, any oppression, any malfeasance as long as it's dictated by the states. The areas where liberalism and Ron Paul's brand of isolationist tentherism coincide are fundamentally illusory in nature for this reason.

That this truth has eluded many liberals in recent weeks has been troubling. In their meekly qualified support/defenses for Ron Paul, they surrender the moral ground that's foundational liberalism. They surrender the understanding that all power, not just federal power can be used for ill. They betray the lived history of poverty that solidifies our commitment to public assistance of poor. They betray the lived history of corporate despotism that clarifies our support for unions. They betray the lived history of women as unequal chattel that energizes our need to keep their autonomy and their place as equals in America. They betray the lived history of predatory blackmail and thievery that justifies our desire for healthcare. They betray the lived history of corporate greed and indifference that outlines the necessity of food, drug, environmental and economic regulation. They betray the history of collective effort that undergirds the very sense economic justice that validates taxation of the wealthy. They betray the understanding of racism as a generational ill that requires generational correction. And they squander - with no promise of recompense - the human considerations that stand as pillars for liberalism's place in the political spectrum.

Supporting Ron Paul or "raising awareness" for the parts of his candidacy that you like isn't an abandonment of liberalism because he disagrees with you. It's an abandonment of liberalism because Ron Paul's philosophy itself is antagonistically hostile to almost every premise, every consideration and every issue that liberals claim to support. Think about what you believe. Think about why you believe it. Think about the facts that inform that belief. Remember the actual people - not the principle - but the people that inspire you to maintain it. Then see how Ron Paul fails to share either your regard or your rationale.

Liberals who oppose the drug war see it as a totalitarian, oppressive, racist-enforced perversion of paternalism
and would end it on all levels. Ron Paul opposes it because he believes the federal government shouldn't have the authority to regulate anything. A person who's against drug prohibition wouldn't merely oppose it on the federal level. A person who thinks that the individual rights of people - regardless of their location - are inalienable and should never be broken would make that their rationale. He doesn't. Instead he simply passes the question to the states while ignoring that federal prisons only have 200,000 of our prison population. The states have around 2,000,000. Ron Paul's vision, exercised on his own terms has no corrective for this:
MR. RUSSERT:  Let me ask you about drugs and go back again to your '90--'88 campaign and see where you stand today.  "All drugs should be decriminalized. Drugs should be distributed by any adult to other adults.  There should be no controls on production, supply or purchase for adults." Is that still your position?

REP. PAUL:  Yeah.  It's sort of like alcohol.  Alcohol's a deadly drug, kills more people than anything else.  And today the absurdity on this war on drugs, Tim, has just been horrible.  We now, the federal government, takes over and rules--overrules state laws where state laws permit medicinal marijuana for people dying of cancer.  The federal government goes in and arrests these people, put them in prison with mandatory, sometimes life sentences.  This war on drugs is totally out of control.  If you want to regulate cigarettes and alcohol and drugs, it should be at the state level.  That's been my position, and that's where I stand on it.  But the federal government has no, no prerogatives on this.  They--when they wanted to outlaw alcohol, they had enough respect for the Constitution to amend the Constitution.  Today we have all these laws and abuse, and they don't even care about the Constitution. I'm defending the Constitution on this issue.  I think drugs are horrible.  I teach my kids not to use them, my grandchildren, in my medical practice. Prescription drugs are a greater danger than, than hard drugs.

MR. RUSSERT:  But you would decriminalize it?

REP. PAUL:  I, I, I would, at the federal level.  I don't have control over the states.  And that's what the Constitution's there.

How is that liberal? 

Liberals who oppose the Patriot Act see the steady erosion of our constitutional rights, starting with the Bush administration and continuing with the Obama administration as unconscionable. There's an understanding that not just the potential, but the actuality of abuse is a threat to our privacy and thus, to our civil rights. Ron Paul opposes the Patriot Act because it ruins the concept of private property just like the Civil Rights Bill:

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, you have addressed a lot of these complaints about past writings that were at least under your name, but that you said you had no knowledge of and didn't write. But there was one thing that caught my eye, when I was looking through some of the briefing books.

And it was something that was in the Congressional Record that you inserted into the Congressional Record from June of 2004. And I wanted to talk to you about it. You said, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act did not improve race relations or enhance freedom.

Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty. So my question to you is, whose individual liberty did it diminish? And do you think the country would have been better off in terms of race relations without the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: Well, we just could have -- we could have done it a better way because the Jim Crow laws, obviously had to get rid of and we're all better off for that. And that is an important issue, so I strongly supported that.
What you don't want to do is undermine the concept of liberty in that process. And what they did in that bill was they destroyed the principle of private property and private choices.

So if you do this, all civil liberties are protected by property rights, where it's your TV stations -- that's a piece of property -- or whether it's the newspaper, whether it's the church building, or whether it's the bedroom. This is something that people don't quite understand, that civil liberties aren't divorced from property. So if you try to improve relationships by forcing and telling people what they can't do, and you ignore and undermine the principles of liberty, then the government can come into our bedrooms. And that's exactly what has happened.

Look at what's happened with the PATRIOT Act. They can come into our houses, our bedrooms our businesses. And so the principle private property has been in their mind. And it was started back then.
How is that liberal?

Liberals are rightfully suspicious - if not entirely against - many forms of armed conflict. They see a defense budget that's larger than the defense budget of our next 10 competitors increased during a period where our government is calling America "broke". They see our hammer's habit of conjuring nails and then calling them swords. They see the continuance of wars that have long since been detached from any meaningful purpose, and were furthered without public justification and without their consent. They see the violence of militarism on foreign citizens that have done nothing to us in countries that have done nothing to us and they deem that unacceptable. But in our distaste for blood and in liberal displeasure with a President who never promised to wash our hands of it, liberals not only made an anti-war candidate out of someone who isn't anti-war. We've ceded as a model, someone who would withdraw from all alliances, and back out of the UN as well as the ICC while ending foreign aid. Ron Paul's stance isn't pacifistic and it's only coincidentally non-interventionist. His foreign policy is little more that a national adoption of the paleoconservative refrain "None of my business":
News Anchor: Our viewers ask better questions than I do, so let me get right to some of them, talking about where you stand. Don Peterson in Hemet, California wants to know, “Where does Mr. Paul stand on Israel. He seems to have dodged the question everything he’s been asked.”

Ron Paul: I disagree with him, because I don’t. We should be friends with Israel, and I don’t think we do a very good job at it. But I don’t think giving money to our friends is the right thing to do. I’m against all foreign aid, and if we cut out all the foreign aid today we would cut out 7 times more foreign aid from the enemies of Israel.
How is that liberal? 

Ron Paul's rise is a travesty that cannot be excused. To be complicit in it is to be complicit in the rejection of modernity. I'm not wholly unsympathetic to the various disappointments that have fanned liberal outrage, but none of those disappointments can be counted as valid reasons to mistake a national omen for a national savior. If liberals have issues that need to be advanced, look to Wisconsin, look to Ohio, look to the Keystone Pipeline protestors as inspiration. See what the organized exercise of democracy and citizen engagement can do, see the virtue in sustaining it and the necessity of participating in it. Look to those who don't think government power is irreversibly bad, but to those who know that government can be significantly better. Accept that the advancement of Paul is inseparable from the defeat of liberalism as a civil rights, women rights, institutional equality, social services and economic justice philosophy. Accept that such an embrace from the context of liberalism isn't just deeply unacceptable, but inherently so. Accept that even as a non-liberal, Ron Paul represents a boundary that no American should ever cross. Ever. And that every vote, every argument, every duplicitous comparison between Ron Paul and Barack Obama is a step toward crossing it.

Not all of us have the benefit of living in a world where we can trust that the states would permit the rights that the federal government guarantees. Not all of us can question - in the abstract - what liberties we would see if sexual harassment and abortion were "left to the states". Not all of us are positioned to apathetically hypothesize about the effects of removing the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act (which Paul also voted against) in a world where millions of minorities face an imminent threat of voter disenfranchisement. This isn't just brainstorming for a significant majority of the country. The threat is real. And Ron Paul has made no secret of his desire to create a world where only the already-empowered have power. It should be a point of mourning for Americans that the rights of its weakest citizens are so disregarded that this has to be frequently and forcefully pointed out.

Many bloggers from Digby, to BooMan, to Zandar, to Maha, to David Neiwert and to Scott Lemieux have been penetrating and insightful on this topic. And often without falling into the putrid requests for principled consideration demanded by Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, Conor Friedorsdorf, E.D Kain and others. I suggest that you read the first set to learn and confirm what you should know and that you read the second to know what - and who - you should dismiss. 

Edit: I left out the singularly disqualifying fact that Ron Paul made millions from nakedly racist newsletters. I also omitted the fact that Ron Paul boasted about his authorship of them until it became convenient to deny them. I even avoided mentioning how the racists and the neoconfederates he associates with seem to be more attuned to things that lead to racism than people who claim to have an objection to it. While the newsletters confirm even the worst implications you can make about Ron Paul's conclusions about race, I find that establishment writers have done a good job making 2000 word posts telling us how good Ron Paul is and then "proving" they're not sympathetic or indifferent to racism by inserting a single sentence or paragraph about how the newsletters are really, really bad. I felt it important to emphasize that Ron Paul's noxious place in the public discourse is as much for his philosophy as it is for his words. I felt that focusing solely on those lets way too many people evade what it means to elevate someone like Ron Paul. 

Oh, and I know I'm engaging in Soviet-Chinese style internment of political dissidents by calling Ron Paul a shameless crank in addition to a racist sociopath, but Ron Paul is both of those things. He thinks that we should return to the gold standard despite its economic volatility. Ron Paul's dear friend Llewellyn Rockwell was kind enough to publish one of his speeches, where Ron Paul warned that the UN was prepared to overrule constitutional law and establish a world government. Ron Paul has repeatedly claimed that in his first year of office, he will cut 1 trillion dollars from our budget - thus ensuring a know, economic collapse. And on his very website he not only effectively calls for a 0% across the board tax rate, but he promises to never, ever raise the debt ceiling, thus codifying the reality of a worldwide economic disaster. All to make sure Big Government doesn't exist. I wish Greenwald would be so kind as to supply his definition of crazy so I can see how Ron Paul misses his deserved inclusion.

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