Ron Paul’s ascent over the past few weeks has been thrilling. Everything from his willingness to tackle issues that no one else will, to the fact that he actually answers questions is deeply impressive. He has gotten further than anyone expected, and after his performance in last week’s debates even the media is going to have to start taking him seriously.
This means that we are going to hear a lot on racism.
It will be tempting to just call it a smear, but that is not what it is. My own research has made it clear that Paul and his campaign need to address this issue. They need to address it very well if Paul is going to retain skeptical voters. There are some very disturbing places on the internet. I won’t dignify them with a link. Trust me when I say, however, that to the extent that there is a white supremacist vote, Paul owns it. No big deal, right? As the Republican most likely to beat the black guy, he was probably going to have that anyway.
Unfortunately, there is a lot more. From 1987 to 2001 a series of newsletters were published in Ron Paul’s name. James Kirchick of the New Republic and the Weekly Standard tracked down some of the older newsletters. He has highlighted language from these articles that can only be described as racist. Not that kind of icky feeling you get when old white dudes talk about race, but flat-out, old-school racist filth. The links above contain the details.
For the past decade Paul has denied writing the newsletters. He has also apologized for them and accepted moral responsibility for allowing the newsletters go out under his name. This is a good start, but it is not enough. This history has the potential to hurt Ron Paul, but more importantly the cause of liberty he supports so well. Paul and his campaign have to address these issues, and address them well. Where might they start?
One place might be historical context. The majority of the statements pointed to in Kirchick’s article were from the late 80’s and early 90’s, most of 20 years ago. George Bush the 1st famously won the 1988 election with the “Willie Horton” ad. It essentially accuses the Democratic candidate of being in league with black rapists. The Republicans won by using language that was only slightly more veiled than that used in Paul’s newsletters. Paul was far out on the fringes back then, where more extreme rhetoric was seen as acceptable. This explanation adds to understanding, but does not excuse.
The only argument that might work for me is the following: The policies and platform that he is running on are better for people of color than those of any other major party candidate, including Obama. He is the only major party candidate against the drug war. The vast majority of those victimized by our drug laws are low-income minorities. He is the only major party candidate that supports a less vigorous US military. This would help the disproportionate number of low-income folks of color that fight and die for our country, and would also mean we bomb less brown people.
The high degree of media scrutiny the newsletters are about to receive is a good thing. This dirty laundry needs a good, early airing. If the Paul candidacy survives, it will be a much stronger one.
Update Jan 8th, 2012 by Stephen VanDyke: Told you it was futile, ha.