Ron Paul and the Coming Race War

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 23 2011 10:28 AM

Ron Paul and the Coming Race War

James Kirchick gives Reuters one of the direct mail pieces he found when investigating Ron Paul in 2008. It's eight pages of solicitation for Paul's newsletters, pitched as crisis-response wisdom from a former congressman. The money part comes halfway through, when Paul gets specific about the conspiracies he's man enough to talk about -- stuff it, Establishment and stooges!

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Paul's campaign says he didn't write this. That's what Paul's campaign has said since 2008, about all of the newsletters, and when it comes to this -- a direct mail pitch -- it's actually believable. This is work that's usually farmed out to other people.

But we're overly focused on two things: Denials from Paul and point-and-sputter reaction to the mentions of race and gays. The problem is not that he signed off on a letter that mentioned a "coming race war." The problem is that this was part of a litany of reasons-to-panic, some of which Paul continues to talk about. There's a continuity in the letter between the "assault on hard assets" and the coming door-to-door battle between productive whites and welfare-sodden black people.

In 2011, Paul does not tell anyone to worry about a race war or the "real reasons Bush invaded Panama." In 2008, when Wolf Blitzer asked him about the letters, Paul turned the tables on him and explained why his philosophy was completely "anti-racist."

Libertarians are incapable of being a racist because racism is a collectivist idea. You see people in group. A civil libertarian like myself see everybody as an important individual. It's not the color of their skin that is important. As Martin Luther King said. What is important is the character of the people. What's really interesting, though, and this might be behind it because as a Republican candidate I'm getting the most support from black voters and now that has to be undermined.

And I do this because I attack two wars that blacks are suffering from. One, the war overseas. And in all wars minorities suffer the most. So they join me in this position I have against the war in Iraq. And what about the war on drugs? What other candidates will stand up and say I will pardon all blacks, all whites, everybody who were convicted for non-violent drug acts and drug crimes.

And this is where the real discrimination is. Let me finish this. Because I've got to get my message back because you put the other message out. I got to get my message back. Now, if you want to look for discrimination, it's the judicial system. Fourteen percent of the inner city blacks commit drug crime. Sixty seven percent of blacks are in prison. That's discrimination. That's the judicial code that I'm attacking. That's not racism.

What I defend the principle of libertarianism where we never see people who belong to a group, and every individual is defended and protected because they're important as an individual, not because of the color of their skin, but because of their character. So I am the antiracist because I am the only candidate, Republican or Democrat who were protect the minority against these vicious drug laws.

Paul, in his post-2007 role as a national figure with a big following, has been consistent. Earlier this year, he told Chris Matthews that he wouldn't have voted for the Civil Rights Act, but he would have voted to end Jim Crow laws. "Segregation was created by government laws," he explained. He abhors racism. So, let's give Paul the benefit of the doubt and assume that a guy who Paul never met, and never talked to, signed up to write his direct mail for him. Why did this Lone Racist think that talking about a "race war" would reach people who'd find something to like about Ron Paul? Why didn't Paul nix the language in these letters?

The reason is that paleo-libertarianism is not a social justice philosophy. It's an individualist philosophy. Get government out of the way, and people will treat each other well. Redistribute wealth and you get resentment and dependence. In 2011, you can describe this as an anti-racist philosophy. In 1964, you could claim that, but you would effectively be arguing against civil rights laws. The "leave us alone" mindset allows a racist or a conspiracy theorist -- the sort of person this direct mail was aimed toward -- to think he's morally correct.

Paul doesn't need people like this to build his movement anymore. I know a lot of people in the Paul organization and movement, and they agree with what Paul said to Blitzer -- they're anti-racists. But the people the "race war" letter was written for still see Paul as the one politician who, by demolishing the welfare and security states, would restore an ideal version of America: Closed borders, no welfare, finally free of Jewish influence. (I won't link to it, but just scan the comments about Paul at a site like Stormfront.)

Should a candidate be defined by his worst supporters? I don't think so. There were black racists, like the New Black Panther Party idiots, who supported Barack Obama in 2008 because they assumed he would distribute wealth and power away from white people. Barack Obama doesn't have to answer for them. But for part of his career, Paul's political network made an explicit, I'm-with-you appeal to racist whites. Paul's ghostwriter explained why his philosophy would give them the America they wanted.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.