Why Rand Paul Won't Get Rid of His Neo-Confederate Co-Author

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 9 2013 3:11 PM

Why Rand Paul Won't Get Rid of His Neo-Confederate Co-Author

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Rand Paul, helping the real racists see the light.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

File this one under "stories hiding in plain sight." Since 2007, one of the Ron Paul supporters most popular with the candidate's grass roots has been Jack Hunter. Since 2011, Hunter has been Rand Paul's co-author (he helped crank out The Tea Party Goes to Washington in a hurry) and a Paul social media director, showing up to events like the senator's speech to black students at Howard University. And long before any of this, Hunter was "the Southern Avenger," a radio personality with a name "borrowed from popular 90’s conservative talk radio host Ken “The Black Avenger” Hamblin." You can read all about it at Hunter's website, SouthernAvenger.com.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

Yet this is the lede from Alana Goodman's new piece about Hunter and Paul.

A close aide to Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) who co-wrote the senator’s 2011 book, spent years working as a pro-secessionist radio pundit and neo-Confederate activist, raising questions about whether Paul will be able to transcend the same fringe-figure associations that dogged his father’s political career.

Well, yes—he's called "the Southern Avenger"! Hunter declined to talk about the piece, as did Paul's office. But the vibe I got from Paulworld was that this piece was received as a hit job, and that Hunter's role on the staff and as a booster of the candidate would be unchanged.

That's the Paul way. Nearly six years ago, as his donations were taking off, observant reporters noticed that Ron Paul was getting support from white nationalists. I spotted people reading Stormfront.org at Paul's Ames Straw Poll tent, and FEC-watchers noticed that Paul had taken $500 from Stormfront's avowedly white supremacist Don Black. By December of 2007, reporters were asking Paul why he didn't give back the money. He said this:

Why give it back to him and use it for bad purposes?
And I don't even know his name. I never heard of it. You know, when you get 57,000 donations a day, are we supposed to screen them and find out their beliefs? He sent the money for my beliefs. And if he promoting my viewpoints and my attitudes, why give it back to him if he has bad viewpoints?
And I don't endorse anything that he endorses or what anybody endorses. They come to me to endorse freedom and the Constitution and limited government. So, I see no purpose for me to start screening everybody that sends me money. I mean, it is impossible to do it. It is a ridiculous idea that I am supposed to screen these people.

Hunter, obviously, is much closer to Rand Paul than Black was to Ron Paul, and joking about killing Lincoln is not the same as founding a site where people predict the date the race war will begin. But this generally summed up Paulworld's take on the "associations" game. When Paul entered the 2010 race for Senate in Kentucky, I asked him whether his father's darker associations would be a problem. He didn't just disagree—he seemed offended by such a preposterous question.

He considers these questions preposterous because Paul knows he's not a racist. He's aware of, or confronted by, the argument that to blame federal power for racism is actually an excuse for racism. But like many conservatives, he finds the charge of "racism" to be terribly watered down by overuse. Why do white supremacists or Southern avengers like him so much? Well, they're misled—lucky enough, they've found Paul-style libertarianism, and they will discover that color-blind politics is a far better use of their time.

This probably sounds crazy to Paulite outsiders, but it doesn't to them. They don't think the left, or neoconservatives, are in any position to tell them about racism.

UPDATE: Hunter's friends are pointing to an article he wrote just a few months ago, which begins with the admission that "the 20-something me would consider the 30-something me a bleeding-heart liberal." In other words, though he's never pretended not to be pro-Southern, he's moderated his views and done so before the heat was on. I should have made that clear earlier, and it's another reason Paul will ignore the fulminations about his aide.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.