Friday, December 30, 2011

Ron Paul today

A few days ago, I blogged about Ron Paul's past, notably his crazy and extraordinarily vile newsletters. But what about Ron Paul today?

Well, it turns out that he's still crazy - and maybe still vile. Here's TPM:
In this new article from Reuters we see that some mainstream journalists are turning from ‘Ron Paul’s history of racist newsletters back in the day’ to the fact that his current ideas are … well, they may not be explicitly racist but they’re still seriously whacked.

Let’s remember back to early September, particularly the debate on September 7th. I flagged this little nugget at the time but it got very little attention. This was when Rick Perry was still a real candidate and the border fence and immigration in general were a big to-do between Romney and Perry.

But there was a key moment when Ron Paul was asked about the fence. He was against it, which is sensible enough. But his reason for being against it wasn’t that sensible or even that sane. As I noted in my live blog, Paul’s objection was that the fence could end up being used to “keep us in” after the financial collapse; specifically its real purpose might be to stop Americans from “leaving with their capital” after the breakdown of law and order in the USA.

Now you don’t have to be that deeply steeped in the arcana of the militia movement and the extreme conspiratorial right to know where this kind of thinking comes from. It’s right there with the FEMA concentration camps, the black helicopters, the post-economic collapse race war and the like.

Think about this. Paul’s worried about the fence because after America’s disastrous 100 year experiment with a central bank (the Fed) collapses in Mad Max style rioting in the streets, the government will be trying to keep good Americans from fleeing to Mexico with their capital. Over the fence. With their capital. To Mexico.

That Reuters article has more:
The man who might win the Republican Party's first presidential nominating contest fears that the United Nations may take control of the U.S. money supply.

Campaigning for the January 3 Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul warns of eroding civil liberties, a Soviet Union-style economic collapse and violence in the streets.

The Texas congressman, author of "End the Fed," also wants to eliminate the central banking system that underpins the world's largest economy.

"Not only would we audit the Federal Reserve, we may well curtail the Federal Reserve," Paul told a cheering crowd of more than 100 in this small Iowa city last week.

Paul, 76, is facing questions for racist writings that appeared under his name two decades ago, which he has disavowed as the work of "ghost writers."

But Paul's dark-horse presidential bid ultimately could founder, analysts and others say, because of increasing questions about how his unorthodox vision of government would work in the real world. ...

Non-partisan analysts say his economic proposals - drastic spending cuts, elimination of the Federal Reserve and a return to the gold standard - would plunge the country back into recession.

"Paul appeals to people whose knowledge of major issues is superficial (and) he sees conspiracies where there are none," said Greg Valliere, chief political strategist at Potomac Research Group, an analysis firm. "If he does well in Iowa, which is likely, it will be an enormous embarrassment to the Republicans."

The Republican Party is an embarrassment, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm not worried about that. But this is seriously crazy stuff. This is conspiracy theory run amok among angry, but ill-informed, people.

Again, from TPM:
Ron Paul denies he has anything to do with the fringe extremism published under his name in a series of newsletters and there’s little in his public rhetoric to link him to many of the most offensive passages. But the conspiracy theories he does talk up personally are plenty eye-opening on their own.

The most notable of recent years has been an elaborate international plot to build a highway connecting the United States, Canada, and Mexico as a prerequisite for creating a combined state, the North American Union, with its own currency.

The above theory — which is entirely fictitious — isn’t some issue at the margins of Paul’s campaign, either, it was a central part of his 2008 platform. He included a section about it on his official candidate website:
“NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system. Forget about controlling immigration under this scheme.”

The NAFTA superhighway has long been a popular icon in conspiracy theory circles, much to the chagrin of various elected officials working on actual unrelated highway issues. Rick Perry caught a lot of heat over his attempt to build a Trans-Texas Corridor from critics who believed it was part of the grand plot, among them Ron Paul, who took to extremist Lew Rockwell’s site to denounce the effort. It got so bad that Perry had to deny the plot in an interview with right-wing news site Human Events in 2006. ...

Paul teamed up with other fringe legislators, most notably former Rep, Tom Tancredo (R-CO) and Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), to introduce legislation denouncing the nonexistent superhighway, even as both the Bush administration and the top ranking Republicans on the relevant transportation committees insisted there was no basis to the theory. Paul took their denials as further encouragement he was onto something and insisted that federal officials were using “secret funding” to advance the project.

The North American Union and NAFTA Superhighway are part of a theme for Paul, who often warns of shadowy efforts to give up US sovereignty to international authorities. It’s a tradition with roots tracing back to the radical anti-communist John Birch Society in the 1950s and 1960s. Richard Hofstadter, who wrote a seminal essay on far-right movements in 1964, “The Paranoid Style In American Politics,” described their worldview as a belief that “the old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots.” It’s a pretty good description of Paul, an old school John Birch Society supporter who recently spoke at their 50th anniversary gathering. In 1990, he appeared in a Birch-produced video on the United Nations, unearthed recently by researcher extraordinaire Andrew Kaczynski, in which he warned the UN was plotting to “confiscate our guns” and “repeal the Second Amendment.” ...

Paul’s warnings of an international plot to replace the American dollar are also a recurring issue, despite a lack of any evidence of such a move. He recently questioned Ben Bernanke about whether he had discussed plans to craft a world currency, a widespread conspiracy theory in recent years that Michele Bachmann has also denounced. Much of its spread is based on a misreading of news stories on how some countries are looking to diversify their currency reserves beyond the dollar, an issue that has nothing to do with the creation of a new form of money. These fears are echoed in Paul’s old newsletters, which warned that President George H.W. Bush was planning to print a sinister “New Money” that would be instituted under martial law to an unwilling public.

Are these theories the same racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic ravings contained in Paul’s newsletters? No. But they come from the same fever swamps of far-right fringe groups, militias, and conspiracy theorists and are a crucial animating force behind Paul’s political movement. It’s worth noting that many of the most pressing threats he identifies to the United States are, in fact, imaginary.

It's been my experience that you can't convince conspiracy enthusiasts of anything. A complete lack of evidence is just a sign, in their eyes, of how well the conspiracy is working. Conspiracy enthusiasts simply love conspiracies, and the crazier the better.

But this should give sane voters - assuming that any are actually planning to vote in the Republican primary in the first place - real pause. This is seriously crazy stuff. But what about the vile?

Well, I noted in my first post that Ron Paul is not denouncing the enthusiastic support he's been getting from white supremacists. He says that he doesn't agree with them, but he'll take advantage of their support.

And that's been his position with anti-gay extremists, too:
Ron Paul has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over newsletters printed in his name during the 1980s and 1990s which contained racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic content. He is also on the hook for accepting the support of fringe right-wing groups. While Paul dismisses these concerns, his campaign seems to have no problem working with and enjoying the support of anti-gay extremists, including one supporter who has called for the implementation of the death penalty for homosexual behavior.

Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising “the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.” But Kayser’s views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law. ...

Kayser’s allegiance to the Paul campaign may reflect who the campaign has chosen to sell Paul to the churches. Mike Heath, who became Ron Paul’s Iowa state director this fall, has spent his career on the Christian right. In Iowa, Heath has focused on outreach to the religious community in the state, where Paul has made an effort to target evangelical voters.

Heath spent 14 years running the Christian Civic League of Maine (which has since changed its name). As a prominent figure in Maine, Heath slowly alienated the Christian right in the state with his extreme tactics. In 2004, for example, he launched a witch hunt to out gay members of the Maine legislature, asking supporters, according to the Portland Press Herald, to “e-mail us tips, rumors, speculation and facts” regarding the sexual orientation of the state’s political leaders, adding, “We are, of course, most interested in the leaders among us who want to overturn marriage, eliminate the mother/father family as the ideal, etc.” The result was that his own organization suspended him for a month.

“He’s a well-known conspiracy theorist about the ‘gay agenda,’” says Travis Kennedy, chief of staff for the House Democratic Office in Maine, who says Heath was a big figure around the capital for many years. Heath made more enemies than friends, says Kennedy, whose “offensive and aggressive” tactics put off even his allies on the Christian right. In 2007, Heath played a big part in opposing a sexual orientation anti-discrimination ballot measure which ultimately passed by a wide margin. On Heath’s new job in Iowa, Kennedy said, “I’m not surprised he’d be hired in a state far away from Maine. He has a pretty poor reputation around here.”

From 2008-2010, Heath served as chairman of the board of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality. AFTAH is a fringe, anti-gay organization and has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for promoting false information. For example, the organization and its founder, Peter LaBarbera, have published false reports about LGBT people, including allegations that they live shorter lives and that they are prone to pedophilia. LaBarbera disputes the SPLC’s label.

“Peter LaBarbera is among the most fringe elements of the anti-gay industry in America today,” Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, wrote in an email to TPM. “You’d be hard pressed to find another group that is so singularly focused on telling lies about LGBT Americans.”

It’s unclear if Ron Paul ascribes to some of Heath’s anti-gay beliefs. Paul’s newsletters do contain several quotes smearing gay Americans as well as the AIDS epidemic. Recently, a disenchanted former Paul aide described an instance when Paul refused to use the bathroom of a gay supporter. But whatever Paul’s beliefs, Heath’s work on his campaign is another strike against a candidate with a history of associating with fringe elements of the right.

Note that the Republican Party in general has a long history of wooing racists with a wink and a nod, while publicly proclaiming their abhorrence of racism. Their racist supporters knew exactly how to take this, that their candidate agreed with them, but couldn't come right out and say so, because of all this "political correctness" going around.

This seems to be the same tactic. And whether Ron Paul really does ascribe to these views, or whether he's just trying to use these loons to further his own political ambition, is almost immaterial. After all, the Republican Party tried to use racists and religious fanatics in their notorious "Southern strategy." But now, those people are the Republican base. Those people control the Republican Party.

It's very dangerous to try to use extremists - if that's actually what Ron Paul is trying to do - because you come to depend on them. You come to need them - at least in part because they drive away more rational people.

By wooing white racists, Republicans gained the South, but they lost support of African Americans (admittedly, only 13% of the population) and lost the Northeast, too - which had formerly been the Republican stronghold. Politically, it was still a huge win, because they gained far more than they lost - but that's only because losing your mind and losing your soul aren't political concerns.

I know that none of this will matter in the slightest to Ron Paul supporters. They seem to be immune to reason and evidence both. His supporters really do tend to be conspiracy enthusiasts, and they're loyal, if nothing else. They'll overlook anything they don't want to hear.

But although they're faithful, they're also limited in numbers. Ron Paul is an issue only because the Republicans seem to have no one else. Well, they've got Mitt Romney, who'll be whatever he has to be to get elected - but they don't like him. And the people they do like are so batshit crazy that apparently even Republicans can't stand them for long enough to actually vote for them.

I don't know. This is a very dangerous time in America. Republicans are doing their best to keep the economy in the toilet, which makes it very hard for the incumbent president. (Most voters are so ignorant about what's going on that this tends to work very well for the GOP.)

But when you've got nothing but crazies on the other side, we could well vote ourselves into complete disaster. Well, we already did that once, with George W. Bush. But Bush looks positively sane next to these people.

If you think times are tough now, just wait until we get a President Bachmann, or a President Gingrich, or a President Paul - especially with a Congress filled with Tea Party loons!


Jeff said...

I've been monitoring Alex Jones' website As expected, he's freaking out that Ron Paul's being "smeared," he's not a racist, Chris Matthews is trying to destroy him, etc., etc. (it's all a conspiracy, you know) ;)

As you know, this is a classic tactic of the Christian right/Tea Party freaks; play the victim, play the victim, play the victim.

But Ron Paul and his fellow travelers need to remember the story of the wino laying face-down drunk in a gutter next to a pig. An old lady walks by them and says, "you can tell a man who boozes by the company he chooses." And the pig got up and walked away.

Ron Paul, you are who you roll with....

WCG said...

My sentiments exactly, Jeff. Thanks for the comment!