-By Warner Todd Huston
Ron Paul is not serious about running for president nor is he a serious candidate even were he to be so inclined. But serious or no, he is a horrible candidate regardless.
Now, there may have been a time a decade or so ago when Ron Paul really thought he had a shot at being elected the president of the United States but that time has long ago passed into history. His last several campaigns were not serious efforts.
Let’s take Paul’s unserious campaign effort first, before I get to his amazing unsuitability for the White House.
The idea of having a national campaign organization to propel a candidate to winning primaries is predicated on reaching out to local state and country party organizations, working with them on ideas, and bringing some of those local political operatives into your own primary effort. This practice then extends your influence and helps bring ground troops to your game, folks that are influential in each sector of the country, folks that will presumably bring voters to your candidacy.
Regardless of the existence of the Internet, TV, or radio, the ground game is still the most important part of running for president. If you happen to win a primary without a good ground game, you aren’t likely to take the brass ring in the big contest. Ask John McCain who won the nomination but had a practically non-existent national organization with which to face Obama in 2008.
Sure Ron Paul has his Ronulans but that is about it. He has never taken the time building (nor spent his many millions creating) an actual party organization. He has his rather fanatic followers and a gaggle of outsiders and extremists arrayed behind him but he’s never taken the time to build the sort of coalition that could get him elected nation wide.
There is a reason this is true. He isn’t serious about winning an election to the White House. It really is just that simple.
So, what are his multiple campaigns all about? As Jeffery Lord says, it’s nothing short of Paul’s “neoliberal reeducation campaign,” not a campaign to become president of the United States of America. He just wants to get his ideas out. He’s not serious about winning election.
Still, Paul has built quite an organization. He’s like a Nabakov to these political neophytes, a veritable Svengali to them all.
But in fact the worst aspect of Ron Paul’s campaign is the very followers that he relies on to push his campaign. They are bullies, they are often (but not always) nutty, they are outliers, they are fantasists, and the worst of them are racists, Jew-haters, and insurrectionists.
Many of them pride themselves on looking at America through a “true” historical lens. But their lens gives them a very skewed view of the U.S.A. Not just skewed but conspiratorial. For instance Paul’s followers are Fed fantasists — imagining the Federal Reserve was some sort of plot to destroy the country. Many are Lincoln deniers — claiming that Abe Lincoln was the most dangerous, anti-American president we’ve ever had. And, as I mentioned, the worst of them are racists — belching forth all the worst anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that would make Heinrich Himmler or any Pan-Arabist, Islamofascist tear up in pride.
But what does this make Paul? Is he really a racist? Well, he did have years of personal newsletters that contained some of the most common racist conspiracy theories written by folks well known for their quasi-racist, or outright racist views. He later came out and pretended that he never knew that his own newsletters were filled with this racist crap and essentially denounced those newsletters. Can we believe him? Hardly. To accept that he really didn’t know what was being published in his name takes an act of intentional ignorance that boggles the mind.
Now, let’s not ignore that some of Paul’s fiscal stances are not bad views to take. Some of Paul’s economic points are worth bringing into the public debate and he’s done a fine job bringing them to the fore. But some of his economic views border on insanity.
He is virulently anti-federal reserve, for one. For good or ill, the fed has its problems. But Paul views it as some sort of conspiracy instead of merely misguided. There is a saying for good reason that one could get drunk taking a shot every time he uses the word “fed” in his speeches. It has for a long time been Paul’s biggest worry. Still his points on economics are generally worth discussion.
Let’s not take his economic discussion as evidence that he is perfect on government spending, though. Even today, in this era when almost every Republican and many Democrats are scared to ask for a single earmark, Ron Paul leads the list of big spenders being one of only four Republicans still making big earmark requests.
Paul’s isolationist views, or at least his non-interventionist views, are also problematic. He’s repeatedly said that using our military abroad is a disastrous policy and he’s been against most all of our current overseas military adventures. In a recent interview Paul was even against killing Usamma bin Laden!
We should point out that this stance would also have argued against the U.S. entry into WWI and WWII. In fact, his exact arguments employed today were used by non-interventionists in our past history and by left-wingers and liberal Republicans to boot. Not very conservative, that.
The non-interventionist stance is a simple-minded mash of nativism and a foolish assumption that if we just stay home, everyone will love us. It is also a dangerous ideology that Hitler’s Nazi machine was happy to see being bandied by American neo-liberals as he steamrolled Europe in the 1930s. It would be an ideology that today’s Islamofascists would love to see get a resurgence in the U.S.A., too.
Now, in his book “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” Ron Paul offers the works of Thomas DiLorenzo as a worthy source for his followers to read. DiLorenzo offers the perfect example of the sort of garbled, skewed pseudo-history in which Paul’s lovers are steeped.
Back in 2004 DiLorenzo and historian Gerald Prokopowicz had a tête-à-tête on the worthiness of Lincoln being canonized as one of our great presidents. His replies to Prof. Prokopowicz were ahistorical, hackneyed and filled with neo-confederate balderdash that revealed him as an intellectually dishonest writer. (See my reply to DiLorenzo that was printed in the May 2004 issue of the magazine added at the end of this piece.)
Lord also notes that Paul praises the work of one John T. Flynn, “a man who, in his day, was seen as a driving force behind the anti-Semitic liberal Republican Senator Nye and the Senate investigation into Jewish influence in Hollywood.”
If this is the sort of “historians” that Ron Paul thinks is worthy of recognizing, well it does go to show the low level of writing and the ideological bent to which he and his followers subscribe.
Sadly, Paul’s supporters employ a skewed view of history to support their policy ideas.
For instance, one of the common refrains I hear from Paulynistas is the much misquoted George Washington warning that we should “be wary of foreign entanglements.” This phrase is a garbled view of George Washington’s 1796 farewell address (he never used those particular words) issued upon his retirement from public life and given as he entered the last days of his second term in office.
Washington is perceived by Paulites (and others equally misinformed) as having warned his young nation against “foreign entanglements,” those entanglements that are manifest by getting involved in European affairs. It is assumed that Washington urged his country to stick solely to matters of trade and stay “detached and distant” from all other considerations. With this point assumed Ronulans maintain that a guiding principle of the American founders was to be isolationists. They claim this as a first principle.
But the truth is not in happy cohabitation with the Paulie’s “truth.” The truth is, even as Washington was issuing his farewell address, the U.S.A. was and had been for years up to its powdered wigs in foreign entanglements. After all, we won our Revolution with quite a lot of “entanglements” with France, it should be remembered!
But even if Washington was but misguided in his warning, his warning wasn’t what Paulynistas claim it was in any case. In that very letter Washington made it clear that he was warning against too much intermingling with European policies because we didn’t have the military power to back up our position at the time. He wasn’t saying we should never do it. He was saying we didn’t have the capacity to do it and should avoid doing so until we did. Further, he admitted that there were times when we must get involved as satisfies our interests or in “extraordinary emergencies.”
It must also be pointed out that as general of U.S. forces in the Revolution he authorized an invasion of Canada! Let’s not forget that, shall we?
Anyway, the whole point about Paul and his nutty supporters is that they are not conservatives. They are generally disaffected, extremists that have a very skewed view of American history and generally ahistorical views of what American should “be.”
In the end, Ron Paul is less a conservative, definitely less a Republican, than he is a libertarian that has some oddly leftist views. And, while his economic views are pretty good in general, his racist streak is certainly not views desirable in a president of these great United States. Not to mention that his silly isolationism is actually dangerous to our national security.
Now, there is a claim that Ronulans make that is risible and simply untrue. They claim he is somehow the father of the Tea Party movement. This is nonsense.
Yes many of Paul’s ideas coincide with the economic ideas of the Tea Party movement. But he and his followers are simply not members of the Tea Party. They are a wholly separate group. I intimately know some of the originators of the first few big Tea Party events in Washington D. C. and Chicago. NONE of them were Paulies. Ron Paul had no part in their efforts nor in the subsequent efforts of the Tea Party movement.
Then there is the “wins” that Ron Paul has had in straw poll after straw poll, not to mention Internet polls. These are illusory. These wins are also an example of how Paul uses the millions he has in his campaign warchest.
These wins are essentially bought and paid for, not true reflections of Paul’s standing in the conservative movement. At every event these straw polls are held, Paul’s organization offers his often youthful adherents a few free meals, free transportation, and free lodging to go out and stuff ballot boxes so that he can win polls. This has been a very successful strategy at least as far as getting attention which often garners himself new young volunteers. But they are essentially a sham. His “wins” are empty, meaningless as to his true support in the electorate.
Lastly, even if I were a Paulite, I’d have to admit that Ron Paul can neither win a primary, nor a general election and, therefore, would not be a good candidate to push for the GOP nomination. He just can’t win.
Let’s face it, here, Ron Paul appeals to only one section of the GOP coalition: the economic wing. He is a disaster for the national security voters and with his desire to make prostitution and drug use legal and his dismissive attitude of traditional marriage he is anathema to the family values voters. So, no way can he win a primary.
But, I can’t abide voting for a racist. It comes down to that as much as anything else.
(My letter to the editor published in North and South Magazine, Vol 7, number 3 – May 2004)
To North and South magazine,
The most glaring aspect of the debate between Thomas Dilorenzo and Gerald Prokopowicz was Dilorenzo’s incivility in the debate. He overstated his case and substituted bombast and emotion for logic and reliance on the historical record all too often. While I tend to agree with Dilorenzo that the American public harbors many misunderstandings concerning the Civil War, I certainly do not share in his assumptions that we are still in a war of words between the Lost Cause ideology and the Yankess-only-cared-about-slavery advocates in historical debate.
But Dilorenzo is sadly mistaken, even intellectually dishonest, to discount the huge role slavery had in creating the conflict. The historical record is clear that slavery was far and away the hottest topic of the day to Lincoln’s contemporaries. Consequently, when secession finally became reality, the various southern state secession conventions nearly all issued documents that featured slavery as their most urgent disagreement with the Federal Government and their northern brethren. (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/csa/csapage.htm On the internet see the declarations of secession for Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Mississippi as well as the Confederate constitution itself.)
Further, Dilorenzo is wrong to conclude that Linclon’s 1,688 published references to slavery (as cited by Professor Prokopowicz) is meaningless without “context”. Even WITH context, this number of direct allusions to the subject shows how important it was to him and, by extension, the voting public despite the context.
I am not aware that anyone is claiming that the tariff issue was not also an extremely important aspect of the south’s disagreement with the north. It had been for several decades by the time of the Civil War as the “Tariff of Abominations” argument that sparked the Nullification Crisis of 1832 proves. However, Dilorenzo badly overstates the importance of the tariff in comparison to slavery and ends up sounding much like a perpetrator of myths himself as opposed to a serious historian.
Also, Dilorenzo’s incendiary comparison of a mythical modern day president laying waste to a seceding California to the bombing of Atlanta by Sherman is totally absurd. Perhaps if Lincoln laid waste to Richmond shortly after secession was announced we would have an apt comparison but Atlanta was taken after four years of bloody, seemingly endless conflict, one that changed the spirit and attitudes of the men fighting as well as the philosophy of the generals commanding. It should be pointed out that earlier in the war neither side was as quick to involve civilians in a battle at any level though civilians did increasingly become targets as the war dragged on. But the concept of total warfare was clearly not one that asserted itself from the war’s inception.
As to his contention that everyone assumed that the Union was entirely voluntary it would have come as a surprise to James Madison who argued the exact opposite during the Nullification Crisis of 1832. In fact, Madison opposed Jefferson’s wild notion that leaving the union was an obvious solution to any wrong perceived or real. (Jefferson is not to be trusted for steadfast proclamations or bedrock philosophy. His record is quite contradictory and his thoughts often meander from the well thought out to the fanciful. His contention that the laws of a nation should be thrown out every 17 years so that the contemporary society can make them anew with their own thoughts was just one example of how absurd his ideas were at times.)
On February 15th, 1830 Madison wrote to Nicholas Trist about the proceedings to create the Virginia Resolutions in 1798. They did not intend, he claimed, to “assert a right in the parties to the Constitution of the United States individually to annul within themselves acts of the Federal Government, or to withdraw from the Union”. That was hardly a ringing endorsement of secession from the Father of the Constitution.
Of course, many Americans did feel that secession was a perfectly acceptable means to solve the unsolvable problems between states and the Federal Government, but it is not axiomatic that everyone felt similarly at the founding like Dilorenzo seems to want us to assume. Certainly the idea became resorted to more often in later generations, for sure, though (more often as a threat for leverage and never intended to be carried out).
All in all, Dilorenzo comes off as a bomb thrower instead of an historian and his bombastic style blackens any legitimate research into Lincoln’s constant violations of the constitution making it all too easy to dismiss such questions as the ruminations of an easily discreditable historical fringe.