James Kirchick’s article revealing the many instances of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic commentary in Ron Paul’s newsletters over the last two decades is damning. I’m willing to consider the possibility that these were ghostwritten without his input, although the best conclusion is that he has very poor skills in exercising judgment and oversight. Those are not winning attributes for a president. Regardless, since I haven’t supported Rep. Paul’s candidacy, I feel no need to justify or defend him further. I’m more interested in the larger issue.
From Radley Balko, at Hit & Run:
Of course, Paul was never going to win. So the real concern here is what happens to the momentum for the ideas his campaign has revived. The danger is that the ignorance in those newsletters becomes inextricably tethered to the ideas that have drawn people to Paul’s campaign, and soils those ideas for years to come.
I also fear that newly-minted Paulites on sites like Reddit, Digg, Slashdot and the like—whose first exposure to libertarianism was Ron Paul—are going to click over to the New Republic piece in the coming days, become disillusioned, and assume that this is really what libertarianism is all about.
Paul’s success and media coverage have exposed a large portion of the country to libertarian ideas for the first time. Before yesterday, that was a good thing. But now I’m not so sure. If this new audience’s first exposure to libertarianism now comes with all of this decidedly unlibertarian baggage—that many may now wrongly associate with libertarian ideas—maybe it would have been better if Paul’s campaign had sputtered out months ago, and we waited a cycle or two for someone else to come along to tap the sentiment.
From an Andrew Sullivan reader:
The backlash from all of this will be harsh, no doubt. It might even leave a long-lasting mark on libertarian conservatism. I think we deserve it.
Sensible libertarians do not deserve any such backlash. I have not run wild promoting Rep. Paul just because I wanted to see what I value reflected in his campaign when it was never there. Maybe it’s a cynicism I’ve developed from looking at how government works and how people with illiberal, anti-liberty positions manipulate the government that made me skeptical of Paul. I’d say it’s probably more a wonkish desire to know details. I can’t claim perfection there because I do have a filter. But when a candidate like Paul espouses ideas that are flawed so close to the surface, I’m not willing to set aside critical thinking in favor of enthusiasm and hope.
I don’t think the problem has been libertarians supporting Rep. Paul. We all make compromises at some point. But we must be honest about them. We should talk about ideas, and when something makes them more possible to discuss in public forums, we should seek to use that opportunity. Still, labels matter. With even a cursory look at his positions, it was always clear that Rep. Paul is not a libertarian.
So now the careless have hitched our principles to an unstable vehicle of political expediency. Why? We knew that we weren’t getting a libertarian president in November, even if Rep. Paul was a libertarian. We’re often accused of being too rigid in adhering to how little government should do. There is no justification for abandoning that rigidity at the first whiff of minor success in the public consciousness. First impressions.
Now I’m angry at being forced into guilt-by-association. Thanks.
P.S. Title reference here.