Ron Paul fans should be careful what they wish for
Last week on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did a segment on how the media’s been conspicuously avoiding coverage of the Quixotic Presidential campaign of Ron Paul. His supporters loved it, probably hoping that more coverage of Paul would mean more people getting on board with his campaign. But more coverage means more coverage of his crazier positions too, and there are a lot of them.
During the 2008 Republican candidate “debates” (they’re kind of like debates in that people in suits stand at lecterns), the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed in evolution. Most of the candidates did so, including Ron Paul. Then John McCain said something goofy about how he helped Jesus dig the Grand Canyon, or something like that. Shortly afterwards, a video showed up on the internet of Paul telling a much smaller, conservative Christian audience that he doesn’t believe in evolution:
I, um, I think there, that it’s a theory. The theory of evolution. And I don’t accept it. You know, as a theory. I think the creator that, that I know, uh, you know, created us, every one of us, created the Universe. And the precise time and manner and uh, and all. I just don’t think we’re at the point where anybody has absolute truth on either side.
So we’ve got two possible ways of reconciling these contradictory positions: Either Paul is an evolution denying creationist and he lies to the much larger national audience, or he accepts what we know about how we came to exist and lies to smaller groups of ideologically skewered constituents when he thinks nobody will notice. Neither of those possibilities make him look good, especially since he’s been trying to earn this label of consistency in his campaigns. And that’s not even the extent of Paul’s weird Christianity. In 2003, he wrote a pretty terrible essay called The War on Religion for his friend Lew Rockwell. Rockwell’s another supposed “libertarian” who’s worked closely with Paul for decades. But anyway, this essay just reiterates Bill O’Reilly’s War on Christmas screeds, but with even less literary skill. Check this out:
As we celebrate another Yuletide season, it’s hard not to notice that Christmas in America simply doesn’t feel the same anymore.
If you read it, you’ll find Paul loves him some passive tense. It makes attacking your perceived enemies so much easier when you don’t have to actually identify them. Literacy problems aside, Paul doesn’t even seem to have a basic grasp of the Constitution he claims to hold in such esteem. He moans and bitches about the “anti-religious elites” who want to “transform America into a completely secular nation,” as if America wasn’t a secular nation from the very beginning. Apparently Paul believes America’s founders just forgot to mention that America is a Christian nation anywhere in the Constitution, which is weird since he claims to respect them so much. But here’s my favorite part of his whinefest:
Most noticeably, however, the once commonplace refrain of “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the vague, ubiquitous “Happy Holidays.” But what holiday? Is Christmas some kind of secret, a word that cannot be uttered in public?
This is the kind of lack of self-awareness you get in true religious zealots. I doubt it even needs to be said, but if not saying Christmas means that it’s a secret which can’t be uttered in public, then the same must be true of all other religious holidays at that time of year. A Jew could just as easily claim that saying either Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays is driving Hanukkah underground. But Paul is incapable of looking at this “War on Christmas” nonsense from any perspective (let alone a Jewish one) other than his own narrow one.
Paul’s often described as Liberterian. There’s a tiny bit of truth to that, since his policies certainly lean that way. But Paul has been a Republican since at least 1992. He ran for President on the Liberterian ticket in 1988, and since then he’s been working in politics as a Republican. In ’92, Paul endorsed and advised the campaign of the racist, Nazi sympathizer Pat Buchanan, who went on to lose the nomination to George H. W. Bush.
Besides being “liberterian,” the other sales pitch for Ron Paul For President, Inc. has been that, although he’s extremely conservative on fiscal issues, he’s socially liberal. He wants to legalize pot, for instance. But when it comes down to it, he sticks to the (Republican) party line on culture war issues. If you check out his voting record, you’ll see his votes against allowing adoption for gay couples in Washington, DC, against same-sex marriage, against taxpayer funding for abortions, and for displaying the Ten Commandments in government offices and courthouses. So much for his being “not a typical Republican.”
Some of those votes go back a few years, so it’s probably also worth noting that Paul’s still hammering away at culture war issues on behalf of his fellow Republicans. He’s even just recently tried to portray his advocacy of government restrictions on abortion as if it were on liberterian grounds:
“There is something that precedes liberty, and that is life,” Paul said. “If we are to defend liberty … you have to understand where that liberty, and where that life comes from. It does not come from the government, it comes from our creator.”
There he goes again with all this “creator” talk, while at the same time saying that abortion should be illegal. And for some reason his supporters will keep on claiming that he’s not like those other Republicans, oh no, not at all.
There are some ways in which Ron Paul is different from the rest, but those are mostly issues where he out-flanks his colleagues on the right. So while your Republican neighbor next door wants to reduce regulations and “cut some red tape,” Paul wants to just eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and many more. While your average Republican might agree with Rick Perry’s crazy idea to just stop the printing of paper currency, Ron Paul would like to go back to the Gold Standard.
Speaking of the Gold Standard, it’s possibly revealing to go back and look at the arguments made for it when it was an issue – back when Dr. Paul was 728 years young. It turns out that there was a heavy emphasis on what they called “natural law.” That doesn’t mean the laws of physics. They had some strange ideas back then about natural hierarchies of elements, and it turns out that people with a lot of gold discovered that gold was at the top of that hierarchy. Nice coincidence, huh? They drew an analogy to a supposed natural hierarchy among humans with (surprise, surprise!) white males on top.
Ron Paul, seen here forced by the government to work with a black guy to save the Federal Reserve.
So in this way they argued that changing to paper money would be a horrible tragedy which would upset both this hierarchy of elements as well as the patriarchy, both of which were backed up by this “natural law.” It’s the worst of the worst of hippy nonsense – all the mindless worship of nature and the naturalistic fallacy without any of the socially enlightened impulses against sexism and racism.
Paul also had some race issues when someone working on one of his newsletters wrote some terribly racist stuff on his behalf. To be fair, that staffer was eventually fired. And if it were just a matter of just that instance, or if it were just his weird views on gold and “natural law,” or if it were just an early ’90s gig with Pat Buchanan, or if it were just the fact that his supporters are overwhelmingly white, any one of those could be overlooked. But when you consider each of them, you start to get a very different picture of who Ron Paul is and what he’s all about. That should make most of his supporters uncomfortable, but that’s what they asked for when they wanted more coverage of him.