The company you keep

I think that a lot can be said for a person by the company that she or he keeps. Part of my attempt at consistent self-criticism involves me trying to size up how I am doing generally as a person. I take great comfort in the fact that I can count people I admire, respect, and wish to emulate among my close friends. It means, at least in my eyes, that there is something about me that they also admire and respect. Maybe they’re all just really nice and take pity on me 😛

In the same vein, when your friends and supporters are people with whom you fundamentally disagree, you’ve got to take a long hard look at yourself:

Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, whose long-shot campaign has been gaining media attention in recent days, apparently has the support of an unusual constituency — the white supremacist movement., a white supremacy web site, as well as others, such as, have actively supported Paul’s bid for the presidency, including directing donors to his campaign.  Stormfront has also endorsed Paul for president.

“Once in a great while a presidential candidate is presented to us. A candidate who not only speaks to us, but for us…I am supporting Ron Paul in his run for the presidency,” the Stormfront endorsement says. The endorsement praises Paul’s plans to reduce taxes, close the  borders and eliminate trade deals, such as NAFTA. “Whatever organization you belong to, remember first and foremost that you are a white nationalist,” the endorsement continues. “Put your differences with one and other aside and work together. Work together to strive to get someone in the Oval Office who agrees with much of what we want for our future. Look at the man. Look at the issues. Look at our future. Vote for Ron Paul 2008.”

Ron Paul’s supporters have a deserved reputation for being the most vehement scourers of the internet, and for being nearly indistinguishable in their defense of their champion. I therefore want to take great pains here to say that this is not evidence that Ron Paul is a white supremacist. I am not trying to imply a sort of guilt by association – the endorsement from Stormfront seems to be largely based on Ron Paul’s isolationist beliefs rather than any racist statements he’s made in the past. Which isn’t to say that Ron Paul’s positions on race aren’t suspect:

What bothers me the most about Ron Paul’s defense of liberty regarding the Civil Rights Act is that he glazes over the significance of the social and political culture at the time. However, I don’t think he’s a stupid man by any means. He is well educated and fully aware of the history of racial discrimination and the Civil Rights Movement. He is fully aware that allowing business owners to do whatever they wanted in their businesses during this period in history meant some business owners would deny service to individuals because of the color of their skin. He is fully aware that some business owners would take significant measures to remove black people from their businesses.

When pictures pass around the press of children having acid poured in their pool water, it is not just those black children who are being harmed. All black Americans were at the helm of potentially injurious acts of discrimination. This photo illustrates that real, violent threat.

This is my problem with Ron Paul specifically and libertarianism in general – while many of the ideas proposed have some merit, the absolute application of the principles they’re based on are wildly impractical. The Civil Rights Act absolutely infringed upon the liberty of some people. Anyone who denies this fact is either woefully ignorant or bizarrely entrenched in their own ideology. However, the Civil Rights Act, for all its infringement, was a step forward in recognizing the equality of all people. The free market approach to civil rights was not working – black people were on the receiving end of massive discrimination with no recourse or relief from a state that is ostensibly invested in defending the rights of its citizens. Libertarian policies of government non-intervention were failing, and a more direct approach was needed.

Which is not to say that Ron Paul is a Libertarian:

There are a lot of libertarians who still buy into the Ron Paul myth, I’m sad to say. Ron is no libertarian. He’s a paleoconservative and his voting record backs that up. In addition he has all the crazy shit he gets from the Birch Society and continues to spew out. But what I find surprising is how gullible some libertarians are regarding Ron’s excuses for all this. Take the newsletter that Ron edited and sold, during his stint out of office, between his LP presidential bid and his next Congressional race. Ron was listed as co-editor of the newsletter. There was a staff of four people, including his wife and daughter. So it was hardly a huge enterprise. It published some pretty bigoted remarks about blacks and gays and had the usual crazy Ron Paul shit about conspiracies.

I have talked about this kind of thing before, but when your support comes from people who hold positions you abhor, then you really need to take a hard look at why. I was quite taken with Ron Paul when I first learned of him. Ramping down foreign wars, eliminating the monstrously-wasteful war on drugs, support for individual rights – lots of great ideas. However, it’s mixed in with a lot of crazy stuff, including more than a little racism. It’s not at all a surprise to me that Stormfront sees him as their best hope of political legitimacy. That fact alone should give Paul supporters pause.

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  1. bunnyhugger says

    I had a similar interest in Ron Paul when he first came up as a serious consideration nationally — I heard him being interviewed and was intrigued enough to actually look up his website and general principles and policies. A few moments later, I was disgusted enough to walk away from the internet entirely for a while. It isn’t terribly surprising that portions of his platform are deeply appealing to Stormfront.

    What bothers me slightly more than endorsement of abhorrent fringe elements, is that Ron Paul came a very close second in the Iowa Straw Poll. He pulled 27% of the vote (Bachmann, 28%)… while a straw poll is hardly the most objective way to gauge opinion (let alone actualy election results), there are clearly a fair number of people that think he is just super.

  2. says

    The Straw Poll results are almost meaningless. Ron Paul pushed hard and paid a lot of money in Ames, IA to get that result. There are quite a few people who endorse his opinions but have not bothered to look at his platform in toto.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. says

    The photo… I hadn’t seen it before. I clicked it because I noticed a link to pantsless progressive’s blog.

    The caption reads:
    [Photo: Black children integrate the swimming pool of the Monson Motel in June 1964. To force them out, the owner pours acid into the water. Credit: Civil Rights Movement Veterans]

    ugh. Just… ugh.

  4. bunnyhugger says

    It’s those many people who haven’t (and won’t) done a great deal of research that worry me.

    And yeah, straw polls are an exercise in theatrics at best 🙂

  5. says

    Oh totally. Jesus is colorblind. That guy probably wasn’t a TrueChristian ™.

    On a more serious note, I find photos like these highly disturbing.
    I wonder how badly the swimmers were burned.

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