I don't have a problem when people with whom I sometimes agree laud Ron Paul's original opposition to the Iraq War (a position he shares with Barack Obama, of course) or his long-running stance against American imperialism (Dennis Kucinich, too, has been there, done that). What does disturb me, though, is the rather uncritical idolatry of Paul that has flowered, even among self-described moderates and liberals. Andrew, your "endorsement" of Paul lends credibility to his entire agenda, not just those parts of it you highlighted in your post. And Glenn, I am not a pro-choice essentialist who believes no other issue, including the disastrous war in Iraq, should inform one's choice of a candidate. Rather, I situate Ron Paul's anti-choice extremism -- he believes a fetus has all the rights of an individual from the moment of conception -- within his illiberal, race-baiting, anti-gay, and corporatist history. I will document this characterization, but first, bear with me while I share a personal anecdote.
Earlier this fall, after I published an article on white male voters' decreasing significance within the Democratic electorate, I was hit with several weeks' worth of anti-Semitic email and comment-thread attacks from American white supremacist groups, who posted my photograph and contact information on several neo-Nazi websites, including Stormfront. The content of those attacks is far too disgusting to post here, but suffice to say, they featured the very crudest sort of racism and sexism, as well as physical threats against me. About a dozen of the hundred odd emails I received referenced support for Ron Paul, which at the time, I brushed off as a curiosity, a case of the white supremacists wrongly seeing an ally in Paul because of his wacky ideas about monetary policy and the threat of a North American Union. I still believe Paul's ideology departs significantly from that of his white supremacist supporters. But I no longer believe his record on race can be ignored.
Though Paul has long railed against the supposed "victim mentality" of American women and people of color, he's guilty himself of rank fear-mongering among white Americans, convincing them that they are the true "victims" of "the blacks." Check out Paul's analysis of the 1992 Los Angeles race riots, from an old newsletter mailed out to his supporters. Paul has since claimed that a staffer wrote this report, but it's safe to assume the newsletters accurately reflect his own views at the time. "We now know that we are under assault from thugs and revolutionaries who hate Euro-American civilization and everything it stands for: private property, material success for those who earn it, and Christian morality," he writes. In the same 1992 newsletter, Paul outlined his ideas for a separate justice system for African American children:
We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.
And Paul isn't a changed man. This past October, he gave a speech to the Taft Club in Virginia, a group with close ties to the white nationalist movement. But wait, there's much more -- more history that shouldn't be ignored by any person concerned with the individual liberty of women or gay people.
In his 1988 book Freedom Under Seige (you can read the whole thing online), Paul railed against sexual harassment victims. He wrote, "Why don't they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem? Seeking protection under civil rights legislation is hardily acceptable." What if a victim needs to keep working because he or she feeds their children and pays their rent paycheck to paycheck? What if quitting just isn't a viable option? For Paul, the rights of the employer not to be sued simply trump the rights of the individual. Corporations are people, too!
And Paul was no less compassionate when it came to HIV/AIDS patients. He wrote in his book that insurance companies should be free to deny care to HIV-positive individuals since, "The individual suffering from AIDS certainly is a victim -- frequently a victim of his own lifestyle -- but this same individual victimizes innocent citizens by forcing them to pay for his care."
Andrew and Glenn, I hope you'll respond to this post. We can't let Paul's history on these important civil rights issues be papered over by his opposition to the Iraq war -- opposition that other presidential candidates offer as well.