The Subtler Side of Ron Paul’s Racism

Ron Paul has been taking a beating again this week after The New Republic re-raised some hair-raising racist stuff in his newsletters of the past. Paul is quick to plead ignorance: 

“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

Now even if we bend over backwards and grant Ron Paul leeway for intemperate newsletter items others wrote in his name, there is something even more slickly bigoted about the man. Consider this, from his own campaign website:

Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry. Bigotry at its essence is a problem of the heart, and we cannot change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations…

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called “diversity” actually perpetuate racism.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence – not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

So what’s so racist about this? Everything.

The first paragraph is transparently misleading. Government as an institution is constituted to regulate behavior, regardless of hearts. Because bigotry manifests in behavior such as the Jim Crow laws and lynchings that color the history of Paul’s neck of the woods, to deny that government should have a role in combatting bigotry is to passively endorse the worst aspects of it.

The second paragraph generalizes a subset of “collectivism” into “collectivism” generally. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the first sentence is true, it does not follow that “viewing humans as members of groups” (the word “strictly” is gratuitous, as we’ll see) is the root cause of racism. Yet that is what Paul argues in the very next sentence, accusing those who think in terms of groups at all as perpetuating racism. He glosses over the key distinction that racists think malevolently about groups and advocates of diversity do not. By ignoring the core distinction and emphasizing the surface commonality, he attempts to brand anti-racism as racism. By his logic, the Anti-Defamation League is anti-semitic. The upshot of Paul’s argument is an attempt to disempower anti-racist efforts — a racist goal in itself.

The denouement to Paul’s argument proposes an unnattainable outcome as antidote. This is especially pernicous when the outcome — limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims — is attainable only to the extent that the claims of the most vulnerable groups are more easily disposed of than those of the most powerful. It is easier, for example, to abolish the Voting Rights Act (which almost happened!) than to abolish K Street lobbying firms. For Ron Paul to raise this vision in the context of racism is to tip his hand: if he were to come into power, the claims of the oppressed will be ignored. The claims of the powerful, well — that will take longer — like, forever.

Thus Ron Paul is a racist, in my opinion, by his own words. There was a turnaround to Barry Goldwater’s losing presidential slogan from 1964, “In your heart, you know he’s right.” It went, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” In our guts, we know where Ron Paul is coming from.

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2 responses to “The Subtler Side of Ron Paul’s Racism

  1. “Government as an institution is constituted to regulate behavior”

    It is? What country do YOU live in? Because here in the united states, the only role of government is to protect the people’s rights and defend our country. And that includes people of all color, not specific rights for specific groups.

    You are part of the problem. YOU are a racist.

  2. Couple things, James A:
    1. Of course government regulates behavior. Police, prosecutors, courts, etc. don’t just sit around doing nothing, do they?
    2. Your minimal conception of the United States government doesn’t exactly square with this: “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
    That is, unless you reduce the Constitution to “do your own thing and let everybody else do their own thing.”

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