With the 2008 presidential primary season soon to be in full swing, I figured it was worth the effort to write a post like this. I’ve received several pieces of unsolicited e-mail in the past few weeks, some from atheists, exhorting me to support the libertarian Republican candidate for president, Ron Paul. This, I believe, would be a grave error for any nonbeliever.
I’ve written in the past about why I’m not a libertarian, but my differences with Paul go far deeper than his advocacy of that political philosophy. Although I don’t think he has any serious chance of winning the Republican nomination, much less the presidency, I think it’s important to point out why his views are unacceptable, lest atheists be deceived by him or by someone like him in the future.
The first and most important reason why atheists should not support Paul are the serious, credible allegations that he is a racist, or at the very least has racist sympathies. A 1992 issue of his newsletter, the Ron Paul Political Report, contains blatantly racist language attacking black Americans and depicting them as criminals (such as “I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city [Washington, D.C.] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal”).
Paul has never, as far as I know, explicitly repudiated these sentiments. His only explanation for the newsletter was that an unnamed staffer wrote those words, not him, and it went to press before he was aware of it – an extremely weak and implausible excuse, considering the article was written under his byline. Does Paul not have the time or the inclination to check in advance what is being written and published under his name? And why did he not publish a retraction in a subsequent issue, unless he himself believed those things at the time?
Second: Paul’s support for a variety of ludicrous conspiracy theories. Although, to his credit, he is not a “9/11 truther“, he does subscribe to other conspiracy theories that are at least as implausible – including that the United Nations wants to confiscate all firearms and impose a “global tax” (as if the UN were some all-powerful world government, rather than a loose gathering of overworked diplomats), and that unnamed “elites” are planning to dissolve the sovereignty of the United States, Canada and Mexico to create an amalgamated “North American Union”. Here’s a fundraising letter sent out by Ron Paul endorsing these delusions, and here’s a link to Paul’s own website making similar claims.
Third: Ron Paul echoes much of the anti-scientific bent of the Republican party. For example, he is an evolution denier who uses standard creationist rhetoric about how evolution is only a theory, how nobody “has absolute proof on either side”, and how any discussion of human origins is a “theological discussion”. No person who has such dismally ignorant views on a major field of science should be considered qualified to hold an elected office where they will have to make crucial decisions on science and technology.
Fourth: Despite his alleged libertarianism, Ron Paul supports some of the most repressive, anti-liberty and anti-Constitution views of the religious right. Exhibit A is his horrendous “We the People Act“, another of the “court-stripping” bills cherished by Christian theocrats. This bill would make it illegal for any federal court to consider any lawsuit over state violations of religious freedom (not to mention lawsuits over the right to reproductive freedom or equal protection for gays, but that’s a separate topic).
If passed, this bill would literally undo the First Amendment. Both the states and the federal government could establish their own official religions and compel all their citizens to attend church or contribute to a particular denomination, and these acts would be immune to judicial oversight. This bill would, in effect, dismantle the judiciary and undo the system of checks and balances that has served America since its inception. How could any libertarian push a law that would allow a legislative majority to set an official state religion and coerce or punish those who’d rather not participate? And how could any rational atheist support a candidate whose views are so manifestly theocratic and destructive to the system of government that has protected our freedom so well?
UPDATE: See this comment downthread for further evidence of Paul’s racist associations.