Paul’s newsletters and the changing tactics of libertarianism

Libertarian Steve Horwitz explains the context of those Ron Paul newsletters with a fascinating survey of the history and the varying strategies of that movement:

The attempt to court the right through appeals to the most unsavory sorts of arguments was a conscious part of the “paleolibertarian” strategy that Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard cooked up in the late 1980s. . . .

Classical liberalism started as a movement of the left, with folks like J.S. Mill being our standard bearers against the forces of reaction and conservatism in England, especially over issues of race. We were the “progressives” of that era, viewing the market as a force for progress for all, especially the least well-off, and as a great equalizer. It was Mill who argued that it was a good thing that markets would lead to racial equality in opposition to people like Carlyle and Ruskin who rejected markets because they wanted to maintain racial hierarchy. The liberal revolution was a revolution against privilege and the old order. It was the radical progressivism of its day.

Unfortunately, classical liberalism never figured out how to respond to the development of socialism, and especially the state socialism of the Soviets and others in the early 20th century, in a way that maintained our progressive credentials. By default, we moved from the “left” to the “right,” thrown in with the conservative opponents of the growing socialist wave. From the Old Right of the 1940s through the Reagan era, libertarianism’s opposition to socialism, especially interferences in the market, led us to ally with the forces of reaction. But even with the demise of really-existing socialism, we have been unable to completely break free of that connection to the right, though things are better than they used to be.

Even as this happened, though, the liberalism of libertarianism did not die. Within that libertarianism on the right was a strong strain of leftism, particularly from the late 1960s into the early or mid 1980s, both in the broader movement and in the Libertarian Party in particular. When I came into the movement in 1980, I can vividly recall meeting members of the Michigan LP and being surprised at how, for lack of a better word, hippie they were, right down to smoking dope during the breaks at the state convention.

By the mid-80s though, conservatism was hot, thanks to Reagan, and the internal strife of the movement pitted Murray Rothbard against the Koch Brothers, with the accusation by Rothbard that the liberal libertarians were undermining the movement’s ability to appeal to a broader audience thanks to their supposed libertinism. Murray wanted the hippies out. The irony here was that it was the Koch controlled parts that were (largely) the source of the left-deviation that pissed Rothbard off. . . .

This led to the paleolibertarian strategy by the end of the decade after Rothbard broke with the Kochs and helped Lew Rockwell found the Mises Institute (originally located on Capitol Hill – right smack inside the hated beltway, it’s worth noting). The paleo strategy, as laid out here [go to the site for the link] by Rockwell, was clearly designed to create a libertarian-conservative fusion exactly along the lines Jacob lays out in his post. It was about appealing to the worst instincts of working/middle class conservative whites by creating the only anti-left fusion possible with the demise of socialism: one built on cultural issues. With everyone broadly agreeing that the market had won, how could you hold together a coalition that opposed the left? Oppose them on the culture. If you read Rockwell’s manifesto through those eyes, you can see the “logic” of the strategy. And it doesn’t take a PhD in Rhetoric to see how that strategy would lead to the racism and other ugliness of newsletters at the center of this week’s debates.

The paleo strategy was a horrific mistake, both strategically and theoretically, though it apparently made some folks (such as Rockwell and Paul) pretty rich selling newsletters predicting the collapse of Western civilization at the hands of the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists. The explicit strategy was abandoned by around the turn of the century, but not after a lot of bad stuff had been written in all kinds of places. . . .

Through it all though, Ron Paul was a constant. He kept plugging away, first at the center of the paleo strategy as evidenced by the newsletters. To be clear, I am quite certain he did not write them. There is little doubt that they were written by Rockwell and Rothbard. . . .

Even after the paleo strategy was abandoned, Ron was still there walking the line between “mainstream” libertarianism and the winking appeal to the hard right courted by the paleo strategy. Paul’s continued contact with the fringe groups of Truthers, racists, and the paranoid right are well documented. . . .

Those of us who watched all of this happen over two decades knew it would come back to haunt us and so it has, unfortunately just as Ron Paul and libertarianism are on the cusp of something really amazing. And that only goes to show what a mistake the paleo strategy was. . . .

So why deal with this now, when libertarianism is so hot? Because those newsletters are not what libertarianism is and the sooner and louder we make that clear, the better. There are too many young people who don’t understand all of this and who we need to help see the alternative liberal vision of libertarianism – and to understand that “liberal libertarianism” is radical, principled, and humane and not “beltway selling out.” To do that, we need to confront the past and explicitly reject it. That doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting Ron Paul in electoral politics, but it does mean that we cannot pretend the past doesn’t exist and it means that Paul and the others involved need to do the right thing and take explicit responsibility for what they said two decades ago. That has not happened yet. Then we need a complete and utter rejection of the paleo world-view and we need to create a movement that will simply not be attractive to racists, homophobes, anti-Semites etc., by emphasizing, as we have done at this blog, libertarianism’s liberal roots.

How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much? | Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

This explains a lot, but my questions multiply.  So is Ron Paul just an ideological stalking horse?  Are libertarians deliberately disguising themselves in a bid for popularity and political power?  Is libertarianism actually liberal in its anti-traditionalism, radical individualism, and rejection of moral limits?

I had heard Ron Paul described as a conservative Republican with libertarian leanings. I had no idea he was such a movement figure, his prominence probably coming from his being the libertarian who has risen to the highest public office.  I wouldn’t characterize the Paul supporters who participate in this blog–Cincinnatus, tODD, SKPeterson, Father Hogg [an orthodox priest]–as libertarians.  (I’m sure they will correct me if I’m wrong.)  So it must be possible to support Paul even if you aren’t, as he is, a card carrying libertarian.  I haven’t got my mind around that, though.

HT:  Justin Taylor

 

The case against Ron Paul

Conservative blogger Michael Gerson accuses Ron Paul of trying to completely undo the legacy of the Republican party and gives a litany of reasons to oppose him:

No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Abraham Lincoln of causing a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Or regarded Ronald Reagan’s presidency a “dramatic failure.” Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most “aggressive, extended and expansionist” empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers.” Or accused the American government of a Sept. 11 “coverup” and called for an investigation headed by Dennis Kucinich. Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as “absolutely not necessary.” Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as “natural,” while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as “war propaganda.” Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been “a setup by the Israeli Mossad,” and defending former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and criticizing the “evil of forced integration.”

Each of these is a disqualifying scandal. Taken together, a kind of grandeur creeps in. The ambition of Paul and his supporters is breathtaking. They wish to erase 158 years of Republican Party history in a single political season, substituting a platform that is isolationist, libertarian, conspiratorial and tinged with racism. It won’t happen. But some conservatives seem paradoxically drawn to the radicalism of Paul’s project. They prefer their poison pill covered in glass and washed down with battery acid. It proves their ideological manhood.

via Ron Paul’s quest to undo the party of Lincoln – The Washington Post.

Those of you who support Paul, is it true that he holds these positions?  (I don’t think they are all  from his ghostwritten newsletters.)  If so, do you agree with them?

Ron Paul’s baggage

As a Virginian, my only choices in the Republican primary are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul–the other candidates having failed to get on the ballot–so I am studying these candidates closely.  There would be a certain coolness factor in voting for Paul.  But I’ve got to figure out what I think about his newsletters of a couple of decades ago, with their racist and anti-semitic vibe, as well as his associations with the off-the-wall right.

I know some of you have been discussing this on the “Why I Can’t Vote for Gingrich or Perry” thread, but it deserves its own post.  Paul and his fans have been dismissing the issue as “old news” brought up and answered a long time ago, but lots of us are new to the Ron Paul world, and he had better believe this will be an issue throughout the election.  Here is a summary of what’s out there:

Ron Paul reiterated Tuesday that he did not write a series of newsletters that appeared under his name in the 1980s and 1990s that included controversial comments about African-Americans, including a claim that “[o]rder was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

Asked by CBS News and National Journal if the newsletters are fair game on Tuesday in New Hampshire, Paul responded, “I don’t know whether fair is the right word.”

“I mean, it’s politics,” he continued. “Nobody talked about it for 20 years until they found out that the message of liberty was making progress. And everybody knows I didn’t write them, and it’s not my sentiment, so it’s sort of politics as usual.”

Writing in The New Republic in 2008, reporter James Kirchick revealed some particularly incendiary passages from the monthly newsletters, which carried names like “Ron Paul’s Freedom Report” and the “Ron Paul Political Report.” Many of the newsletters, which were mostly written in the first person and usually didn’t otherwise carry a byline, were reportedly being held in collections of extreme-right political literature.

The newsletters included a criticism of Ronald Reagan for legislation creating a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., who is described as a “world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and “seduced underage girls and boys.”

“We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day,” one newsletter said of Reagan, according to Kirchick. The newsletters also claimed that AIDS sufferers “enjoy the attention and pity that comes with being sick,” expressed support for and offered advice to the “local militias now training to defend liberty” shortly before the Oklahoma City bombing, and questioned whether the 1993 World Trade Center bombing “was a setup by the Israeli Mossad.”

Kirchick revisited the newsletters in the Weekly Standard on Tuesday, writing that “Paul’s lucrative and decades-long promotion of bigotry and conspiracy theories, for which he has yet to account fully, and his continuing espousal of extremist views…should make him unwelcome at any respectable forum.”

Kirchick tied the newsletters to Paul’s willingness to appear on the radio program of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has reportedly accused the government of encouraging “homosexuality with chemicals so that people don’t have children.” He noted that Paul seemed open to Jones’ suggestion that the military’s NORTHCOM combatant command is “taking over” the nation.

Paul denied his involvement with the newsletters back in 2008, saying the controversial comments “are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed.”

“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,” he said. “For over a decade, I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

via Ron Paul disavows racist newsletters under his name – Political Hotsheet – CBS News.

Paul disavows this kind of talk today, so good for him.  His claim that he didn’t know what was going into his newsletters, though, strains credulity.   It reminds me of the NBA star (I think it was Charles Barkley) who complained about how he was portrayed in the media, referring to his own autobiography.  At the best it would be an outlandish use of ghostwriters, something else I don’t approve of.  But even if he weren’t paying attention, as he claims, I would think that his readers would rise up if the newsletters they had subscribed to under the Ron Paul brand were misrepresenting what they assume he stood for.  (“But we know Dr. Paul admires Martin Luther King [as he now says], so how could he say such things about him?”)  Perhaps he could say that he used to classify people unfairly, but now he has learned to apply the principles of liberty to people of all races and ethnicity.  Something like that.

Then there is his giving a speech to the John Birch Society, the organization that during the cold war interpreted everything in terms of a vast communist conspiracy and that William F. Buckley read out of the conservative movement.  And those kind words for right-wing militias.

The question is, is Ron Paul a right wing extremist?  Now, normally there is a big difference between libertarianism and right wing extremism.  The latter tends to be highly nationalistic.  Libertarians tend to be tolerant of things like flag burning and joining the communist party, expressions of liberty that true rightwingers would be glad to outlaw.

Again, Paul denies that he holds those views in the newsletters.  But then again, John Birchers in their heyday believed that even seemingly good leaders were actually communist infiltrators.  Since they think like that, don’t we need to make sure that they aren’t foisting off a Manchurian candidate of their own?  Sorry–all these conspiracy theories have got me thinking like that!

At any rate, my mind needs to be put at rest about these issues.  I am open to persuasion.  You Paul supporters, help me out here.

Why I can’t vote for Gingrich or Perry

Because they weren’t organized enough to get the petitions signed to get on the Virginia primary ballot!

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 Republican primary, a development that complicates his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination.

“After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10K signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday on its Twitter website.

Perry also fell short of the 10,000 signatures of registered voters required for a candidate’s name to be on the primary ballot, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will be on the ballot.

State GOP spokesman Garren Shipley said volunteers spent Friday validating petitions that the four candidates submitted by the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline to the State Board of Elections. Shipley was not available early Saturday to discuss the announcement posted on the website.

Failing to get on the ballot will be a major setback for Gingrich, who has tried to use his recent upsurge in popularity to make up for a late organizing start. Ironically, Gingrich had a slight lead over Romney, with others farther back, in a Quinnipiac poll of Virginia Republicans released earlier in the week.

The load of catching up on organizing work and a lack of advertising money to counter an onslaught of negative ads from his rivals have been major disadvantages.

Gingrich had to leave New Hampshire on Wednesday and race to Virginia, where he needed 10,000 valid voters’ signatures to secure a spot on the ballot.

He said Wednesday he had enough ballot signatures, but he wanted to come to Virginia to deliver them personally. Taking no chances, his volunteers asked everyone to sign petitions before entering Gingrich’s rally Wednesday night in Arlington, just across the Potomac River from Washington.

Gingrich’s early-December rise in several polls gave him renewed hopes of carrying his campaign deep into the primary season. Failure to compete in Virginia, which is among the “Super Tuesday” primaries, would deal a huge blow to any contender who had not locked up the nomination by then.

The state party’s Shipley said the party was validating petitions the candidates submitted by the Thursday 5 p.m. deadline to the state elections board. It began validating signatures Friday morning.

The 10,000 registered voters must also include 400 signatures from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.

It was unclear if Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman submitted petitions to the state board.

Meanwhile, Virginia’s Democrats said President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign gathered enough signatures to get him on the state’s primary ballot though he was the only candidate who qualified.

via Gingrich, Perry fail to make Va. ballot – CBS News.

Why you need an organization–and to be organized–to run for president!

UPDATE:  Bachman, Santorum, and Huntsman also failed to turn in enough petition signatures.   So my only choice will be between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul!

Gingrich, who is a resident of Virginia, is complaining that the state’s requirements are too onerous.  But in the last presidential primary in 2008 all six of the major Republican candidates made the ballot.  This just reinforces the impression that we have a competence problem in the current slate of candidates.

Gingrich is calling for a write-in campaign.  Too bad they are illegal in primary elections in Virginia.  Something else he should have known.  The state has 50 delegates, making it a big Super Tuesday prize, which will now go to either Romney or Paul.

I wonder if similar surprises await in other primary states.

Which of those two would you vote for?

Ron Paul, uniter

American politics is polarized.   Our government is in a state of paralysis.  Conservatives, liberals, and moderates are at each other’s throats.  National unity is no more.   And yet, I see a presidential candidate who might be able to bring the country together:  Ron Paul.

He has the support of the Tea Party dissidents on the right who yearn for a more limited, more constitutional government.  But he also has significant support from the Occupy Wall Street dissidents on the left for his criticism of big corporations and the banking interests.   And yet he appeals to business folks as a free market purist.  He is pro-life, which is enough to satisfy lots of social conservatives (and he would certainly appoint “original intent” judges).  He is also anti-war, which attracts lots of liberals disillusioned with Obama’s war machine.  Above all, he has appeal to the vast internet subculture, which, as observers have noted, is essentially libertarian.

Whether or not you want him as president–and please don’t confuse my mental experiments on this blog for my own endorsements–could it be that Dr. Paul or someone with an ideology like his shows the way to bring this country together again?

How about Ron Paul, after all?

With one after another Republican presidential candidates rising to the top, then flaming out, it is time to seriously consider Ron Paul.

He’s libertarian, but he’s also pro-life, a devout Christian by all accounts (raised Lutheran, no less,  in the ELCA, but now Baptist–from an LCMS point of view, is it better to be a liberal Lutheran or a conservative Baptist?).  Anyway, he is anti-war (conservatives now taking the lead in that department).  No one doubts his commitment to small government.  Yes, he believes in legalizing drugs and prostitution, but would you take that in return for what else he offers?

I know some of you are already Ron Paul fans.  (Feel free to state your case.)  Would the rest of you now consider him?


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