In response to my previous post on this topic, a number of you have written in to ask whether I’m not offering a rationalization of what are simply egregious views. I’m not. I would hope that that is clear.
What I’m arguing is something different: It’s very hard to know what’s in people’s hearts, especially if they’re making no clear efforts to make it clear. And in any case it can be a fruitless endeavor in the realm of public debate. It’s also true that there are libertarians who believe in radical limitations on state power for reasons that have nothing to do with any personal animus on race issues, even if those beliefs dictate policies that would be disastrous for civil rights.
These I think are the bounds of the relevant conversation. And within them, the important point — the one I was trying to make — is that we shouldn’t get distracted by what people feel in their hearts and focus on what their preferred policies would actually do and what that says about their priorities.
I fear though that that’s not the whole story with Paul — father or son. The truth is that there’s a long and hard to explain history of both Pauls being associated with a lot of people who are avowed or crypto-racists. There’s the well-known story of Ron Paul’s early 1990s era newsletter which was rife with racist and homophobic commentary. Paul later distanced himself from the newsletter, claiming that items written under his name were penned by a ghost-writer and that he wasn’t familiar with what had appeared there. And then there was the case back in December in which Rand’s Senate campaign spokesman Chris Hightower had to resign because of racist posts on his Myspace page. Looked at in broad terms you’ve got a couple of guys who apparently aren’t racist in any way but happen to stumble their way into close associations with racists with an astonishing frequency. It’s almost like a painful race version of that classic Onion headline: “Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My ——.” There is of course the fact that Ron Paul became the darling of numerous skinhead and white supremacist groups — but that’s in a very different category because you’re not responsible for who supports you but what you yourself support.
As I said above, it’s hard to know what people think in their heart of hearts. And along with being hard, to a significant degree in civic terms, it’s not even what matters: the real issue is the policies they pursue and the sense of priorities with which they pursue them. But given all the facts on the table it’s hard to get the sense that the Pauls exude a strong racial justice vibe in private given the friends they seem to attract.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.