Mailbag: Why I Can't Vote For Ron Paul - Rolling Stone
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Mailbag: Why I Can’t Vote For Ron Paul

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Good news on Osama bin Laden, and a good day for the families of 9/11 victims. Speaking personally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been held up in a long line at an airport, and dreamed of the day OBL would be made to pay for every shoe and belt and hat he’s forced us all to remove over the years. Asshole.

Have a Supreme Court ruling coming in a few days. In the meantime, a quick one-question mailbag, since I’ve been getting a lot of mail on one issue of late.



I guess I don’t understand liberals … perhaps you can help.
In a recent exchange about voting for Ron Paul over Obama, you conclude that because of the Paul’s beliefs (which you don’t cite anything specific), you would have a hard time voting for them.
So in other words, it’s ok to vote for someone who condones torture, destruction of civil liberties, and practices drone bombings of tribesmen and their families in the Middle East over someone who would as President, be able to bring transparency to the FED …?
As president, Paul would not be king, and would likely NOT be able to sway congress in his direction on many issue you would be so frightened of … but he WOULD be able to bring sunshine to the FED and correct our foreign policy issues you AMDIT are lacking under Obama.
Ron Paul has killed no one and his foreign policy would likely prevent tens of thousands of deaths  . The fact that you would vote for someone and their policies that have killed so many blows my mind. I thought liberals cared about others … Wait, I get it … you only care for those less fortunate who are living and you care nothing for those who are killed.
Makes perfect sense.



How do you respond to Charles Davis’ piece?

“Democratic partisans – liberals – are willing to trade the lives of a couple thousand poor Pakistani tribesman in exchange for a few liberal catnip-filled speeches and NPR tote bags for the underprivileged. The number of party-line progressives who would vote for Ron Paul over Barack Obama wouldn’t be enough to fill Conference Room B at the local Sheraton, with even harshest left-leaning critics of the president, like Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi, saying they’d prefer the mass-murdering sociopath to that kooky Constitution fetishist.”



Dear Helene/Tim,

I got a number of letters about this last week. It’s pretty hard to make a counterargument when the initial rhetorical dichotomy offered goes something like this: either I support Ron Paul, or I support mass-murder.

First of all, I’ve always been against both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and have consistently ripped the Democrats for their cowardly “this is our war” position on Afghanistan. I think it’s immoral and have said so many times. I’ve even made it a point to note that I agree with Ron Paul about this – many times.

I once liked a lot of things about Ron Paul; I used to like him a lot. I agreed with him about many things, from his views on drug prohibition to his generally non-interventionist outlook and, most of all, his willingness to be different and even to occasionally disappoint his own followers, a rare quality in a prominent politician.

But I also disagree with him about other things. Paul thinks there is really no role for government in public life. He’s talked about abolishing half the departments in the federal government, including the Department of Education, the HHS, the Department of Energy, Homeland Security, the IRS… I mean, not that I enjoy paying taxes, but these are radical positions in my mind. He’s entitled to believe these things, but I don’t. I think the government does have a role in society. But the biggest problem I have with Paul didn’t strike me until after I spent time following his son’s Senate campaign.

Rand Paul’s run to me was a pretty crude exercise in racial signaling. When I followed the elder Ron Paul’s campaign in 2008, a lot of the people I met were intellectuals who had a genuine philosophical problem with government spending and the Fed, and who were really consistent about their limited-government beliefs – no welfare, but also no drug laws and no foreign interventionist wars. (You frequently found Ron Paul supporters who were more passionate about ending the drug war than they were about ending food stamps or whatever). I got along with almost all of these people, who were all unfailingly polite and respectful toward me. And I had a lot of respect for their views, even though I didn’t agree with everything they believed.

When I followed Rand Paul, though, suddenly I’m meeting hyper-aggressive Tea Party types who were in my face about being a communist before I even opened my mouth, and one interview after another devolved into harangues about how socialist “redistributionists” were stealing money from decent people to give to the lazy and undeserving. I asked probably a dozen Rand Paul supporters about Rand’s infamous Rachel Maddow interview and his views on the Civil Rights Act, and I didn’t hear even one who admitted the government had the right to tell, say, a storeowner that he can’t serve minorities. Inevitably, in these discussions, Rand Paul supporters would approach policies like the Civil Rights act as though they were purely intellectual controversies to be debated in a vacuum; I repeatedly had to point out that the Civil Rights Act was an extraordinary intervention that was necessary to reverse a long campaign of terrorism, apartheid and genocide by unrepentant whites in the South.

It struck me afterward that the Ron Paul strict-constitutionalist rhetoric is a very convenient mask for the Nixonian “Southern Strategy” racial-resentment politics. You rail against all government intervention, but the real anger is toward affirmative action, welfare, health care, and so on. Before George W. Bush imploded, that sort of thinly-veiled race-baiting politics was mostly the province of guys like Karl Rove and Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes. Once Bush and that brand of Republicanism lost popularity, though, the Southern-white-resentment movement needed to reinvent itself, and one of the ways it did that, I think, was to appropriate the more intellectual-sounding theories and rhetoric of Ron Paul. Instead of bluntly anti-immigrant, anti-minority manipulations like the famous Jesse Helms “white hands” commercial, now we’re just cheering for the Constitution and Freedom and “the Austrian school.”

I came to all of these conclusions before I even heard about the crazy history of Ron Paul’s newsletters in the eighties and nineties, which are full of paranoid rantings about blacks and gays and communists and prone to lines like “Order was only restored [in the L.A. riots] when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.” Paul has denied that he wrote any of the crazy entries in these newsletters, but at best he exercised extremely bad judgment in letting some of these things (how about calling MLK a “communist philanderer”?) in there go out under his name. You add that to the fact that neither of the Pauls seems particularly troubled by the racially-heated overtones of their campaigns, and Ron Paul becomes a guy I can’t vote for. Which, as I said, is too bad, because I do agree with him on a lot of things, and I have a few good friends who are faithful supporters. 



One more letter on this topic:



I would implore you to read FA Hayek’s ‘The Road to Serfdom,’ (the bedrock of Austrian Economics) and then tell me it is simply “intellectual horseshit.” Hayek lucidly ties economic theory to the practical erosion of political liberty which was occuring during the rise of fascism in the 1930s, and warns of the dangers of Keynesian style economics which are eerily familiar today. Moreover, Ron Paul dismisses such policies as ‘affirmative action’ because they are simply impractical and not consistent with the American political tradition. Affirmitive action repudiates any notion of equality, and allow me to quote Orwell’s cynical maxim in ‘Animal Farm’ which quite succinctly sums up its consequences: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” The fact that certain kooks like Jesse Helms agree with the principles of liberty espoused by Ron Paul is irrelevant. I would wager you subscribe to the traditions of economic determination and positivism as a basis for government, so if I had the forum you possess I would be able to link those ideas with those of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. It’s a dangerous two-way street and not conducive to political discourse.

-Jeff Billman

p.s. I agree that Rand Paul bungled the civil rights act thing from the Maddow show, but the media attacking him for bringing up philosophical qualms about its constitutionality further underscores our proclivity for not being able to engage in mature political discussion.



If I had a penny for every time a Paul supporter told me to go read The Road to Serfdom, I’d have… well, I’d have about eight and a half bucks, but that’s still a lot, when you think about it. Reporters down in Kentucky laughed to me about the same experience; see the hilarious “White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo” the excellent folks at Barefoot and Progressive drew up.

And once again, I love being linked to Pol Pot because I believe in things like Stafford loans and the SEC. It’s odd the way so many of the Paul supporters use this uniquely Glenn Beck-ian style of argument, whereby every idea is instantly carried to the far extreme; you voted for some milquetoast Democrat to your local school board, therefore you’re a Stalinist craving total government. I understand where this is coming from with Beck, because Beck is a former drunk and drug addict – he can’t imagine having one drink without eventually having fifteen, so moderation of any kind is an alien concept to him. But where is it coming from everyone else?

By the way, I have read The Road to Serfdom, and to me it’s right up there with The Fountainhead, Cherneshevsky’s What is To Be Done?, and Beck favorite The 5000-Year Leap on the all-time list of pretentious, badly-written Bibles of political quackery.


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