As candidate Ron Paul turns up the heat in Iowa, I see, rather predictably, that mainstream writers are turning up the heat on Ron Paul (see here, here, and here). At issue now are the 20 plus year old newsletters, many of which were filled with racist rants, all of which were written under Ron Paul’s name. Ron Paul has previously denied both writing the letters and knowing who did, but that doesn’t stop elite media types from trotting out that very same skeleton from the closet every few years, all in hopes that getting black folks all riled up will be enough to beat back the momentum of Ron Paul’s supporters.
But there are some very important questions we should ask before arming ourselves with pitchforks and tearing off to the nearest Ron Paul for President campaign headquarters. When discussing Ron Paul, it’s important to consider whether all things are equal. I mean, does Ron Paul’s political philosophy still lend itself to the racist rants of twenty plus years ago? Or does his Libertarian philosophy trump a two decade old racist rag?
I’m not saying that Paul’s association with the newsletter bodes well for his personal ethics, but it does demand that we weigh its proportionality. Historians have sharpened our perception of Lincoln by highlighting that he was a man of the times and, although he did emancipate the slaves and save the union, he didn’t necessarily believe in race equality.
More recently, the American electorate brushed off charges that candidate Obama was some sort of hate monger simply because his pastor said “God damn America”. In both cases, what we did was view these men in their specific context; Lincoln in the context of 19th century America, which included the antebellum south, and Obama in the context of the black nationalist church, born of the black resentment which was the natural outgrowth of white supremacy.
And if we conflate fact with fiction, meaning if we conflate campaign promises with executive action, then we’re also forced to weigh the potential impact of a candidate’s platform. And for African Americans, there are some clear winners on Ron Paul’s platform that don’t exist on either the platform of Obama or Romney.
Paul would pardon all nonviolent drug offenders, end America’s foreign policy adventures abroad which are siphoning billions from domestic programs, and end a drug war that disproportionately relegates black men to a life behind bars. This is big; certainly it’s bigger than anything we hear coming from the milquetoast campaigns of both the Democrat and Republican establishment.
This is not to say, however, that I don’t have issues with Ron Paul, just that my issues with him have little to do with race. For example, since I don’t buy into the notion that markets do a good job of regulating themselves, I don’t believe in Paul’s “right to work” (for pennies) initiative, nor do I buy into any plan which asserts that the solution to our energy crisis is to remove restrictions on drilling. These are both 20th century solutions to 21st century problems. I would also add that Ron Paul’s position on faith stands in direct contradiction to his Libertarian principles, so that too is a problem for me. But that’s me taking a principled stand. That’s me focusing on the issues of the day instead of the politics of the 1980’s. That’s me not responding to the dog whistles of politics. Not to be a narcissist or anything, but sometimes I wish folks would be more like me.