Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Apostate Paul and Iowa

Ron Paul triptytch

update below [16 January]

I have no idea if Ron Paul is racist, although I'm inclined to think he isn't. But the vehemence with which people on both the ostensible left and the right have gone after him for his newsletters from years past, and implicitly his seeming unwillingness to disassociate himself with some of his evidently racist supporters is fascinating. I realize it isn't exactly the same thing, but I'm reminded of how Obama so eagerly repudiated the reverend Jeremiah Wright in 2008, and vaguely said we should have a "dialogue on race", then decided not to.

At the time I thought, what if BHO had stood by his friendship with Wright, offering the distinction that while he disagreed with his views, and added that a lot of us have friends and associates who have views we wouldn't want to defend, people shouldn't have to disown their friends in order to run for office. After all, to expect that of a pol means that, as a society we expect , in fact require, our politicians to be shallow and venal and pliable, to only stand up for comparatively uncontroversial virtues, and not offend us by sticking with their friends, or by expecting us to grasp nuance, like the idea that one can have a friend who holds disagreeable views and only be responsible for our own.

(Yeah, I know, I'm talking about Barach Obama, and it's pretty hard to imagine him ever behaving that way. At any rate I assume the establishment media would have excoriated him in much the way they're doing with Paul now.)

Now I also doubt Jeremiah Wright is a racist, but that's not really the point. Actually, I gather that Wright and Paul both disapprove of the imperial quality of American foreign policy, even if they might both have supporters who like their differently expressed views on this subject but wouldn't care for each other too much. (Maybe they should get together and talk about it and try to understand one another's views, without the big media mediating. I wonder what would happen.)

It's not that racism is no big deal, but you have to ask, whose racism are we talking about? Racism is about the dehumanizing of an other, right? I don’t hear anybody at The Atlantic or The National Review, et al, calling racism on, say, Hillary Clinton for joking “we came, we saw, he died” about the killing of Qaddafi, or on Rick Santorum for saying he’d pre-emptively bomb Iran even if they don’t have nuclear weapons, or on Obama for yukking it up at the Washington Press Club dinner about how funny it is to send unmanned drones after people you don’t like.

But Ron Paul is marginalized as crazy and dangerous and possibly racist because of his newsletters, and because he doesn’t do things like that, and in fact takes issue with long-standing US foreign policies of financially ruinous imperial overreach and the farce of characterizing resentment of the US as “hating us for our freedoms.”

(If anything, I’d argue that his desire that we turn away from an aggressive foreign policy that requires us to demonize people in far off lands who have oil and other goodies we want to take from them may serve as prima facie evidence that he isn’t racist.(1)

I will admit that I dislike many of Paul's positions. He would get rid of social security and medicare, and certainly his dismissal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act doesn't sit right with me. All the same even if Ron Paul doesn't approve of the civil rights initiatives from the 1960s, somebody like that seems less harmful than numerous establishment pols, both right and left, who won't say something like that but are okay with indefinite detention and the endless imperial wars. Doesn't not wanting to jail people without charges and not wanting to kill so many people trump unsavory views, alleged or otherwise?

We shouldn't have to choose of course, but in repudiating Paul it's not as if we get a choice anyway. The supposedly less crazy non-Paul-like politicians in both parties also want to gut social security, but they are less upfront about it, avoiding alarming us by explicitly telling us their plans, and arguing about super-committees and interminable stop-gap budget deals instead to distract and confuse us. I guess this is pretty big of them, even if it suggests they regard us as a nation of distressed Tennessee Williams heroines who need to be protected from the truth of what's being done to us.

The people on cable TV news tell us again and again that Ron Paul doesn't have a chance in the long run, that his base of support is passionate but narrow. Maybe that's true, at least of politically oriented people who think elections make sense and actively support the two-party system, even if they routinely tell pollsters how much they disapprove of the actual politicians.

Monday night I watched Erin Burnett on CNN talking about the Iowa Caucus and how the turnout for the polls were expected to be about 100,000 out of over half a million eligible to vote. (About 17% of eligible Iowa voters participated in 2008's caucuses.) In other words, the Iowa caucus is kind of a joke, because of the complicated caucus system, but also because of the traditionally low turnout.

Evidently its purpose is to push candidates who don't have money to burn out of the race, so that the "serious" candidates who do know how to raise buckets of money don't have to deal with the unserious in New Hampshire and elsewhere. The fact that it's a low-density, low-population state with lots of opportunities to showcase scenes of serious fundraiser candidates pressing the flesh and meeting normal people is a nice bonus. I guess noticing the ridiculously low turnout numbers and concluding that Iowans also think their caucus is a joke will simply mean you'll never get invited to those swell Washington D. C. parties the jus' folks fundraisers probably can't wait to get back to after Iowa is in the can.

Of course if Ron Paul did luck out and somehow win Iowa the script for that was ready. One imagines it would’ve proved how out of touch Iowa GOP voters are, at least according to the fine folks at the cable TV networks. (A week or so ago I saw a discussion on HLN(the former CNN Headline News) in which one of the panelists argued that Iowans should be concerned that if Paul won it would prove that their caucus was irrelevant, which struck me as the height of arrogance, and reinforced my long-held sense that Iowa is intended to weed out populists and others who don't toe the corporate line, or problematic figures like Ron Paul, whose views and appeal serve to highlight in sharp relief the phoniness and mutual complicity of the major political parties and the press who tell us about them.

Christian Science Monitor, "If Mitt Romney wins both Iowa and N.H., it may be 'game over'"

Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic,"Grappling with Ron Paul's racist newsletters"

Dave Lindorff, "Why the Establishment is Terrified of Ron Paul"

KFO, "How to prove bigotry"

KFO’s pal Glenn Greenwald at Salon,"Progressives and the Ron Paul fallacies"who writes

Ron Paul’s candidacy is a mirror held up in front of the face of America’s Democratic Party and its progressive wing, and the image that is reflected is an ugly one; more to the point, it’s one they do not want to see because it so violently conflicts with their desired self-perception.

Cüneyt,"Pardon My Glibness in Response to Glibness"

[FYI: The girl in the triptych above is pop singer Kelly Clarkson, who endorsed Paul last week. I was tempted to be willfully obscure and not tell you, but decided against it. I have no idea of her views of PIPA and SOPA, etc.]


JM of Political Anxiety Closet writes in the comments, sharing 3 links. One doesn't seem to work, but here are the other two:
Judd Legum, Think Progress, FACT CHECK: Ron Paul Personally Defended Racist Newsletters

Teddy Partridge, FDL Is Ron Paul Also Homophobic?

Both are from December 27th.


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At January 04, 2012 1:01 AM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hum, thoughtful post on Ron Paul. I won’t be voting this time just like the last time. I haven’t paid much attention to the clown show of this particular clown election because I don’t support any candidate. As far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to be president must be sick in the head and I do not mean that in the traditional sense. I mean it literally. Ron Paul has more problems than his views on safety nets and racism. He said that justice had been served with the murder of bin Laden and has also said some things regarding Israel that I find disturbing.

I no longer support government of any kind. I now view government as a vile and evil thing and that it has always been thus. So from that point of view I could care less about the election or who wins no matter what their patter is. What is Paul any way but a kind of reassurance that the “system” of checks and balances still work in some kind of cockamamie way. Paul isn’t going to change anything even if he is elected. Over at antiwar dot com Ron Paul is like some kind of fucking messiah but I think they are giving Paul much too much credit. The man is seeking the most evil and vile position of power in the history of humanity and I think that speaks volumes.

One has to wonder why the supposed choice is between having social security etc. and no wars like so many “wise” ones are saying. That’s just fucking stupid if you ask me. There is absolutely no reason that Americans should have to choose between safety nets, paltry and miserly as they are, and endless wars. Ideally we shouldn’t need them but having a government along with a capitalist society and a monetary system as well as fractured families where everyone is the king of shit we are going to need these safety nets. One thing to keep in mind is that the last ass wipe to win the election told one lie after another the only exception being his promise to escalate the war in Afghanistan so why should Paul be any different? Would he actually do what he says once elected? Seems to me Paul has been part of the system for a long time, he’s just a politician. And as far as I am concerned he can take a flying fuck at the moon as such. I don’t trust him. I wouldn’t trust anyone who wanted to participate in anything as vile as government especially this particular government.

Looking for a savior in the form of a new kind of president is just foolishness in my opinion. It’s like saying I want a new and better hole in my head. It may be new, it may even be different in some fractional way but it is still a hole in the head. Cheers.

At January 04, 2012 5:15 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

"...Over at antiwar dot com Ron Paul is like some kind of fucking messiah but I think they are giving Paul much too much credit. The man is seeking the most evil and vile position of power in the history of humanity and I think that speaks volumes.

Hi Rob, good to hear from you.

And yes, I agree that we shouldn't make Paul out to be some kind of messiah, which was part of the reason I did the 3 panel thing with St Paul and Popeye and Clarkson, although maybe that was too oblique a comment.

I should point out I'm not endorsing him or endorsing voting for any candidate, Dep or Rep.

Maybe I should have pointed this out in the main body of the post.

If voting still makes sense, assuming it ever did, it may make sense at the state and local level for (or against) specific ballot initiatives and sundry other non-sexy small scale stuff.

And I agree, we shouldn't have to choose between winding down the Empire and a safety net. The need to choose both should be abundantly clear to everybody, left and right, elites and normal folk.

At January 04, 2012 11:02 AM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hey Jonathan, I didn’t think you were endorsing Paul. This is an excellent post by the way, well thought out and very articulate.

At January 04, 2012 1:55 PM, Blogger Mimi said...

I agree, Rob, it's an excellent post--but I expect that from both you guys.
I'm glad both of you pointed out the obvious that seems to elude all the learned jerks who control our lives: We shouldn't have to choose between social safety nets and ending our murderous ways. Half my--very modest--income is from Social Security, but you know what? I paid into it for years and so did my husband. And because he was self-employed, he paid more than those who worked for others. I don't get as much because I didn't work outside the home for 18 years after marriage. I was raising four children, all of whom are bright, hard-working, and kind. When it comes to contributing to society, I think that ranks higher than the garbage from the whackos running the country--running it into the ground, that is.

At January 04, 2012 6:53 PM, Blogger Karl Franz Ochstradt said...

Jonathan, I love you!

My "pal"! HAH!


At January 04, 2012 7:57 PM, Blogger rob payne said...

Hi Mimi,

Nice to talk with you again and you have my sympathy. I’m sixty years old and haven’t worked in several years and with no hope of working again. I’m on a limited income myself and I’m too young to collect Social Security. I suspect that when I do qualify that it won’t be there if our Dear Leaders have their way. First they ship our jobs to China then they want to end the safety nets and somehow we are supposed to appreciate all they have done for us. Right. My house is now worth less than one half of what I bought it for thanks again to our Great Ones and the banks they work for. So, we are all screwed and pretty much in the same boat. Leaders equals murderers and thieves, a great bunch all in all. I hope you are doing well despite everything that is happening these days.

At January 09, 2012 10:47 PM, Blogger JM said...

He does he said some of the racist stuff here

There's also the picture

At January 09, 2012 11:09 PM, Blogger JM said...

P.S. Ron Paul is kind of homophobic too

At January 17, 2012 12:36 AM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi all.

JM, thanks for the links. Unfortunately it seems the Mondoweiss link no longer works. I guess that's what I get for ignoring the blogosphere for a week.


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