My friend, Bryian Revoner — political activist and author of the book, “The Fear of Being Challenged: Democratically Independent; I Am the Realacrat” — generally eyes the political field with a fairly non-partisan eye (while I, on the other hand, wield the partisan sledgehammer). It’s often hard to view Ron Paul as a menacing figure, though I believe he is . . . as, it appears, does Bryian. He writes:
There is no other politician/candidate that has perplexed me like Congressman and presidential nominee Ron Paul. While other buffoons such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain often sound more like misinformed novices struggling to make entry level with some of their less-than-stellar deductions, which are quite often laughed off as harmless gaffes reflecting the true disconnect of politician rhetoric and main street America, the ideologies of Ron Paul come across as much more than some half-hearted gaffe or media response food for the late-night comedians.
Speaking as a progressive, it is obvious to me that Vice President Joe Biden has also made his fair share of questionable statements. Even my favorite candidate/politician, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, struck out the gaffe way with her cock-and-bull story about ducking sniper fire during her trip to Bosnia in 1996, but many of Paul’s statements are not really gaffes in the conventional definition of gaffes. They might be considered by many to be gaffes based on the outlandish nature of the suggestion, but the ideological intent behind the outlandishness is a sign of something far more serious and problematically more controversial. And unlike a gaffe, many of Paul’s statements seem flagrantly feasible and suggestively serious, at least within the ideologies of his mind, his rhetoric, and his politics.
Commentary by Julie: It’s tempting to dismiss GOP candidate Ron Paul as a sweet little doddering nutty professor, harmless and just a little on the kooky side. But it’s also dangerous to dismiss him as that. Ron Paul is a calculating political creature – and while it’s true he remains true to his convictions, those convictions spell danger were he ever to occupy the White House as president. I don’t believe Ron Paul says anything he doesn’t mean, and therein lies the problem. It’s been bandied about that Paul leans toward a white supremacist attitude. But what he really does is garner support from quite a few anti-government groups full of extremists, from Stormfront to the Nationalist Coalition. Being a white supremacist is not generally socially acceptable (to most Americans); but being anti-government is socially acceptable enough to become a viable platform, and it’s a platform that is attracting the nuts. The fact that anti-governmental individuals are often associated with white supremacist groups is a slippery slope that Paul is attempting to climb up. His campaign claims it doesn’t know anything about these fringe supports – but his message resonates with them all the same.
In the wake of what could turn out to be the sequel to Hurricane Katrina on the east coast, Ron Paul has decided to weigh in on Hurricane Irene by suggesting that a return to the early 1900’s would be a definite improvement in U.S. hurricane responses, by eliminating the federal government’s involvement and leaving it all up to the states and the local governments. This type of rhetoric is nothing new for Paul. Earlier in the year, he made a similar suggestion based on the historic flooding of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, as he again championed the resilience of the states and local governments, while bludgeoning the meddling involvement of the impotently counterproductive, federal government, by stating that people should get out and build their own levees, which many of them do, but Paul wants the federal government out of it all together.
My limited admiration for Ron Paul is no secret. He is the most independently thinking conservative in the Republican Party or the conservative brand as a whole, and some of Paul’s ideas are moderate enough and sensible enough that many progressives and Democrats can agree with them. Within this artificially inseminated environment of spending cut, deficit hawking that was dubiously missing throughout the Bush administration, his call to end the wars finds acres of common ground with progressives, Democrats and Realacrats like me. His call to scale back the unofficial, American empire abroad is also something that many outside of the Republican/conservative brand can agree with, but there is an appropriate reason why my presidential vote for Ron Paul will not happen anytime soon.
Commentary by Julie: “Limited admiration” says it for me: On the one hand, I appreciate a person who doesn’t let the wind blow his convictions about. On the other hand, though, when the convictions are dangerous to American as a whole, I find it threatening. As noted by Thomas B. Edsall of the Huffington Post: “The white nationalist and anti-Semitic support flowing to the Paul campaign reflects one of the difficulties facing candidates who do not fall into the midstream: that often their views on less controversial subjects like trade and the power of the federal government to take property through eminent domain also appeal to extremist groups.”
Simply put, Paul is just too dangerously obsessed with the parameters of what is and what is not constitutional, and that approach is about as unorthodox and bizarre as any presidential nominee has positioned themselves in recent memory, if not ever. The president is supposed to carve out a vision for the future and try to restore confidence in the American dream, and it is more than unclear how putting everything from life as we know it to the right or need of a federal government to even exist in any capacity on the constitutional, chopping block achieves any of that. So while the critics accuse President Obama of harboring too much uncertainty, just wait until Paul becomes president and runs every conceivable, political notion through the constitutionality meat grinder. Maybe Paul thinks that he is running for Supreme Court Justice instead of the presidency.
Speaking of the Constitution, that’s one of its greatest attributes; the designation of the judicial branch to uphold the Constitution by deciding what makes the constitutional cut and what does not make it. As president, Paul can nominate judges to sit on the Supreme Court of the judicial branch, but that is about as far as his input can go in the unconstitutional debate, unless he plans to become a lawyer and argue the constitutionality of his beliefs personally.
Commentary by Julie: This is where I believe Ron Paul is calculating, and far from harmless. If he can convince enough Democrats, who aren’t reading between the lines, that he’s just a benevolent anti-war dude, if he can quietly appeal to extremist groups without directly soliciting their support, if he can make people believe that he’s different from the standard GOP cookie-cutter candidate, that he’s a kinder, gentler, GOP candidate, he may garner more support than deniers predict. True, in the past, his candidacies have not gained traction – but this environment is different from most in history, and predictions are nothing but educated guesses. He is scary, indeed.
As smart as Paul is in an independent realm, his Libertarian platform is about as troublingly self-inflicted as it can get. Suggesting that things like FEMA services, levees, and Social Security are constitutionally questionable enough that they should be federally eliminated makes Democrats cringe, Independents pause and quite a few Republicans and conservatives coddle their political doubts about Paul, who, unlike another famous politician, has the Libertarian beliefs to truly go rogue and the ideological wits to make it happen, because by the time he’s done with his Libertarian buzz saw even the White House might be unconstitutional by its very existence. Needless to say, there will be no membership into the Libertarian Party for me. There just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground available. And whether it’s a feast or a famine, it still appears to be one extreme to another!
Commentary by Julie: Ron Paul has certainly shaken hands in the past with a racist belief system – and his attempts to deny that his past and present messages resonate with white supremacists and other anti-government extremists is simply not founded in logic. In newsletters that he wrote in the 90’s, and later defended, he made disparaging statements about Dr. King, made racially charge statements about young black girls, and blamed blacks for the riots in Chicago in 1992 after the Bulls won the NBA championship. Given his past sentiments regarding the minority population, the fact that he believes the government should get out of the helping business – which would greatly impact minorities – shows a callousness toward minorities, as well as a racist bent, that can’t simply be explained by politics.
So in total disagreement with Paul, the government should be availably involved with the welfare of the American people; welfare meaning business, security, and overall safety. The federal government has a vested interest in the American people and for a good reason. Without the American people, there is no federal government or any form of government. The American people represent the gas that powers the engine of the country/government, and it’s in the best interests of the country/government to do whatever it takes to keep that engine humming along in spite of any coughs, sneezes or hiccups, and it wouldn’t hurt the almighty private sector to take a few notes on that.
In case Paul hasn’t figured this out yet, a big and important piece of the united part of ‘United States of America’ is the federal government. Without it, the entire picture becomes 50 plots of land that may or may not be civil to each other. A few of these plots of land would probably become countries, while many of the smaller, weaker plots of land would, in all likelihood, be consumed by bigger plots or possibly even by other countries, and that’s not America, and it certainly is not constitutional.
In the end, telling people to build their own levees and rebuild their own cities after a national disaster is just a lot of tough talk at an even tougher problem that’s done a lot easier when it’s from a position outside of peril. Hurricanes, flooded rivers and other natural disasters will come and go, along with some manmade disasters, but the proper role and relevance of the federal government in our society is a question that is here to stay until certain, political segments decide to remove their heads from the asses and find the imaginary line that’s actually visible to those with open eyes and open minds. So consider this Ron Paul.
How about a government that’s big enough to help the people when they need it, smart enough to step back when they don’t need it, savvy enough to encourage business, regulatory enough to keep business safe and fair for the consumer, authoritative enough to enforce such regulations, good enough to support the American dream and fair enough to allow it to happen, diligent enough to prevent possible threats, and strong enough to respond when they can’t be prevented with something a little more substantive than slinking back to 1900 to build your own levees and kiss Hurricane Irene, while Washington sits back and watches as jobs go overseas while rebuilding other nations around the world wearing a t-shirt with “We’re the greatest nation on earth” on the front and “American Exceptionalism” on the back, with a small inscription at the bottom that reads: “Just don’t ask us to do anything; yours truly Ron Paul?”
Author of the book The Fear of Being Challenged: I Am the Realacrat
Commentary by Julie: Whatever fringe lunatics the garden-variety GOP candidates, such as Bachmann, Perry, Romney and Cain, don’t collect, Ron Paul will be left with. Although all of the GOP candidates have as a point of pride a “get the government out of our life” schtick, Ron Paul among them would likely appeal to the bunker mentality – if you actually listen to what he says, he’s a sort of benevolent Glenn Beck without the chalkboard. The rhetoric is the same, but Paul’s is couched in phrases that smack of intellect, not sheer emotion. His dog whistles to the extremists are subtle enough for him to effectively deny them. With the stable of candidates the GOP has to offer, Ron Paul, though not easily defined, may appeal to a more “moderate” voter . . . but this “doddering nutty professor” should not be so easily dismissed. He’s much, much more than that.