Does Ron Paul's CPAC Staw Poll Win Show GOP Racism?
Ron Paulites are elated because their man won his first presidential straw poll of the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, with 31 percent of the vote. Paul decisively whipped Mitt Romney (22 percent) and Sarah Palin (7 percent), as well as Tim Pawlenty (6 percent) and Newt Gingrich (4 percent) and Mike Huckabee (4 percent).
No, it's not a scientific poll, but it is an indicator of the preferences of the conservative activist base. What is most disturbing about the vote, however, is Paul's long history of supporting racism, in his newsletter, and in his personal remarks.
Maybe the best thing written about Paul's racial views comes from New Republic article "Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul" by James Kirchick. As Kirchick explains:
The Freedom Report’s online archives only go back to 1999, but I was curious to see older editions of Paul’s newsletters, in part because of a controversy dating to 1996, when Charles “Lefty” Morris, a Democrat running against Paul for a House seat, released excerpts stating that “opinion polls consistently show only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions,” that “if you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be,” and that black representative Barbara Jordan is “the archetypical half-educated victimologist” whose “race and sex protect her from criticism.” At the time, Paul’s campaign said that Morris had quoted the newsletter out of context. Later, in 2001, Paul would claim that someone else had written the controversial passages. (Few of the newsletters contain actual bylines.) Caldwell, writing in the Times Magazine last year, said he found Paul’s explanation believable, “since the style diverges widely from his own.”
...the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.
Paul’s alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race. Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began,” read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with “‘civil rights,’ quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda.” It also denounced “the media” for believing that “America’s number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks.” To be fair, the newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans were “the only people to act like real Americans,” it explained, “mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England.”
This “Special Issue on Racial Terrorism” was hardly the first time one of Paul’s publications had raised these topics. As early as December 1989, a section of his Investment Letter, titled “What To Expect for the 1990s,” predicted that “Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities” because “mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white ‘haves.’” Two months later, a newsletter warned of “The Coming Race War,” and, in November 1990, an item advised readers, “If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it.” In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, “Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo.” “This is only the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s,” the newsletter predicted. In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter’s author--presumably Paul--wrote, “I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.” That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which “blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot.” The newsletter inveighed against liberals who “want to keep white America from taking action against black crime and welfare,” adding, “Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems.”
Kirchick's article goes on presenting mounting indications of, not only racism, but anti-semitism, homophobia and conspiricist paranoia in Paul's publications, comments and activities. Paul's response, according to Kirchick,
...Paul’s campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically--or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it.
An important point. There have been public figures who have admitted having a racist past and later renounced it, including Justice Hugo Black and Governor George Wallace. Paul has unwisely dodged the issue, instead of acknowledging the truth and apologizing for it. You could not blame minorities for suspecting him of harboring 'stealth' racism.
It can be argued that what many conservatives like about Paul is not his racism, but his sledgehammer government-bashing. Nonetheless, the CPAC vote does show that too many of them are either (a.) ignorant of Paul's long association with racist ideas, or (b.) know about it, but don't care. Both options suggest a high tolerance for racism, whether it's caused by ignorance or moral myopia.
Paul will never be on a Republican presidential ticket. But he could do some damage to the GOP by whipping up prejudice and bigotry to the point at which many swing voters decide they really don't want to be associated with a political party that has such a high tolerance for it. Thus far, no Republican leaders are holding him to account for his disturbing record on race, but that could change when the 2012 primaries begin.