Ron Paul is Scary, But Those Who Cheer Him Are Even Scarier
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The scariest thing about no hope GOP presidential contender Ron Paul is not his fringe, odd-ball racial views. It's not that he polls in single digits in all national polls and has zilch of a chance to get the nomination. It's not that at times the GOP candidates sound just as racially isolationist as he does. It's certainly not that he will wow a national audience with his trademark shoot-from-the-lip zingers even if ABC and Fox recant in a moment of compassion and dump him back in a seat for their January 6 televised GOP New Hampshire presidential debate.
The scariest thing about Paul is that even though only a few hard core Paul backers will waste a vote on him, millions more seem to agree that his off beat views, especially on race matters, make sense. They even stand logic as high as it get can go on its head to defend their leader against all comers. That's especially true when it comes to Paul's views on race and ethnic politics.
That's not a small point given the open but more often sneaky role that race and ethnicity will increasingly play in the presidential derby. Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Bill Richardson have pulled out all stops to woo and court blacks, Latinos and Asian voters. They have made poverty, affordable health care, immigration reform, and job protections the linchpins of their campaigns.
Paul and the GOP candidates have done just the opposite. They duck, dodge, and deny racial issues. The only departure from their racial blind eye is to fan anti-immigrant flames. Paul has gone one better. In an ad, he demanded that students from alleged terrorist countries should be denied visas into the U.S.
Paul offered not a shred of proof that there are hordes of students pouring into America to commit terrorist acts. The ad was more than just a cheap ploy to fan terrorism fears. This reinforced the worst in racial and religious stereotyping and negative typecasting. The stereotype is that any one in America with a non-white face and is a Muslim is a terrorist.
Then there's Paul's now infamous slavery quip that he made on Meet the Press . Paul claimed the Civil War was an unnecessary bloodbath that could and should have been avoided. All Lincoln had to do was buy the slaves. Other slave promoting countries, asserts Paul, didn't fight wars and they ended slavery peacefully. Paul's historical dumbness would have been laughable except for four things.
One, he was dead wrong. Lincoln twice made offers to the slave owners to buy the slaves. They turned him down flat. The countries that freed the slaves without war, presumably France and England, unlike the U.S., did not practice slavery in their countries. And France did fight a war -- Napoleon's ill-fated invasion of Haiti to put down the slave revolt there.
Two, he's running for president and has a national platform to spout his wrong-headed views ( Meet the Press! ). Three, he's done and said stuff like this many times before. Among the choice Paulisms are that blacks are criminally inclined, political dumb bells, and chronic welfare deadbeats. There was also the alleged Paul hobnob with a noted white supremacist. Here's what Paul on his campaign website ronpaul2008.com has to say about race. In fact he even highlights this as "Issue: Racism" on the site.
"Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry." In other words, the 1954 landmark Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of education school desegregation decision, the 1964 and 1968 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and legions of court decisions and state laws that bar discrimination are worthless. Worse, says Paul, they actually promote bigotry by dividing Americans into race and class.
Paul's cure for racial bigotry is to change people's hearts. Whew!! The ghosts of Barry Goldwater, Strom Thurmond, the unreconstructed George Wallace, and packs of Southern States Righters and Citizens Councils big shots would lustily cheer Paul on that one. They railed for decades against the federal government's lift of even the tiniest finger to protect black rights and lives. Their stock line was that race relations can only change when hearts change. If we waited for that to happen the "whites only" signs would still be dangling prominently from every toilet and school house door in the South.
Paul's views are a corn ball blend of libertarianism, know-nothing Americanism, and ultra conservative laissez faire limited government. This marks him as a type A American political quirk.
Now there's the fourth reason not to laugh at Paul. And this is really what makes him scary. There are apparently millions that don't see a darn thing wrong with any of this and pillory anyone who does. They are even scarier than him. Maybe ABC and Fox should let Paul crash the New Hampshire debate. It's always good to see an extremist publicly confirm just how scary he and those that cheer him on really are.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press and Hispanic Economics New York).