The Lazy Anti-Politics of the Paulites


Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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60 Responses

  1. Avatar Erik Kain says:

    I was recently called a Paulbot by an Obama supporter.Report

  2. Avatar b-psycho says:

    When this reader calls Paul “the one to give us back to ourselves,” who, exactly, does he think we’re currently in the possession of?

    Self-serving politicians and crony capitalists, maybe?

    Real problem with the “Ron Paul is what we’ve been waiting for!” types, other than somehow brushing aside what culturally to most of them should be like salt to a snail, is that they don’t take their dismissal of the political system to its logical conclusion: based on the depth of rot as they describe it, why look for a savior at all? What is worth saving?

    If people were claiming to be proud atheists because they rejected all religions except for one, that would sound ridiculous.  The cheers for Ron Paul sound like outright opposition to the state except for if only Ron Paul were in charge of it.

    Recognize that there’s a reason the new boss is the same as the old boss.

    Sure: because what people complain about with each boss is in fact the essence of being boss. Rather than constantly seeking a new one I’d say they should refuse to recognize the authority of any.Report

  3. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Well clearly…Things didn’t change instantly the first time, so clearly there’s something wrong with the system.

    If only the evangelicals and movement conservatives had had this attitude 30 years ago….Report

  4. Avatar Murali says:

    that an Obama Presidency would cease the eternal, natural, and healthy jockeying for power that is politics

    See, Mr Isquith, the thing is, the eternal, “natural” jockeying for power that is politics is not healthy. We might cynically say that it is unavoidable.* But it seems that we would require a fairly perverse value system to see such zero sum and negative sum games as healthy.

    Ideally, we should have an apolitical governance system. But if that is unachievable, then we should at least aim to achieve one as far as we can.

    *It seems that the jockeying for power can be reduced by reforming the political structures. This is not just an anti democratic screed. A lot of Westminster style parliamentary democracies seem to have far less lobbying and special interests than the US.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      There’s also far more controls on political donations. Also, constituencies are far smaller and as a result, you have to be more of a retail politician than a congressman in a exurb that only communicates via TV ads.

      There’s a large difference between say, Congressman Bob who has a massive car factory in his backyard trying to get subsidies for massive car factories instead of Congressman Bob trying to get subsides for a pharmaceutical company because they dumped a fuckload of money into his PAC.

      So, yeah. Public financing + A 2,000 member House probably equals less lobbying power. You’ll still have special interests because of geographic reasons, but not special interests because of buckets of money.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        The ability of congressmen to make amendments to a bill also is part of it. In westminster systems, you vote on it as it is or it gets sent back. That prevents  you from tacking on earmarks left right centre (or at least its reduced greatly). I’ll also give you public financing if you give me time and place restrictions on political campaigning (Campaigning to start not more than 3 months before election day) Or else with the perpetual political campaigning going on in the US, politicians would vote to set aside more and more of the budget for political campaigns.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I don’t like the Paulite messianicism much more than the Obamunist messianicism, but there is a fundamental difference between what Paul is promising and what Obama promised. Obama promised to take the decisions that the government currently makes for us and make them differently. Paul promises to take many of those decisions out of the political realm entirely, devolving the power to make them to individuals.

      Those decisions may currently, in theory, be in the hands of us, collectively. But they’re not in the hands of us, individually. This seems to me to be a distinction that antilibertarians obstinately refuse to acknowledge. Now, there are respectable arguments to be made for the proposition that it’s better that these decisions should be made collectively than individually. And even the vast majority of libertarians agree that this is true of at least some decisions. But simply pretending that there’s no valid distinction between individual choice and collective democratic choice is not a respectable argument against libertarianism.Report

      • Those decisions may currently, in theory, be in the hands of us, collectively. But they’re not in the hands of us, individually. This seems to me to be a distinction that antilibertarians obstinately refuse to acknowledge.

        A very astute observation.  You bring up several excellent points.Report

  5. Avatar Murali says:

    Also, Merry Christmas, Happy Hankuah, Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays to one and all!Report

  6. I agree with the fundamentals of the Occupy diagnosis of where American democracy has gone astray; so I’m obviously not one to claim, absolutely, that there is no crisis of legitimacy in American democracy.

    Okay, I’m with you so far.

    The e-mailer’s implication that we voters ourselves are not in large part responsible for the policies of our country, that we didn’t reelect one man who decided to wage two wars simultaneously before electing another that promised along with ending the one to escalate the other, is a massive shedding of responsibility.

    Well, of course, that’s how a representative government works.  Except when SQL insertion attacks potentially allow election fraud at an unprecedented scale, as security researchers have identified is a primary threat to free and fair elections if paper ballots are abolished, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt so far.

    If people aren’t happy with their range of options, the answer is not to skip from one messiah to another (a process that is quite clearly delivering diminishing returns) and assume that what They do is entirely separated from Us. Recognize that there’s a reason the new boss is the same as the old boss. Do the work of self-educating, organizing, challenging, fighting. Grow up.

    That’s kinda the point.  Those who support Ron Paul (disclosure: myself included) do so because they have educated themselves, weighed their options from among the available slate of candidates, and have judged the policy positions of Dr. Paul to be the lesser of the available evils.  The current administration authorized the assassination of a natural-born American citizen without regard for the due process of law said administration was obligated to provide him (by the very Constitution every single member of that administration swore a solemn oath to uphold; viz. Article III Section 2 Clause 3, Article III Section 3, the Sixth Amendment, and especially the Fourteenth Amendment – see  Looking at the records of the available candidates, the only one who has a decades-long history of protesting government usurpation of power and the erosion of civil liberties is Dr. Paul.  His legislative history is well-documented – see this speech he delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives last February, after the failed first attempt to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki.  Then see this interview from 1988, filmed during his run for the presidency as a Libertarian – it is rather amazing that an American politician has been doggedly and consistently pursuing the same ideological agenda for at the very least the last 23 years.

    And stop kidding yourself about what a vote for Ron Paul represents. It is, at best, a superficial and fleeting gesture. An embellishment, symbolic through and through. Nothing more.

    And you accuse his supporters of being childish and irresponsible?!  Seriously, where do you get off making such an extravagantly arrogant statement?  Are you implying he has no chance?  I would counter that Dr. Paul’s solid base of (as you earlier stated) fanatical support has only been growing since the Ames Straw Poll he nearly won last August.  The most up-to-date analyses I’ve seen consider a Ron Paul victory at the Iowa Caucus a foregone conclusion, and still his candidacy is being ridiculed and his base of support dismissed.

    Will this continue, I wonder, should he also take New Hampshire?  It’s a distinct possibility – according to this article in the Boston Globe, Mitt Romney’s support in New Hampshire has fallen by 3 points over the last month, whereas Dr. Paul has been gaining the most in New Hampshire.  His support has risen by 5 percentage points since November, and the support he does have is far sturdier than Romney’s.

    And what about Virginia, on whose Republican primary ballot previous Flavor of the Week Newt Gingrich couldn’t muster up enough support to get on, despite the fact that he lives there?  This article in the Washington Post doesn’t make much of the fact that Ron Paul and Mitt Romney were the only two Republican candidates who mustered enough support to actually meet Virginia’s primary qualification, but it is a fact that on crucial Super Tuesday, the increasingly-important swing state will have only those two Republican choices, and conservative evangelicals are very leery of Mitt Romney.

    So what, really, is the point of this article?  That you don’t like Dr. Paul and you wish he would just go away?Report

    • Avatar Zach says:

      And you accuse his supporters of being childish and irresponsible?!  Seriously, where do you get off making such an extravagantly arrogant statement?  Are you implying he has no chance?

      What’s so arrogant about it? Paul likely won’t win the primary; he’s extremely unlikely to win in the general election, and he’s as completely incapable as any politician of effecting radical change to a political system that he’s part of.Report

      • Barack Obama wasn’t likely to win the primary in 2008, either.  I’ll grant you that Dr. Paul’s odds of a win in the general election are slim, but slim odds are distinctly not nonexistent odds.  As for enacting radical change to a political system he is a part of, he has vowed if elected to issue a presidential pardon to all non-violent drug offenders.  Legislation notwithstanding, that act alone (which is well within the purview of the authority granted to the POTUS by the Constitution) would immediately bring a radical change to, if not the political system as a whole, at the very least the American judicial system and its wasteful and counterproductive prohibition policies.Report

    • Avatar Mike says:

      Those who support Ron Paul (disclosure: myself included) do so because they have educated themselves, weighed their options from among the available slate of candidates, and have judged the policy positions of Dr. Paul to be the lesser of the available evils.

      I’m sorry but… I just can’t stop laughing at the inanity of this comment. Ample proof has been shown that on most of RP’s “principles” he is in one of three categories:

      1. Completely cuckoo for cocoa puffs (goldbuggery, isolationism, “charities will pick up the slack if we eliminate medicare”)
      2. Completely inconsistent (stuffing “must pass” bills with earmarks, then “voting against” them to pad his voting record – he’s recorded more earmarks than any other House representative from his state).
      3. Willing to play the “creative bullshit” game to get the same effect while “sticking to his principles.” Example: he’s “unwilling” to have the US military assassinate a known leader of an armed group we are at war against, but he’s happy to have the US Government issue a “Letter of Marque” and pay Blackwater to do the same exact thing.

      Which is why I can’t stop laughing – you’re nothing more than a deluded Paulite if you believe he is “the lesser of the available evils” on that basis.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    The point being missed is that Paul represents that rejection of representative governance grounded on progressivism where the failure of this gummint, regardless of political party, has resulted in a breech with the unwashed who perhaps subconsciously continue to maintain the quaint idea that gummint might properly be established on the ancient notion of a ‘transcendental representation’ where the symbolization of gummint’s function is established on the belief that it reflects or should reflect the divine order of the cosmos.

    Paul’s campaign represents a restorative effort to recapture those lost and abused symbols of the founding where the ordering force was interpreted as Jesus Christ. And, even though we have, by and large, rejected any religious notions. the failed ideologies. so faithfully served on these pages. have only exascerbated the social collapse.

    Paul’s campaign is actually a revolutionary-restorative act.


    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Hate to write this on Xmas Day, RC, but the Founders tabled the Jesus Christ part, mostly because of the unitarian [anti-Trinitarian] sentiments of a few key Founders.

      However, that gov’t “should reflect the divine order of the cosmos,” i.e., a “natural law,” was universally endorsed.Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Remember back when the pairing of your more practical political operatives and your naive movement idealists was considered a good thing?

    Good times.Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    In Defense of the Paul Folks:

    We endure too much government.  Our rusted political apparatus grinds and shudders, its armature and gearing loose on the worn bearings and clutches of a once-elegantly counterpoised engine.

    An increasingly irrelevant Congress refuses to do the business of the nation.  Dozens of appointments to department heads will never be filled.  What little government we need falls into ruin, its sins unpunished and its errors uncorrected.  The fog of secrecy camouflages the agents of tyranny as they advance into our lives.

    Who stands up to oppose these trends?  Not the Democrats, though they once complained about them.  Certainly not the Republicans, though they loudly preach the virtues of Small Government.   Such fits of conscience only trouble those who are currently out of power, seemingly.

    And ever the Newspeak of tautological self-justification as these endless and fruitless wars dig us ever-deeper into debt, the sort of debt which once brought the Kings of France and Spain and Britain low.  There will come a judgement day when the rich corporate arons will push a pen in front of some sullen and bloated President and he will sign a new Magna Carta.   Our current mountain ranges of obligations and taxes will crush us eventually.   Debt is not so much a cruel master but a calculating tyrant.

    Obama came to power with a mandate for change.  If he did not get all he wanted, he got enough to show his heart was in the right place.  As Bush the Dumber took Teddy Kennedy’s No Child Left Behind Act in hand (and put it on JFK’s desk, it surprised Teddy to see it taken out of storage and back in the Oval Office), so Obama took Mitt Romney’s Massachussetts health care legislation and rammed it through Congress, using the mass of Obama’s political capital as a battering ram.

    Were the Obama fanatics childish and irresponsible in their beliefs?   Obama had demonstrated his bipartisan bona fides in both the Illinois and US Senates.   As the Cold War had attenuated much of the rabid bipartisanship of those times, so did the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.   Obama cruelly and unfairly whacked Hillary Clinton for her vote on Iraq but he installed her as Secretary of State once in office.  It is not Obama’s fault that Gitmo was never closed:  the GOP stopped it.  Nor is it Obama’s fault the GOP couldn’t see its way clear to backing what they’d cheered when Romney did the same in the Commonwealth of Massachussetts.   Obama really did try to find some measure of bipartisanship.

    Gandhi failed in India because he never had a Muslim counterpart.   Liberals like Obama tried to find bipartisan allies but none were ready to step into the light.  I will not say Obama tried hard enough, I just don’t know.   But it seems clear the GOP didn’t try at all.   Their objective was to stymy Obama.   The lies and vilification began immediately as they had in the days of Clinton.  Clinton deserved a good deal of what was thrown at him.  Obama did not.

    If Ron Paul is a vastly imperfect exponent of his own principles, let us not forget in our haste to damn those who seek power our responsibility is to provide the accountability.  Running for high office in this country is an exhausting, grubby, filthy business.   Ron Paul has managed to steer clear of much of that filth all his life and gets no credit for obeying his conscience where others have exhibited no scruples at all.

    I may not agree with him but I admire Ron Paul for his ruthlessly precise dissection of what’s gone wrong in this country within the political system.   I was an Obama Fan once upon a time.  Time and tide have worn away the nimbus of idealism which surrounded him.   Ron Paul’s been watched for lo these many years.  He may be a nickel-plated idiot to some of us, but that plating hasn’t worn through.   There’s something to be said for such a man:  that he was true to his ideals in the face of an inconstant world.Report

    • Avatar Erik Kain says:

      BlaiseP –

      This is quite brilliant. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Coming from you, that means a lot.   If only I could go back and change a few words, I’d change rabid bipartisanship to rabid partisanship… and put a b on baron, heh.Report

    • Avatar Surf (Roger) says:

      I’m convinced… Let’s give him a try and see how he does.Report

    • Avatar James K says:

      let us not forget in our haste to damn those who seek power our responsibility is to provide the accountability

      This is a very important point, ultimately the only thing that can truly rein in government excess is electoral sanction.  One of the reasons your government has become so crummy is that the typical American voter is asleep at the tiller.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        “The Government”  is the hallmark of the lying demagogue.   Properly speaking, it’s “Our Government”.

        The problem goes deeper than mere electoral sanction.   We are a republic.   We depend on the constancy of our representatives.   The tough decisions are usually unpopular:  to that end we set up a Senate as a bulwark against every idle populist whim and gave the senator six years to ensure he would consider it a full-time job.

        What went wrong?   The voters aren’t asleep at the tiller.  They’ve given up.  Americans understand full well all these demagogues promise Change, as if their august presences would edify their fellow Congresscritters and sweetness and light will ensue forthwith.

        We tolerate these glib pronouncements and fearmongering half-truths because we’re telling the same lies to ourselves and each other in the little Echo Chambers of the Land o’ Blog.  There’s no real debate between Liberals and Conservatives.   Where once the Conservatives sought to preserve much that was good and true, now they view their mandate as an exercise in pushing the envelope, knowing full well we won’t hold them accountable.

        Liberals are now reduced to spluttering outrage, defending the principles once held by the Conservatives of yore.   The Congress has become a Ship of Theseus, transmogrified into some hideous parody of itself. We don’t vote because we know it doesn’t matter.

        A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
        Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
        Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
        That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
        Were axioms to him, who’d never heard
        Of any world where promises were kept,
        Or one could weep because another wept.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          It’s not about ideology.  The entire western world wants more government and social services that it can pay for.

          The only thing that’s changed is that we could mostly pay for it in preceding decades, but now we have an older population and competition from 2+ billion people who used to be the 3rd world and are now more second world.

          The math on the “war” bleat doesn’t add up.  Even @ $1+T, [and Afghanistan was the “good” war], annualized over their 10 years, the $100+B per year is smallish next to our $1+ trillion annual deficit.

          The OECD social democrat paradises don’t even have much in the way of defense budgets, yet only a handful like the diligent Germans [eins, zwei, drei!] can make a fiscal go of it.

          A President Paul is a chimera, just as Candidate Hope & Change and #Occupy were, an inarticulate—nay, inarticuable—rage at the reality of the math and at the Rolling Stones, that You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

          The fault lies not in our stars or our systems, but within ourselves. [And our math.]Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Hie thee to the spreadsheets and calculate the interest on a trillion dollars in debt for wars waged on the chit.   Then get back to me about its Goodness.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Past wars, not the Iraq bleat.  Get back to me with the figures yrself, Blaise.  Mushing it all together is sophomore bull session stuff.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh that’s precious.   Here I am, trying to put forward a bit of advocatus diaboli and BOHICA it’s back to the same tiresome circuitous crapola burning in the fire which goeth not out.

                Merry Christmas, Tom.


              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                So I guess that means you’re not going to do the math, Blaise.  I don’t blame you.

                I’m rather with Elias’ title here re lazy anti-politics.  This passes for wisdom in some quarters.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Tom, what I do or don’t do is not your concern.  I do not jump and bark at every blast on your dime store dog whistle.   The history of nations that go into endless wars is clear enough to me, if not to you.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Blaise, I keep ruining your fun with the facts.  Sorry, man.  Rock on.  Enjoy your Christmas.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The relentless and self-perpetuating miracle of compound interest is on my side of this argument, not yours.   That, and a handful of hapless Swiss Guards fighting back the mob in August of  at Palais des Tuileries in 1792 give me every reason to believe this nation and its government will not reform itself quietly.

                Facts, heh heh.   The Spanish did two things with all that gold.   One, they gilded the inside of their churches and two, they spent every last penny of the rest on wars in the Netherlands.   Van Dyke is a good Dutch name, you should know the story well enough.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:


                The unions know a fight when they see one. So does Anonymous, and a bunch of other rabblerousing, distributed groups.

                May our change become legal, and may it happen with the least amount of bloodshed.

                And G-d bless America, for believing that we CAN Do Better!Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Has Ron Paul actually managed to steer clear of the grubby, filthiness? Has he actually obeyed his conscience?

      I’m not convinced. Particularly when you consider the racial attitudes of his Texas home district and the simple fact that many of the stands he takes are electorally advantageous in a neo-confederate heavy area of the South, there’s simply not a lot of times where he was asked to stand up and be courageous by taking a stand that was substantively unpopular with his own constituents or his own support base. It speaks volumes that the campaign of Lefty Morris suffered blowback NOT for racist pandering, but trying to expose Paul’s connection to the letters. The TX-14 is hardly a bastion of racial cosmopolitanism. Indeed the newsletters and the vile rants contained in them got him more votes than it lost him there.

      The newsletters and the reactions of many of his constituents to them speaks not to bravery, but cowardice. His inability to confront or even expose the true author (assuming they were not his) of the vile, pandering neo-confederate racist literature is a blot on his record. The fact that while decrying government spending, he continually brought home substantial amounts of money to his home district in ways that were, to say the least, counter to the principles he espouses.

      Moreover as a Texas representative, he and his constituents profit wildly from the inequities created by the distribution of congressional seats in his home state. Being against the Voting Rights Act under those circumstances is hardly principled nor conscientious.

      Let’s also not pretend he’s some sort of peacenik. He is perfectly fine with providing private armed forces letters of marque and reprisal (effectively the sanction of the US government to use force beyond its borders as a contracted representative of the state) having authored legislation to this effect against Al Qaeda in 2001, and promoting its use as a counter to piracy in 2009. Nevermind that the international rule of law (something he claims, on numerous occasions to “care about”) has long regarded the issuing of letters of marque and reprisal as unfit for modern states to engage in. Of course now that he’s gotten positive press for his “let’s pull out of Afghanistan tomorrow” stance, he’s trying to play up his anti-war bonafides. But he’s perhaps about as anti-war as Elizabeth I, who using privateers to finance her conflict against Spain could disavow using official English resources for a simmering conflict.

      No, Paul’s not principled, nor conscientious. Just opportunistic and supported by people who are manifestly incapable of acknowledging his faults due to their overwhelming need to find a messiah figure.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Nevermind that the international rule of law (something he claims, on numerous occasions to “care about”) has long regarded the issuing of letters of marque and reprisal as unfit for modern states to engage in.

        Does international rule of law have an opinion on what the other fella is doing?Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Jaybird, bringing up “well the other guy does questionable things” isn’t really a defense, but at the very least the Obama Administration has placed someone with genuine international law bonafides and scholarship on the subject on the matter.

          Now I understand that Harold Koh is viewed by the Greenwalds of the world as some sort of Judas, but I found his arguments in support of targetted killings to be persuasive from a legal point of view. Whether or not this is justifiable from a MORAL standpoint is a different matter.

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            There are, of course, a million ways to look at any given dynamic.

            You can look at it from a perspective of absolutes and grade on a scale of 1 to 100 (or whatever). You can look at it from a perspective of “well, how’s the alternative to this guy going to handle it?”

            In the case of Ron Paul, one of the reasons he’s held up as pretty good, in this case, is that he’s saying things that nobody else is saying and the topic of letters of Marque and Reprisal is one of those things that nobody else is saying.

            Attacking him for this not conforming with modern interpretations of international law is all well and good… but it seems to me that it’s fair to ask if whether what we are doing now is conforming with modern interpretations of international law.

            It seems to me that it’s not.

            Not only is what we’re doing not in conformance with modern interpretations of international law, what Paul proposes is *MORE* in conformance than what we’re doing now (as in, it would create less of a stink).

            This isn’t a “defense” of Ron Paul as much as pointing out that Not Ron Paul will give us a situation that is as bad if not even worse.

            (Though, I’m sure, very few people honestly care about Obama’s relationship with modern interpretations of international law.)Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              In this specific example, I was grading on the absolute of defending Ron Paul in himself despite his crackpot ideas and objectively absurd notions that undergird some of his political philosophy.

              As for a comparative view of Ron Paul, I don’t think he’s any better than the alternatives, and in many senses is substantially worse.

              We’re probably going to disagree on the merits, but I would argue that one of the foundational principles of the current international system is that States have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. The concept of letters of marque and reprisal come from an era where this was not necessarily the case. Moreover, the threats we’ve been most conditioned to consider the most of an actual security risk are non-state actors. Going in a direction where the use of non-state actors with sanctions to act with the use of force against other non-state actors in proxy-wars to me, strikes me as a regression of international norms, not a progression.

              In addition this is an individual who has repeatedly spoken in favor of withdrawing and defunding everything from the WTO, United Nations, International Criminal Court, Law of the Sea Treaty (granted US hasn’t ratified this) the IMF, the World Bank….the list goes on and on.

              International norms are more than about simply the use of force. And withdrawing from all of these norm creating organizations and overturning precedent on who legitimate users of force are is not, in any sense an improvement of the status quo.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                As it seems to me, we (the US) are plurality owners of pretty much all of those institutions.

                I suppose I can see why that makes them useful to us but… well, I can also see why folks might think that we shouldn’t be in charge of creating norms.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Suddenly it has become fashionable to run down Ron Paul as if he hasn’t demonstrated his refusal to take the filthy funds of special interest money.

        I know a little bit about Galveston, spent a good long while there.  Watched metro Houston spill out into both TX-22 and TX-14 and it’s sho-nuff chock-full of Bible Belt bozos with a remarkably un-biblical Senator Paul getting elected with his drugs policy and libertarian schtick and all sticking out like a baboon’s ass.  Ron Paul is rara avis in Texas politics.  Jeebus Chrispus on his birthday, trying to dub these poor oil-soaked folks Neo-Confederates fills me with mirth.   Ho-friggin’-ho-ho, the best soul food I ever ate in my life was cooked in Galveston.   It seems those Coastal Negroes don’t like the Filthy Finger of Gummint poked up their assholes any more than the remainder of Ron Paul’s constitutency, without so much as a kiss or a reach-around to boot.

        Now let me tell you something about these Racist Newsletters. When Ron Paul criticizes the manifestly fished-up Justice System for creating a generation of poor black criminals who now fill our prisons, a statistic beyond any dispute, we might well ask how things got this way.   As a Liberal, I find this statistic indicative of a government completely out of control, Anatole France’s endlessly capacious park bench upon which the rich and poor may spend the night with equal comfort.   Perhaps you have another diagnosis:  once there was a day when the rich feared the poor, knowing goddamn well what would happen if they weren’t integrated into society.

        Our nation has systematically undereducated and incarcerated many generations of black men and women.  Should anyone point out the consequences of paying the last three generations of them to be poor and fatherless, such folks are called racist.   The tyranny of enfeebled expectations is a terrible and dangerous sentiment, no answer to mankind’s continuing delusions of tribalism.  Let us be cautious in our justified condemnation of Ron Paul’s off base conclusions that we do not forget the facts behind them.   We Liberals have hardly corrected the vicious injustices visited upon the descendants of slavery.  Though our ancestors fought the Confederacy that all men might be free and equal, the black man fills our prisons far out of proportion to his numbers among the rest of us.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          I will take your point about Galverston. My Texas politics experience is primarily limited to Central Texas and the state legislature, so my reading of TX-14 is not as keen as yours. I had always considered that Paul held onto the district after his primary win in Laughlin because it was predominantly bible thumping, “Klan has done some good things” style gulf-coast southern.

          As for the newsletters, I don’t dispute that they speak to an overreach by government, but the way they were framed, distributed and worded is beyond the pale. They play to the worst fears of the “other” in society and do so in a way to rile up defensive paranoia in support of more localized control over that of the federal government.

          Moreover, Ron Paul’s obsession with the Federal Gummint and his extensive support for the right of state governments to do whatever the hell they want is indicative of a deeper failure, particularly in a state like Texas where national trends on racial disparities are in fact amplified and worsened.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Ron Paul has never thumped the Bible, though he is a Christian I do believe.  His conclusions about war and humankind are shaped by his faith.

            Life is long enough to give us all time to regret the past at leisure.   Without resorting to bicameral poxation,  Ron Paul is no more a racist than his accusers, rootling around for mud to smear a fundamentally decent man .

            Ron Paul’s conclusions and solutions are not mine.   I could never be a Libertarian.   Let me qualify that yea a smidge.   I couldn’t be a Libertarian as advertised.  I’ve thrown enough rocks at Ron Paul to ensure nobody will ever confuse me with a Ron Paul supporter.   But I couldn’t possibly consume a plateful of what’s currently on the Conservative menu these days.    I am Liberal, malgré tout, and if I can find it in my heart to defend Ron Paul from the most-scurrilous of these accusations, I am not above bouncing a few stones off his pointy little head.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I simply do not find anything fundamentally decent about appealing to the base and terrible instincts of scared, disenchanted people. Maybe that’s just our conceptual gulf.

              I also think, that a Texas politician who so thoroughly believes in “States rights” yet supposedly is also driven by the injustices perpetuated by government would be more quick to criticize how his home state handles the gamut of issues, particularly incarceration and capital punishment. Yet, he’s only spoken out on FEDERAL uses of the death penalty.

              I guess I simply don’t find the man palatable.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Were Ron Paul’s appeals to the base and terrible instincts of the scared and disenchanted the totality of his message, your opinion would be entirely justified.  Perhaps the gulf between us is my perverse insistence, pointing out much of that fear and anomie has a basis in fact.

                How I love the word “disenchantment” !   It is always used by the willfully stupid becoming wise against their will, dragged weeping and screaming into the bright light of day and out of the misty water-colored world of masturbatory fantasies.

                This nation is in serious trouble.   Nobody seems to point out the obvious, giving voice to the inchoate rage and anomie of a nation running low on hope.   Our deepest yearnings for peace on earth and good will to men are drowned out by the chittering condemnation of a generation of sophos-moros for whom nobody’s good enough.   Shelley told us in Prometheus Unbound:

                 The good want power, but to weep barren tears.
                The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.
                The wise want love, and those who love want wisdom;
                And all best things are thus confused to illReport

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I suppose my argument is more rooted in the fact that the base appeals do not have a productive end, at least in so far as addressing the root of the issue in question. The fear and anomie has a basis in fact, but rather than appealing to the angels of our better nature, Ron Paul had stoked those fires to push his own perverse agenda.

                I suppose my point is…given the terrible state of the STATE GOVERNMENT in Texas, and how much injustice is perpetrated in the name of the state’s uniqueness, I find it inexcusable that Paul would expend his energies on quixotic quests to end the federal reserve. The root causes of poverty and incarceration are terrible, and I’ve grappled with those numbers and statistics as well as the reality. Perhaps not as much as those who have the stomach to actively keep fighting in this specific policy arena (sadly, I’m not one of these people, my baliwick is international security and law issues) but I see greater evils done on  a state level that cannot possibly be remedied by one congressman ranting about the federal government while doing nothing to critique his own state.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                And what, pray tell, does Texas state government have to do with Ron Paul, representative to Congress?   There comes a point in the discussion where we must confine ourselves to what the man says and does.   Heaping obloquy upon him for the sins of his fellow-Texans is nonsense.   Ron Paul had plenty to say about Bush the Dumber and his insane War on Iraq, back when such opinions weren’t exactly the Height of Fashion.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                My point is that his energy was perhaps better focused on the abuses closer to home than making his way to the federal government with the aim of ending the welfare state and reenacting the gold standard. (And let us look back to 1996 when the congressman ran after an interval out of congress)

                Moreover, a man so preoccupied with states rights should probably have some idea of what those states are doing with the power they already have, when he proposes giving them more.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How would Ron Paul focus those energies if his mandate derives from his election to Federal office?   Riddle me that.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The point was more: If his instincts are so decent, his focus would’ve been on the abuses present in the state government (which was no better 15 years ago than today) rather than try to join in the Contract with America gains of 94 in 96.

                How do you square his support for state’s rights and the superior morality of the states, when his state has manifestly failed the weaker people in society?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Federal Government is an arm with seventeen elbows and fourteen wrists and it takes a postdoctoral degree to pick up a bottle of beer.    If the several states have failed to reform themselves, the overweening Federal Government has so insulated them from the consequences of their own bad decisions their powers to reform have atrophied.   Should a state take a dime of Federal Largesse, its authority is moot.

                The Federalist Papers outline this problem in considerable detail.   The Civil War changed everything and not all those changes were for the better.  I do not argue for or against the superiority of any governing body’s ethos:  I observe power varies as the inverse square of distance.   We might trust the states to reform themselves.   The Federal Government has vast powers, not all of which are wisely exercised, mostly because the all the states are thrust into this Bed of Procrustes.   If Ron Paul argues for states’ rights, he’s not entirely wrong.


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Let me add this in passing about state governments:  the shorter the trip between tax dollars and actual payment for government services, the fewer of them evaporate into the bureaucratic atmosphere.   Texas is hardly my ideal of state government, for the very reasons you’ve enumerated, but if all politics is local, and I believe this is true, what practical advantage is gained by those tax dollars wending their way to Washington DC before coming back to the states in terms of block grants?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I don’t see anything in my arguments that actually suggest there might actually be a practical advantage to block grants.

                Though I suppose I would argue there that standardization would be an important criteria for funding, given the vast disparities in how states operate their current systems.

                If we could force all states to be more like Vermont and less like Mississippi the country as a whole would probably be better off…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You might prefer Vermont but it has its problems.   Up close to the Canadian border, a group of hippies I knew back in the day set up shop in those parts.   After two years it started to resemble a Stephen King story.   They got them some folks up there who’d make Deliverance look like a Sunday School picnic.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Not claiming Vermont is perfect, Blaise.

                But have you looked at the lunacy that passes for government in this town? (I live in Austin for the record)

                Makes the US Congress look sane in comparison…no mean feat.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I have a soft spot in my heart for northern Texas.   Lubbock and Austin are wonderful towns, from the little I’ve seen of them.

                Just don’t ask me to write any encomiums for Houston, a city I know rather better than I want to.   The best vista of Houston is seen in the rear view mirror.   I believe someone with a .45 caliber pistol could shoot 1000 citizens of that damned town at random through the forehead at point blank range and not kill an honest man.

                It seems, if you are to be believed, Texas, like Louisiana, a state I know far better, is equally bereft of honest politicians.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Austin’s a fine town. And texas ain’t southern (leastaways, not most of it — east texas, yes, hill country’s german, north is mostly like Oklahoma).

                I’ve heard other people say similar about Houston…Report

    • BlaiseP-

      Are you a professional speechwriter?  If not, you should be.


  10. Avatar DRF says:

    I think you’ve framed the issue correctly, and with a perspective I haven’t seen to date.  Yes, one of the problems with the Ron Paul candidacy is that, at bottom, behind all of the conspiracy theories, it looks for someone to blame for our present condition.  I don’t know whether Paul himself believes this, but certainly many of his supporters do.  And Paul himself has, at least in the past, subscribed to a number of conspiracy theories.

    Similarly, I think that the Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann candidacies are fueled by the belief that some sort of outsiders are responsible for what they view as the breakdown in the morality and culture they believe they grew up with.  And Gingrich, who probably doesn’t really believe it, promotes the same sort of worldview to justify his candidacy.Report

  11. Avatar A Critic says:

    “who, exactly, does he think we’re currently in the possession of?”

    The state. It owns you. It brands you as farmers brand cattle. It controls your food, your medicine, your travels, your brainwashing, everything. Or at least it tries.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      It controls your food, your medicine, your travels, your brainwashing, everything.

      The state controls everything? Really? Is this maybe a convenient exaggeration to help make a point, or do you actually believe this?Report

  12. Avatar BradP says:

    When this reader calls Paul “the one to give us back to ourselves,” who, exactly, does he think we’re currently in the possession of?

    Xenophobic warmongers, technocratic monopolists, out of control justice/penal system, rampaging militaristic cops, captured regulators?

    How can you even ask this question while deriding the laziness of “Paulites”?

    Presenting the idea that the largest state in history and all of the people with their fingers in the cookie jar would start being good because all of the voters would start making rational informed decisions and the idea that the government has become a domineering force in and of itself that overrides the public will and individual wills, and deciding that the former is sensible, while the latter is “juvenile and facile paranoia” is even worse.

    You could have saved us all time by just admitting that you have an entrenched view of the proper role of the state and can’t even begin to understand the counter arguments.  Or you could have just not written this.Report