Is Ron Paul's 'conservatism' just plain old racism in disguise?

January 09, 2012

Thomas Schaller is to be commended for his commentary revealing a dark side behind the avuncular charm of Ron Paul ("Ron Paul disavows ... Ron Paul?" Dec. 28). As a progressive, I've long been skeptical (to put it mildly) of Dr. Paul's right-wing libertarianism, which prefers a rapacious market over community and an anarchic rugged individualism over social justice and human solidarity.

A society is much more than a market, and the individual is a social being. Democracy is a kind of community. And what would become of education, Social Security, health care and the rights of women, working people and minorities under a rightist libertarian administration?

But I didn't always suspect Dr. Paul of racism, even though his negative evaluation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made me wonder. Like most African-Americans, I am deeply aware of what my life would have been if that law had never been passed.

But I allowed that maybe Dr. Paul's attitude toward civil rights was more a part of the inherent weaknesses of his laissez-faire libertarianism than a revelation of racism. I saw him as Martin Luther King saw Barry Goldwater — a man who, "while not himself a racist," nonetheless "articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist."

The racist articles noted by Mr. Schaller and others reveal a different, darker side to the genial old contrarian who seemed to appeal even to many progressives. Can Ron Paul really expect us to believe he wrote none of the racist and homophobic materials that appeared under his name over a period of two decades? That he knew nothing about the bigoted propaganda he has now has conveniently decided to disavow?

How many conservatives who are so anxious to exonerate Ron Paul would be as anxious to exonerate President Obama if an "Obama Political Report" turned up espousing the racial ideas of the Nation of Islam? Conscientious citizens need to think very carefully before voting for Dr. Paul. Perhaps we all need to ponder the extent to which contemporary "post-racial" conservatism is the same old racism in disguise.

Robert Birt, Baltimore

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