Questions About The Ron Paul Campaign

David Bernstein, a law professor at my alma mater, and a co-blogger over at The Volokh Conspiracy, has been taking a lot of heat recently for comments he’s made about Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign and the reasons that he’s unable to get fully behind it, which he expressed in this post:

Ron Paul is a tempting protest vote, and I did support him in 1988 when he ran as a Libertarian, but he strikes me as running less of a “libertarian” campaign than a pacifist, populist campaign that does have some appeal to young and idealistic libertarians, but has too much appeal to the old, paranoid, and racist pseudo-conservatives. There seems to be a right-wing version of the Popular Front mentality among many Paul supporters: just like it was okay for Social Democrats to ally with Stalinists for “Progressive” ends in the old days, it’s okay to ally with 9/11 and various other conspiracy theorists, southern secessionists, Nazis and fascists, anti-Semites and racists, against the common enemy of the modern “welfare-warfare” state. Count me out!

I’ve expressed much the same opinion in posts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

It is, I think, an important point.

Just because libertarians might have some agreement with the likes of Stormfront or other groups whose ideology is clearly incompatible with individual liberty on some issues doesn’t mean that we should make common cause with them. It may be fruitful in the short term, but, in the long term, I fail to see how having anything in common with the likes of Alex Jones or David Duke helps the cause of liberty.

Unsurprisingly, Bernstein’s comments have engendered a lot of commentary from bloggers at Lew, and elsewhere but, as Bernstein notes, they haven’t answered a very fundamental question that I’ve been asking myself for months now:

[W]hy does Rep. Paul’s campaign find it so difficult to simply issue a statement in Paul’s name that he neither solicits nor welcomes the support of the likes of Stormfront? And why do so many of his supporters think it’s such an imposition to ask this of him?

It is I think, a perfectly legitimate question to which a good answer has yet to be given.

Update: Mark at Publius Endures links to this article and makes this point worth repeating:

The fact is, if Paul and his core supporters continue to refuse to distance themselves from the Stormfront, neo-Nazi, and conspiracy theorists, the Paul campaign will have a net negative effect on the libertarian movement in this country. If, however, he and his core supporters DO make a bona fide effort to distance themselves from this crowd, the Paul campaign has tremendous potential to advance the libertarian movement more than any other event since Atlas Shrugged. But in order for this to happen, Paul and his core supporters must must acknowledge that the prominence of the nutcases poses a legitimate problem that must be dealt with.

That’s all that I, and apparently others, have been saying. And the question seems to be whether the campaign itself turns into a replay of 1988 or the rebirth of Pat Buchananite nativism.

Update # 2: As one of the comments to this post notes, the campaign’s communications director has sent a letter to National Review responding to a Mona Charen column that was, for the most part, so nonsensical that I didn’t even bother posting about it.

The full text of the letter can be found here, but here is what seems to be the part most relevant to the issues raised here:

4. Dr. Paul is a modest man with a sparkling record and unimpeachable personal integrity. I understand why you need to attack him by linking him to less-than-savory individuals (there is simply nothing else to use), but it is just not going to work. Some of your charges are silly. Dr. Paul’s “Texas Straight Talk Column,” for example, is public record and anyone, from the American Free Press to Cat Fancy, has the right to reprint it.

Yes, Ron appears on the Alex Jones radio program. But you know who else talks to Alex Jones? People like Judge Anthony Napolitano. Guess who hosts Alex Jones? FOX’s John Gibson and National Public Radio. Dr. Paul has said time and again that he does not believe 9/11 was an inside job. He does, however, think we should always question authority. When, by the way, were conservatives supposed to become trusting of big government?

Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity, and the protection of inalienable individual rights. He knows that liberty is the antidote for racism, anti-Semitism, and other small minded ideologies. Dr. Paul has focused all of his energy on winning the presidency so he can cut the size of government and protect the freedom of every American. Neither he nor his staff is going to waste time screening donors. If a handful of individuals with views anathema to Dr. Paul’s send in checks, then they have wasted their money. I cannot profess to understand the motivations of Don Black as neither Dr. Paul nor I know who he is, but a simple Google search shows that his $500 contribution has netted him at least 88 news hits, including Charen’s column. Perhaps a better explanation for his “contribution” is not support for Ron, but the attention he knew he would receive.

It’s not exactly what I’d like to see — which is someone telling the Stormfronters to crawl back under the rock they came from and the Alex Jones crowd and the rest of the 9/11 Truthers that they’re nuts — but its close. What would be helpful would be for Dr. Paul’s supporters to realize that defending him doesn’t mean defending everyone who supports him, and that it doesn’t make sense to make a coalition with people (such as the so-called white nationalists) whose very ideology is anathema to individual liberty.

The question is — if you found out that people like that were part of your Ron Paul meetup group, what would you do ?