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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Paul Family Values Sink His Senate Campaign?

Kentucky voters seeking a better understanding of the roots of the political, social and economic beliefs of GOP senate nominee Rand Paul should have a gander at some of the more revealing, but largely overlooked articles about his father’s views.
For openers, sample “Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters?” by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel, posted at Reason.com, the website of libertarian Reason Magazine. The article is mostly an expose of the influence of two libertarian activist-‘intellectuals,’ Llewellyn Rockwell and Murray Rothbard, on Rand Paul’s father, Ron Paul. The authors, who apparently identify with the anti-racist wing of the Libertarian movement, give no quarter to Paul’s mentors:

Ron Paul doesn’t seem to know much about his own newsletters. The libertarian-leaning presidential candidate says he was unaware, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of the bigoted rhetoric about African Americans and gays that was appearing under his name. He told CNN last week that he still has “no idea” who might have written inflammatory comments such as “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks”–statements he now repudiates. Yet in interviews with reason, a half-dozen longtime libertarian activists–including some still close to Paul–all named the same man as Paul’s chief ghostwriter: Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr.
Financial records from 1985 and 2001 show that Rockwell, Paul’s congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, was a vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, the corporation that published the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. The company was dissolved in 2001. During the period when the most incendiary items appeared–roughly 1989 to 1994–Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist “paleoconservatives,” producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic. To this day Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul–accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the LewRockwell.com blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman’s recent writings and audio recordings.

The authors go on to cite several credible sources affirming the close ties between Rockwell, Rothbard and Ron Paul, and note other issues of the newsletters that printed vicious slurs against Martin Luther King, Jr.They say Paul once claimed that his most lucrative source of donations was the mailing list for “The Spotlight,” a virulent anti-Semitic tabloid run by Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Elsewhere Rockwell has railed against “state-enforced integration,” and the authors say:

…Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an “Outreach to the Rednecks,” which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an “unholy alliance of ‘corporate liberal’ Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America.”…Anyone with doubts about the composition of the “parasitic Underclass” could look to the regular “PC Watch” feature of the Report, in which Rockwell compiled tale after tale of thuggish black men terrifying petite white and Asian women.

Perhaps there is a distinction to be made between the racial views of Ron Paul and his mentors on the one hand, and Rand Paul’s views on the other. But, as Joe Conason notes in his Salon.com post, “The roots of Rand Paul’s civil rights resentment”:

To understand Rand Paul’s agonized contortions over America’s civil rights consensus, let’s review the tainted pedigree of the movement that reared him. Specifically, both the Kentucky Republican Senate nominee and his father, Ron Paul, have been closely associated over the past two decades with a faction that described itself as “paleolibertarian,” led by former Ron Paul aide Lew Rockwell and the late writer Murray Rothbard. They eagerly forged an alliance with the “paleoconservatives” behind Patrick Buchanan, the columnist and former presidential candidate whose trademarks are nativism, racism and anti-Semitism.

In his article in The New Republic, “Angry White Man:The Bigoted Past of Ron Paul,” James Kirchick sheds light on a sort of split in the Libertarian movement, which puts Paul and his followers and mentors in the ‘paleo-libertarian’ camp:

The people surrounding the von Mises Institute–including Paul–may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history–the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, “There are too many libertarians in this country … who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, … find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought.”

Kirchick’s article goes on to cite even more repulsive examples of racial slurs and bigotry towards other groups in Ron Paul’s newsletters. Of course the elder Paul has done as much as he can to distance himself from the views he was so proudly associated with a decade ago. Rand Paul stretches even further to disavow such overtly racist views, but seems unable to completely let go of the racial attitudes he was raised around, and so he stumbles around the Civil Rights Act.
History provides numerous examples of political leaders who were more progressive than their parents, and Rand Paul has been given that opportunity. Regrettably, there are also plenty of politicians, like W and Rand Paul, who make sympathetic noises about change and equal opportunity, but when it comes to policy, can’t quite make the break.
Rand Paul has been muzzled by his GOP handlers, as far as “Meet the Press’ and other in-depth interview programs are concerned. They hope to deprogram some of his paleo-libertarianism, steer him toward the center, or at least the neo-con right and block one of the Democrats’ best pick-up opportunities. There won’t be any free rides, however, from his Democratic opponent, Kentucky Attorney-General Jack Conway, who is equally-determined to hold Paul accountable for his noxious views on race and economic privilege.

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