It now seems quite clear to me that Ron Paul has for years used racism, among other vicious sentiments, to build financial and political support.
I've been pretty negative about Paul from the start, attracted only to his antiwar stance, since I find his old right brand of nationalist, populist anti-statism pretty repellent and at odds with the cause of human liberty. I didn't know about the newsletters, but I'm not that surprised by them. I knew that he was close to Lew Rockwell, who many people speculate wrote many of Paul's most shameful newsletters, and I knew Rockwell's reputation as a racist and homophobe. And the syndrome of positions Paul has staked on immigration, sovereignty, and constitution idolatry is in my experience often correlated with racist sentiments of exactly the kind on display in the newsletters.
To my mind, the people who are trying to salvage something of Paul's reputation are just making themselves look bad. No matter how much money, time, and devotion you've given to someone, sometimes the only right thing to do is spit on the ground and walk away, hurting. If it wasn't before, it is now clear that this just isn't a man who deserves decent people's support.
I had hoped Paul would do more good than harm for libertarianism, inspiring lots of college kids to get interested in the ideas of liberty. But now I'm pretty certain that he's done a lot of harm, causing many people to associate libertarianism with racist cranks. I think it's pretty important then to publicize the fact that there are genuinely liberal versions of libertarianism out there. The young people who got interested in libertarian ideas through Paul need to be able to find Cato, Reason, the IHS, and other places where one can learn about classical liberalism, which isn't about keeping the Mexicans out, deploring the abolition of slavery, or hoarding gold.
If I can find time over the next few weeks, I'm going to write a series of posts explaining why key elements of Ron Paul's popular appeal, such as an antipathy to the freedom of movement, a fixation on national sovereignty, and constitutional fetishism, are inconsistent with a real concern for human freedom. More generally, I want to say something about why flag-waving “libertarianism in one country” types are ultimately no friends of liberty.