Wednesday, December 28, 2011

YOUR LIBERTARIAN IDEAS ARE INTRIGUING TO ME AND I WOULD LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE TO YOUR RACIST NEWSLETTER. Dave Weigel has a few posts up wondering aloud why gays and/or liberals aren't mad at Ron Paul for the homo-hate in his crazy newsletters. I doubt that Weigel has actually missed Digby, who sees Paul with penetrating clarity for what he really is, and others like her. But Weigel's not talking about people who have actual views on libertarianism. He means sentimental sorts like Dan Savage, with his live-and-let-die attitude toward Paul ("Ron may not like gay people, and may not want to hang out with us or use our toilets, but he's content to leave us the fuck alone"), and the self-identified liberals who tell pollsters they feel kindly toward Paul. He means the folks who might be down for a little rEVOLution, if only on weekends. The guy seems loose, and says he didn't mean it; why get into all that old stuff?

Paul has benefited from his novelty factor. Everyone else in the 2012 Republican Presidential field is selling schmaltz that seemed tasty enough in earlier iterations but has since attained a reek. Perry is George W. Bush minus 20 IQ points. Romney is the Nixonian organization man who, like Tricky Dick, has added a little nastiness to his affect to become a more electable New Romney. Gingrich is Gingrich, a straight-up nostalgia act. Santorum and Bachmann are tussling for the Christian Coalition dead-enders like it was 1988.

Paul seems fresh in this context because he's an overt libertarian. Republicans often dabble in libertarianism -- whenever they feel like they're coming over too hidebound, they flash it to relax the crowd -- but at the Presidential level, they usually have to confine themselves to the economic, Milton Friedman, trickle-down variant of libertarianism, because to get into social issues would piss off the Christians. But that worked very well for a long time, especially after Reagan linked the idea of rapacious capitalism with maximum freedom, and the huge trade imbalances he engendered meant everyone got cheap foreign goods.

(And libertarians were okay with that. Go to sometime, put "crony capitalism" in the search field, and see how few of the references come from before the Obama Administration.)

This variant isn't so useful since their crackpot ideas collapsed the economy; now Gingrich's feed-the-corporations economic plan has the same sad mothball smell his candidacy does. But they still can't get too deep into the libertarian social agenda, due to all those senior citizens whose prejudices are all that bind them to the party. And forget the other libertarian tropes. No one would believe them talking gold bug nonsense; Herman Cain, the conservative black hope till he imploded, was a Federal Reserve Bank chairman.  And without their support for endless wars, what would be left to make them look butch?

Then there's Ron Paul. Not only does he go the whole nine yards on free minds-free markets -- he also denounces our foreign adventures economic and martial. He hates the Fed. He'll let you have raw milk. Freedom!

And he has a kinda-sorta gay rights record that both bigots and Dan Savage can be comfortable with -- he'd leave it to the states, just like abortion and racial integration. This is where his libertarianism really comes in handy -- you can believe that he personally endorsed at the vile things published under his name in those newsletters, and still believe, if motivated to do so, that his hatred of the State (but not the states) is so strong that it would actually protect gays, blacks, women, and everyone else even from his own ill will.

This is easier to believe if you forget that Paul is a Republican, operating comfortably within that party's framework for decades, and if you forget, or never knew, that libertarians are comfortable in that party for a reason. The right-wing fringe groups that attached to the GOP after World War II had their disagreements -- as with the National Review people and Ayn Rand -- but they also found plenty of common ground. It is almost charming to read Walter Olson on R.J. Rushdoony and his Reconstructionist loons, and how they -- unaccountably, to Olson -- "gained prominence in libertarian causes, ranging from hard-money economics to the defense of home schooling." Read Max Blumenthal on the subject and you'll see that the relationship of libertarians, Christian fundamentalists, Birchers, and other radicals was less contentious than synthetic. Think of Steve Forbes and Richard Viguerie -- for that matter, think of Rudy Giuliani and Pat Robertson.

These guys can always work together, because they all came out of the same Big Bang of hatred for the New Deal and its legacy: Big Government and the coalition that sustains it -- blacks, gays, unionized workers, women, et alia. Each conservative tribe has its own relationship to that legacy -- some of them (the more intelligent ones, generally) are deeply cynical, and some are as sincere as any schizophrenic street preacher. But all of them deeply hate that a bunch of minorities have coalesced to get something that they think belongs by right to them and people like them, and many of them have learned that it would be more effective (and, these days, more popular) to strike at the state that enables that coalition than at the minorities themselves.

What mania, particularly, animated Paul's newsletter stories of criminal-natured blacks and AIDS-drama-queen gays doesn't matter to me. I know that he's a Republican Libertarian and, having been born earlier than yesterday, that is enough for me.

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