By Brian Doherty
Many voices whose accomplishments I otherwise respect think that the fact Ron Paul had associates who, for a brief period over a decade in the past, wrote some mean-spirited, nasty, and dumb stuff rooted in race and sexual orientation under his name is the most important thing to discuss about Ron Paul, and that the public condemnation and humiliation of those supposedly responsible is the most important public policy issue surrounding Paul's campaign now.
Part of this seems to be based on a so-far completely imagined belief that this particular repetition of the newsletter story cycle is somehow destroying Ron Paul's campaign and that such name-naming or "grappling with the past" is necessary to save that campaign. While this may become true (and the consistent harping on and reminding people of it can't help), there's no evidence for it yet; Paul's still gaining in polls. Note this Fox story headlined "Newsletters, Statements Cause Campaign Problems for Ron Paul" where the only voices they can find who actually thinks it's an important issue belong to Paul's opponent Newt Gingrich and GOP apparatchik Karl Rove and National Review editor Rich Lowry (whose own publication's history has worse to answer to in terms of racial insensitivity combined with actual expressed support for legal actions against the rights of African-Americans, which leads Paul fans to believe that none of this has to do with actual objections to anyone with connections to past awful race-based comments, but with scuttling what is good about the Ron Paul campaign).
As I wrote in 2008 during an earlier iteration of the newsletter story cycle, somewhat obliquely, I think this stuff is far from the most important thing to consider or talk about when it comes to this amazing moment where a very libertarian politician seems on the cusp of actually winning the first caucus in a Republican presidential contest. Libertarians, as a rule, especially if you've been in this game for decades before Paul, are used to the fact that peculiar political beliefs attract peculiar people, that there is a sociological overlap between the radical politics of libertarianism and certain other radical beliefs that don't have anything intellectually or necessarily to do with libertarianism, and that isn't the problem or the fault of libertarian ideas, nor is fighting those unpleasant ideas that some people in the libertarian orbit hold the primary responsibility of libertarians. Standing up for political liberty is.
And, more importantly, I believe it's less important to beat up on and condemn a certain set of powerless and marginalized people who think and believe some nasty things everyone agrees are wrong than it is to beat up on and condemn the set of incredibly powerful people who actually act to commit crimes and rights-violation and damage to life across the globe who everyone thinks are perfectly right to do so. And Ron Paul is the only candidate with any public traction and fans who condemns and would fight to stop such crimes, from the drug war to non-defensive overseas wars to armed assaults on people because they sell raw milk to rampant violations of American's civil liberties and privacy to an organization in charge of our money supply that uses that power to scuttle the entire world economy and bailout its buddies.
By any standard of political or moral judgment that I can respect, that is what is important about Ron Paul and the story of Ron Paul now. And from my five years of experience reporting on the Ron Paul movement that's arisen since 2007, both for Reason and for my forthcoming book, I can assure any old libertarian worried about old libertarian movement business that it is the good things about Ron Paul that have won him the support and love he has won, and that this old business is irrelevant to them, and thus irrelevant to the actual important political and cultural story about Ron Paul now.