Although Mitt Romney is said to be emerging as the favorite in the Iowa caucuses to be held Tuesday night, there is still a good chance that Ron Paul’s motivated followers could win the day. Few Main Stream Media observers envision Paul winning any full-on primaries, much less the Republican nomination, but the prospect of a principled anti-war libertarian certainly has many in the political Establishment terrified.
Accordingly, publications like the New Republic [TNR Exclusive, December 23, 2011] and Weekly Standard have trained their guns on Paul. Although Paul avoids racial issues, and has completely abandoned even the pretense of supporting patriotic immigration reform, the most favored attack on Paul is to accuse him of “racism” for 20 year-old newsletters (which he claims he didn’t write, or approve) published under his name that included blunt language about Martin Luther King, interracial crime, post-Apartheid South Africa etc. Thus, we have the likes of National Review Editor Rich Lowry calling Paul’s letters “rancid and bigoted,” (NR editor: Paul has ‘sullied’ libertarianism’ with ‘bigots’ and ‘conspiracy kooks’ [VIDEO], December 22, 2011). And the Left, always happy to call a Republican a racist, has joined in: hence we have Al Sharpton saying the newsletters have “racist and bigoted rhetoric.”
A foreign policy non-interventionist surging in the polls—leading neoconservative hacks and professional race hustlers crying “racism”—all this naturally brings back fond memories of Pat Buchanan’s 1996 Presidential campaign.
Thus Tim Carney writes in the Washington Examiner:
“If Paul wins, how will the media and the GOP react? Much of the media will ignore him (expect headlines like "Romney Beats out Gingrich for Second Place in Iowa"). Some in the Republican establishment and the conservative media will panic. Others will calmly move to crush him, with the full cooperation of the liberal mainstream media. For a historical analogy, study the aftermath of Pat Buchanan's 1996 victory in the New Hampshire primary.”
[GOP will take off the gloves if Ron Paul wins Iowa, December 18, 2011]
Buchanan himself welcomes the comparison. In a recent interview in Salon entitled Ron Paul and the second coming of Buchananism, he is quoted calling Paul “an honest, principled, courageous political leader,” and notes that, in their joint opposition to costly foreign adventurism, “I think Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan are ahead of their time” [By Steve Kornacki , December 22, 2011]
I rarely disagree with Buchanan. But I think that, outside their ability to provoke neoconservative wrath over foreign policy, Paul and Buchanan’s campaign actually have relatively little in common.
Unlike Buchanan, Paul has not amassed any type of constituency that could challenge business as usual in American politics. His core support comes from libertarians, non-interventionist conservatives, and some Tea Partiers. Most of these people were inclined to vote Republican anyway, though they would certainly be far less enthusiastic about other candidates. The only non-Republican constituency Paul has managed to attract is liberal college students. They support his foreign policy non-interventionism and support for drug legalization. He may have convinced them to oppose the Federal Reserve. But this is not enough to challenge the political order.
Like Paul, much of Buchanan’s support also came from non-interventionists and the predecessors of the Tea Party. However, in addition, Buchanan rallied the large traditional Republican constituency of social conservatives—who in themselves probably are a bigger group than all of Paul’s supporters combined. (Significantly, these are the very people who, instead of putting Paul over the top, seem to be fuelling a last-minute surge by the extremely disappointing Rick Santorum.) And what really scared the Establishment: Buchanan’s combination of economic nationalism combined with strong opposition to mass immigration and Political Correctness showed signs of winning over working class whites and forging a real patriotic majority in America.
New York Times token conservative David Brooks derisively described the Buchanan Brigades as
“…beefy, 300-pound guys with tattoos up their arms and sleeveless T-shirts. He draws the guys with shaggy biker beards, and the Teamsters who park their rigs in the lot and get hoarse chanting, ‘Go, Pat, go!’ It may be hard to classify exactly which political category these people belong to, but they are certainly not Republicans.” [Buchanan Feeds Class War in the Information Age, October 31, 1999]
Actually, it's not so hard to classify which political category such people belong to. They're called 'Democrats,' and the contempt for them that our Mr. Brooks exudes helps explain why they never show up in the crowds around other Republican candidates.
In 1996, Buchanan won New Hampshire and three other primaries. There are a number of “what if” scenarios (such as, what if social conservative stalking horse Alan Keyes hadn’t mysteriously entered the race at the last minute) where he might plausibly have done even better—maybe winning the nomination.
Paul in contrast, is doing as well as he possible can. American voters simply are not libertarians.
In addition to not threatening the Establishment politically, Ron Paul does not truly threaten the Establishment on an ideological level. Foreign policy may be an important issue, but its most sacred cow is mass immigration and multiculturalism—the election of a new people and the Latin Americanization (or Mexicanization) of America. Pat Buchanan has been the most prominent opponent of both—before, during, and after his presidential campaigns. While Ron Paul is now running away from any suggestion that he may have thought the LA riots revealed problems with black crime, Pat Buchanan famously used his platform at the 1992 Republican Convention to speak out against the mob rule.
So what about the Ron Paul Letters? Do they somehow show that Ron Paul secretly has some more heterodox views on race?
As others at VDARE.com said during Paul’s last presidential run, the language in the Ron Paul Letters was at times abrasive, but the substance of most of what he said was entirely defensible and true.
When the controversy first surfaced in 1996, Paul acknowledged he wrote the letters and then defended what he said. But in 2008, Paul denied writing them, denied even knowing what they said. And he has repeatedly disavowed them throughout this campaign.
Paul goes even further, stating “I’m not a racist. As a matter of fact, Rosa Parks is one of my heroes, Martin Luther King is a hero — because they practiced the libertarian principle of civil disobedience, nonviolence.” He has even claimed, absurdly, that he is not racist because he opposes the supposedly “racist” War on Drugs.
I don’t have a clue as to whether or not Ron Paul wrote the Ron Paul Letters or approved of them when they were first published. Nor do I know whether he secretly believes what was said. What I do know is that Ron Paul is not now willing to defend those views—and instead goes further in the opposite direction, by adopting the tritest “anti-racist” liberal duckspeak.
When Pat Buchanan said something politically incorrect, he courageously and articulately defended those positions. In contrast, Ron Paul’s reaction has been ominously akin to the pattern established by Trent Lott praising Strom Thurmond, George Allen saying “Macaca”, or any GOP politician who spoke before the Council of Conservative Citizens: (1) There is a barrage of righteous indignation over supposed “racism” or “links” to racists; (2) the politician dutifully grovels; and (3) ritually praises Martin Luther King.
Some of the most obnoxious leftists like Jon Stewart and Cenk Uygur have praised Paul and criticized the MSM for not taking him seriously. Most liberals I talk to like Paul more than any other Republican candidate (save John Huntsman, for those who remember he’s still running).
But there is a reason for this: At the end of the day, they view Paul as someone who they agree with on drug legalization, foreign policy and some civil liberties issues and who has some kooky ideas about the Federal Reserve that they know will never be implemented; he may have made some racial indiscretions twenty years ago, but they will overlook them if he keeps grovelling.
Suffice to say, you did not hear this from the Left about Buchanan.
Let me emphasize: with all this said, I am still very sympathetic to Ron Paul’s candidacy. I generally agree with his positions on foreign policy. And I am glad to see someone with his own mind and principles defy all conventional expectations.
But, intellectually and in terms of forging a patriotic majority in America, we need to look elsewhere for the “Second Coming of Buchananism.”
Ellison Lodge (email him) works on Capitol Hill.