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December 29, 2011

The argument over Ron Paul and gay people

More on Jamie Kirchick's NYT piece on Ron Paul. Among other things, Paul evidently agrees with the 9/11 "Truthers" (who think the U.S. Government or the Mossad were behind the 9/11 attacks) but told supporters he has too much on his plate (such as taking on the Fed) to deal with it.

Dave Weigel in Slate raises a question: Given the anti-gay statements in those newsletters, why aren't gay activists in more of an uproar against them? Dan Savage explains:

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 recognizes that gay citizens are entitled to the same rights as all other citizens. Santorum, on the other hand, believes that his bigotry must be given the force of law. That's an important difference.

I agree with that, but Andrew Sullivan, who quotes it approvingly, then states, "The attempt by the left and the neocon right to make Paul out to be the real bigot in this race is gob-smacking." Huh? Who said any such thing? Since when can there be only one "real bigot," or person with problematic views or record on racial or sexual minorities, in a given race? As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

I think there's an essay to be written about why any accusation of a racial offense is so often reduced to "Are you a racist?" It would be as if my wife said, "You forgot to check Samori's homework" and I responded, "I'm not a bad father."

I wish Andrew would take Ta-Nehisi's point to heart. But Andrew is on a tear against the political establishment's scorn for Ron Paul. He writes:

Hard to beat Michael Medved, for whom Paul's non-interventionism simply cannot compute. Decades of marination in the view that America can do no wrong ever anywhere, means that Medved can simply appeal to what he calls "the mainstream", which, for him, includes those who want to "cure" gay people, deport 11 million illegal immigrants, invade Iran by land or by nukes, turn the US Congress into a part-time endeavor, increase defense spending while slashing entitlements, and reinvigorate the drug war. Yep: that's the mainstream, and Paul is clearly demented to challenge any of it.

I get Andrew on the folly of neocons and social conservatives who scorn Paul; and I am with him in appreciating Paul's opposition to starting a third war against a Muslim country within a decade. But can we please separate the different issues? I understand that Andrew has a running argument with Jamie Kirchick and others over America's Israeli policy, and with the general tendency of people to cry "anti-Semite!" at anyone who raises a critical word in the direction of Jerusalem (btw, I am a longtime supporter of Israel, and was once called a "Righteous Gentile" by Kirchick). But first, Paul's isolationism goes far, far beyond that, and I can't believe that Andrew really believes that the only answer to excessive American interventionism is to go to the opposite extreme; and second, it has nothing to do with Paul's attitudes toward gay people.

"But remind me," Andrew says, "which of all the candidates has refused to sign the anti-gay Marriage Pledge?" It's Ron Paul, of course. Yes, Paul's leave-us-alone libertarianism puts him in a better place on the law as it relates to gay people than Santorum, Perry, or Bachmann. That's not setting the bar very high, but sure — giving people credit where due is one of the keys of effective activism in my view. But let's be fair on both sides of the ledger. For example, Andrew Belonsky today reported that Paul's campaign is suddenly being cagey about the endorsements he has received from right-wing extremists, including Rev. Phillip G. Kayser who advocates the death penalty for homosexuality. The plain reason for the newfound caginess is Paul's eagerness to get those endorsements (thus a reluctance to repudiate people like Rev. Kayser).

Conor Friedersdorf has a critique of Kirchick's post that ends with this excellent observation:

Kirchick is right to hold Paul accountable for his ugly past. Having done so -- and now that Paul and his movement have grown bigger by disavowing that past and running inclusive campaigns against wars, prohibition, and profligate spending -- perhaps Kirchick can continue his critiques of movements that use paranoia and bigotry. I can point him to candidates and ideological warriors fretting about the imposition of sharia law in America, the need for racial profiling in airports, the special oath Muslim appointees should have to take, what needs to happen in Saudi Arabia before Muslim Americans should be allowed to build mosques in New York, the supposedly corrosive effect that gays are going to have on the military, and whether or not they can be "cured."

In the end, the controversy swirling around Ron Paul, thanks to his surge in Iowa, helps gain greater public attention to these issues. And that's more important than the axes that various writers may be grinding. As Mike Rogers is saying right now on The Ed Show, Paul wants the federal government to be weaker so that states can enact things such as Rev. Kayser advocates. The fact that Paul invokes states' rights should be of no more comfort to gay people than the same justification was to slaves a century and a half ago.

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