Hey, I haven't had a 500-comment thread for awhile, so let me give a nice fat link and shout-out to Skip Berger's excellent piece at Crosscut discussing the ongoing mudwrestlemania over Ron Paul.
Skip is much more sympathetic to Paul than I am, but he acknowledges that he does have a wee bit of a problem vis a vis his history and his express ideology:
- It's long been true that the far-far-right and far-far-left experience meetings of the minds on many issues (anti-WTO activism is one example, another is demonstrated by the support the American Civil Liberties Union gives to both communists and Nazis). I'll name another example in my personal experience: home schooling. When I became involved in the home schooling movement, those involved were mostly liberal baby boomers and Christian conservatives. The fact that '60s lefties and religious righties worked together to liberalize the state's home schooling rules was hardly an extremist conspiracy, merely a case of people out of the mainstream finding common cause. The whole point is that everyone gets to let their own indvidual freak flag fly no matter what they believe. And libertarians in particular are likely to find themselves in front of some pretty strange parades.
But does Paul's ideology represent something more sinister — or crazy? I think Neiwert is right to raise these issues and parse Paul's speeches and legislative record. And it's not the first time issues like this have been raised over an affable, principled, fringe conservative. The late Washington Rep. Jack Metcalf of Whidbey Island shared many of Paul's beliefs regarding the Federal Reserve, the UN, etc. Metcalf once demanded that his state legislative salary be paid in coin because paper money wasn't mentioned in the Constitution. Metcalf was also widely criticized for speaking to groups with racist and extremist agendas, and he had to answer for his father's onetime membership in the pro-fascist Silver Shirts, a group run by a fan of Adolph Hitler.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote a 1999 profile of Metcalf that covered this ground. But Westneat also captured the kind of colorful, independent character that Metcalf embodied for many people. Some of his politics were on the fringe, some of his supporters were a little scary, but what was refreshing was how much Metcalf was the antithesis of politics as usual. That is a major part of Paul's appeal, too — especially to people in the Western U.S., where we often like politicians who defy categorization. Metcalf was a flannel-wearing whale-lover, too.
It's actually a pretty thorough and fair piece. Be sure to read it all.
Special bonus: Yes, you too can contribute to a Ron Paul blimp! No doubt every bit the up-and-up enterprise as those Ron Paul dollars.