Andrew Sullivan unendorsed Ron Paul and, although I appreciate his ability to be reflective and thoughtful, I think he got it wrong. I think he got it wrong, at least in part, because he misread the larger context of 21st century American politics. Here’s Sullivan in his own words:
This works as an argument if you endorse Paul, as I did, as the best medicine for the GOP, not the best president. But I’m not sure, in retrospect, that I can have that cake and eat it too. An endorsement should not be entirely instrumental. I’m not trying to spoil the GOP race; I am trying to support the one guy who has resisted both perpetual offensive warfare and out-of-control spending in the years Republicans embraced both. And so I have to accept that I am endorsing him as a candidate for the presidency, not just as a protest vote against the last decade, and think that through fully.
And I just cannot see how he can be such a president without explaining away the newsletters convincingly. Until he does, I have to say that the balance of the endorsement must now go to Huntsman. Oddly, I think that Paul’s courage in challenging the neocon establishment has made a Huntsman candidacy possible. And I tend to prefer the brave to the lucky. And I stand by all the things I wrote about Paul’s views, his refreshing candor, his happy temperament, his support for minorities, and his vital work to undo the war on drugs and the military-industrial complex. I don’t think he’s a racist; in fact, I think he’s one of the least racially aware politicians I’ve come across in a long while.
Well, putting aside the question of how one defines “convincingly”, at the heart of the teeth gnashing are Paul’s racist newsletters and their import. For me, this would be a much tougher nut to crack if structural and/or cultural racism were still the most heinous defect in the American body politic. But in a country where indefinite detention just became the law of the land, it’s not. In a country where unmanned American drones are killing innocent children abroad, it’s not. And in a country where mortgage scammers are protected from prosecution while Americans are being foreclosed on in record numbers, it’s not. Sorry black folks, but race and racism are not the biggest issues of the 21st century and to imagine otherwise is to conflate the issue and put the needs of your community ahead of the needs of America in particular and the global community in general. In that way, it’s a selfish usurpation of the political agenda to placate the few, and it shouldn’t be tolerated by black people of conscience.
If you, or me, or the next gal or guy believes Ron Paul to be a racist based on those 20 year old newsletters, then don’t vote for him. But don’t pretend that, as we devolve into a genuine police state, one candidate’s 20 year old view on race, or one’s association with racists, is a disqualifier. That’s a cute little immature brand of boutique politics, but it’s just unworkable in the knuckle and fist variety of real politics where the most important and impactful issues take priority. I wish Andrew Sullivan hadn’t unendorsed Paul. And I wish Ta-Nehisi Coates hadn’t done a “hip hop hooray” to cosign it.