Rethinking a Rethinking – Andrew Sullivan and the Ron Paul Unendorsement

Andrew Sullivan

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.

7 comments
Yvette
Yvette

@Montanamaven, Ron Paul has added a level of discussion that would be absent without him. And that discourse would only be amplified if this became a Paul v. Obama race, so I really don't get why folks wouldn't be desirous of seeing that matchup. @lambert strether, In so far as pure political calculus is concerned, I agree with you. It's an easy get.

lambert strether
lambert strether

Nice post. In 2008, Obama could run on his resume. Amazingly enough. In 2012, Obama has to run on his record. That means the racist card is the only card his supporters have to play. So they play it. Can't blame them, really.

Montanamaven
Montanamaven

New to this site and appreciate the view. Been struggling with why to pay attention at all to electoral politics. Paul has at least made so called liberals pick their priorities. And they don 't seem to include stopping women and children from being blown to bits or starved or imprisoned or left out on the street sick and hungry. Occupy the "Nation" maybe? I dropped me subscription long ago.

Yvette
Yvette

I agree with much of your assessment. Funny thing is, the newsletters were addressed in the 2008 campaign. It is regrettable that Ron Paul didn't do a better job of handling the issue, but honestly, those newsletters have been readily available for quite some time. Ron Paul addressed the controversy during the previous presidential election cycle, so to me, it's a bit unfair for folks to rehash it as if it's some kind of breaking story. If you believe, based upon the newsletters, that Paul is a racist, then don't vote for him. But don't waste America's time looping 20 year old newsletters when our President just signed an indefinite detention bill. As usual, the press has been unfair to Paul. Obama has been condescending to the black electorate and, thus far, we haven't proven that we desire better leadership. It seems that the more he patronizes us, the more we run to his rescue.Obama's a hollow guy with only his self interest in the forefront, and yet, we exalt him. When you really reflect on it, it's quite sad.

Monica
Monica

Thank you for writing this. I don't like Paul's racist newsletters, but in the whole scheme of things I don't think that they are important. Bush and Obama have done so much to destroy the educational system, economy, civil liberties and US standing in the world that a candidate hurling racial epithets in the past is not a deal breaker for me. I find it interesting that for as long as Paul has been politically active, no one in the mainstream media has ever addressed these newsletters. Could this mean that his message and followers have the establishment shaking in their boots? I believe that political consultants realized that in the wake of the Occupy movement, disenchanted Americans of all strips are coalescing into a force and the last thing that corporate interests and the political duopoly would want is an outsider like Paul tapping into that power. Hence, the "shocking" revelations of blatant racism and the ongoing commentary on the mental stability of Paul. Finally, I truly believe in my heart that Obama and his Ivy-League minions think that most black people are stupid. He thinks that we are either to busy with work and life to read and think about his policies or we are preoccupied with the life of Beyonce and Jay-Z or Nene or the cast of Love and Hip-Hop. He truly thinks that someone calling us "nigger" will stop us in our tracks and take attention off of his ineptitude. Apparently, in some situations he's on the money. The word nigger (not nigga, interestingly) does make some of us forget our common sense. When I look at Paul's record, I see that he puts it on the line and votes his convictions. I don't think Obama believes in anything but being elected and re-elected and that is more troubling to me than anyone calling me out my name.

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