An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.
– T.S. Eliot
It's bad enough that so many bright, prepubescent kids read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and become instant "objectivists" and "libertarians" – with the fanciful belief that damn near every problem would be solved if brutish government and slithery "collectivists" would just butt out.
Combine that juvenile rite of passage with the neo-Wild-West mentality of the coffeehouse-dwelling digerati, and you have an idea of where support for Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul emanates. Paul, after all, was the Libertarian Party's presidential candidate in 1988.
Add to that combination the greatest contribution of the neo-conservative movement – that many Americans reject reality in favor of loopy ideology – then you can begin to glimmer the danger Paul represents. After all, Americans have been trained like Pavlov's dogs to embrace the most absurd things. That's why so many are primed to swallow what Paul is distilling.
Feb. 5 is "Super Tuesday," when 24 states, including Georgia, hold primaries, caucuses or party conventions. At stake are 52 percent of Democratic delegates and 41 percent of the GOP delegates. Georgia is No. 6 in the number of Democratic delegates to be decided on Feb. 5 and No. 3 for Republicans – we're high enough up the totem pole to merit attention.
The dumbed-down-to-imbecile media are caught up in the nonsense nonissues of the race – mostly having to do with Barack Obama's nonwhiteness and Hillary Clinton's nonmaleness, or which Republican can utter the most bellicose, jingoistic claptrap.
The real issues are largely ignored, except in soundbites and platitudes. Again, the media stay away from anything that might make reporters and readers/viewers think. Example: A HUGE story released two weeks ago by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity documented 935 false statements by the Bushies in the run-up to the Iraq blitzkrieg. There's obvious relevance in this study to the current hustings. The drumbeat by Republicans (and Clinton) to bomb the bejesus out of Iran is based on nearly identical lies.
Does the press jump on that issue? Nah, not when we can spend endless time debating whether Clinton really had tears in her eyes. The "Bush lies" study did get great coverage – in China, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, France and elsewhere around the globe. But the lame media in America – including our Atlanta Journal-Constitution – ignored the story.
So what's that portend as far as Ron Paul goes? While we have the greatest media capability in history, we have the least incisive coverage of politics that I can recall in my (rather long) career.
Paul is indeed a libertarian. What does that mean? Not much. In this city, two well-known media personalities -- radio guy Neal Boortz and the revered author of this column -- both claim kinship to libertarianism. Yet I can't think of a single thing we agree on beyond ending the "war on drugs" and tuning out the anti-abortion screechers. I regard Boortz as a neo-con running dog, and he regards me as Leon Trotsky's heir.
Libertarians come in all flavors – the corporate libs at the Cato Institute, the libertine Ayn Rand purists at Reason magazine, and the Auburn, Ala.-based neo-secessionist Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Ron Paul is most definitely anti-war, intelligent and principled in his opposition to the empire. What's the political bottom line to that? He's likely to lure a fair number of Democrats disillusioned by Clinton's and Obama's milquetoast, ambiguous and flip-flopping stances on ending the Iraq atrocities.
A lot of those free-thinking products of the digital generation will also flock to Paul. They're the ones who, when 11 or 12, read Atlas Shrugged.
That's especially dangerous, because libertarians are plain wrong on government, regulation and "free" markets. Deregulation gave us Enron, the threat to the republic posed by media consolidation, the savings-and-loan disaster two decades ago, and most recently the horrendous housing-and-mortgage crisis. The libertarian assumption that unfettered business acts responsibly and for the good is illusion. We forget that government isn't the enemy; it should be an agreement among free people on efficient management of a society.
We live in a nation of deepening financial divide and take my word, the rich are seldom John Galt exemplars of individualism. The median individual income is barely above the poverty line. Our infrastructure is in disastrous disrepair. War is draining us while dire necessities such as health care go unmet. We need the focused intervention of good government, not a Ron Paul "all government is bad" misadventure.
The media also have missed this about Paul: He's the darling of white nationalists and white supremacists. I've attended two events in the last few months – a secessionist conference in Chattanooga, Tenn., co-hosted by an uptown Klan outfit called the League of the South, and a gathering of Stormfront.org racists in Atlanta – where Ron Paul activists were big players.
For good reason. The New Republic this month published an investigative story that details racist and gay-bashing quotes in newsletters Paul has published since the 1970s. A mild quote from one: "[O]pinion polls consistently show only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions." Most of the newsletter columns aren't bylined – Paul says he didn't write them, but won't say who did. Sure.
Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason, says that while he has commented favorably about the libertarian candidate in the past, the "tons of racist and homophobic comments from Paul newsletters is really stunning."
Paul is also stridently anti-choice when it comes to reproductive rights. Women are ineligible for the freedom of libertarianism, according to Paul.
What Paul can do is deflect attention from the real debate. His supporters – in addition to those still fighting the Civil War – include many anti-war and civil-liberties activists. We need those people to insist that the Democrats do what they were and will be elected to do: heal this nation, stop the war, rebuild the economy, restore constitutional freedoms.