Racists Love Ron and Rand Paul for Some Reason

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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (L) talks to his father Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) (R) during a news conference June 22, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A number of Republican congressional members joined The Cut, Cap, Balance Pledge Coalition at the news conference "to oppose any debt ceiling increase unless a 'Cut, Cap and Balance' plan is passed." Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

One strange thing about Ron and Rand Paul is that racists keep popping up in their inner circles for no apparent reason. Ron Paul was surrounded by neo-Confederates and published a virulently racist newsletter. Libertarians attracted to his candidacy condemned the newsletters but treated their existence as a kind of indiscretion. “Paul's wrongdoing is rooted in political opportunism, negligence, and failure to disassociate himself with racists, not racism itself,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf. Reason’s Nick Gillespie echoed, “The appeal of Paul in the here and now has absolutely nothing to do with the newsletters.” Timothy Carney waved away Paul’s “indiscretions.” It’s as if Paul’s campaign manager turned out to have a huge cocaine problem.

But his son and progeny Rand Paul also has a close aide who is a huge racist, reports Alana Goodman. Jack Hunter, author, with Rand Paul, of The Tea Party Goes to Washington, is not just kinda bigoted in an uncomfortable, old-guy sort of way. He’s a serious neo-Confederate.

In one 2004 commentary, Hunter said Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth’s heart was “in the right place.”

“Although Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth’s heart was in the right place, the Southern Avenger does regret that Lincoln’s murder automatically turned him into a martyr,” he said in 2004.

He later wrote that he “raise[s] a personal toast every May 10 to celebrate John Wilkes Booth’s birthday.”

He also compared Lincoln to Saddam Hussein and suggested that the 16th president would have had a romantic relationship with Adolf Hitler if the two met.

Now, obviously, you can like Ron and Rand Paul without being the slightest bit racist. Very, very few Rand Paul fans are glad Abraham Lincoln was shot. At the same time, the logic of southern white supremacy and the logic of libertarianism run along very similar lines. They both express themselves in terms of opposition to federal power and support for states’ rights.

Segregation was in large part a policy of government, not the free market. But it took intrusive federal power to destroy segregation. Barry Goldwater expressed his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act in classically race-neutral, anti-big-government terms. The deep connection between the Pauls and the neo-Confederate movement doesn’t discredit their ideas, but it’s also not just an indiscretion. It’s a reflection of the fact that white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit.