On Loving America

Joel Stein writes on how conservatives “love” America in The Los Angeles Times, arguing that in a sense conservatives do love American more than liberals. This love is in a tribalistic sense, “out of birthplace convenience.”

I still think conservatives love America for the same tribalistic reasons people love whatever groups they belong to. These are the people who are sure Christianity is the only right religion, that America is the best country, that the Republicans have the only good candidates, that gays have cooties.

The difference is that conservatives think loving one’s country means defending it no matter what. For example, a conservative responds to reports of torture or violations of the Geneva Conventions by attacking those who release such information and justifying the actions, not by considering what America really stands for.

The love for America felt by liberals is a far more meaningful form of love. Liberals love America despite knowing their country has faults, and are willing to work to correct those faults. This is what it takes to have a have and maintain a great country. The blind form of love expressed by conservatives is a pathway towards decadence and destruction of what makes America great.

Liberals love the ideals America was founded upon, and hold our current government to those ideals. This is exactly what the Founding Fathers would have expected of us.

I love American because of the civil liberties which were guaranteed by our Founding Fathers. Conservatives often attack those who defend civil liberties out of a blind love for authority, which is not really the same as loving America.

I love America for its heritage of separation of church and state as promoted by the Founding Fathers when they formed a secular government. While this view is clear in the writings of the Founding Fathers, along with many court decisions, the religious right has been promoting a revisionist history which denies this. Loving America means respecting such important principles, not attempting to rewrite our history.

I love our free market system which gives everyone the opportunity to achieve wealth and prosperity. Therefore I oppose perversions of this system which conservatives have promoted, such as Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force and the K Street Project.

Liberals who love America responded to the 9/11 attack by seeking bipartisan unity to defend the country and respond to those who attacked us. Republicans instead took advantage of 9/11 as an excuse to pursue their preexisting goals on foreign policy and restriction of civil liberties while promoting a course which led to a weakening of America’s role in the world. For a group which claims to love America, the right has done a remarkable job of undermining both our national security and moral authority in the world.

The love for America felt by liberals, and the principles our country was founded upon, is necessary to preserve our nation as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. The tribalistic love for America felt by conservatives would give us the America of McCarthyism. Nixon and Watergate, and the Bush/Cheney years. This would be an American where civil liberties are ignored, the free market is replaced by crony capitalism, and those who disagree are told to either love their version of America or leave it.

The Republican Party and Ideas

Late last week an internal Republican National Committee memo leaked out which shows that at least the Republican leadership acknowledges a problem I have been writing about for a while–the lack of ideas being promoted by the party. As Steve Benen points out, admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery. The memo states:

Republicans have grown accustomed to having our party recognized as the “Party of Ideas,” but we must acknowledge that many Americans today believe the party is stale and does not deserve that label. This is not a critique of our principles of a strong national defense, growth-focused economics, constitutionally-limited government, and a defense of traditional values. Rather, it is a reflection that we have not used our principles to provide solutions to the kitchen table concerns of middle-class America.

The Republicans lost because the Democrats were felt to have the better ideas on virtually all issues by a majority of Americans. Republicans found in 2008 that they could no longer win by relying on distorting the views of their opponents and raising meaningless attacks. False claims that Obama planned to redistribute the wealth in a Marxist sense or planned a government takeover of health care no longer fooled the voters. Attacks based upon discredited attacks such as Obama’s connections to William Ayers and Reverend Wright, and appeals to anti-intellectualism from Sarah Palin, were no longer effective. Republicans have become experts at raising McCarthyist style attacks but in the process began to ignore providing actual reasons to vote for them.

After the election The Economist summed up this problem by referring to the Republicans as a Ship of Fools. The economic collapse strengthened the conventional wisdom that the Democratic Party is stronger on economic issues, making most other issues irrelevant in the 2008 election. Even if other issues were considered, they did not work for the Republicans. At one time the Republicans were felt to be stronger on advocating a sound foreign policy. Now Republicans are the party advocating a reckless foreign policy while Democrats have taken the center. Republican denial of science and support for the social policies of the religious right are costing them the support of young voters as well as many affluent and educated Americans who have voted Republican in the past. Many voters no longer see the Republicans as either the party of ideas or of values, and are now voting Democratic based upon both values and self-interest.

The problem for the Republicans is not only that they lack ideas but that they have the wrong ideas. For years the Republican establishment took advantage of votes from the religious right but privately referred to them as the nuts. Now “the nuts” appear to control the party. For a moment it appeared that the Republicans might be turning towards moderation in nominating John McCain, but instead McCain increasingly adopted the positions of the extremists in the party. Republican voters see Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee as their two preferred choices for 2012. Red State has announced a war against Republicans who have not supported Palin. David Frum might be willing to abandon Sarah Palin, but still sees the mindset of Joe the Plumber as the future of the GOP.

The Republicans now face the dilemma that their strongest support comes from the religious right but these views will probably prevent them from being a majority party in states outside of the deep south and a handful of sparsely populated western states. A growing number of principled conservatives and libertarians who do not accept the views of the religious right are increasingly supporting Democratic candidates. There continue to be supporters of other ideas in the part, but their role is becoming increasingly trivial. William Kristol has recently admitted that conservative talk of small government has little relationship to the reality of Republican rule. Perhaps now that they don’t feel obligated to back the policies of George Bush, more Republicans will be consistent in backing civil liberties and restrictions upon the power of government.

It is hard to see any fate for the Republicans other than going the way of the Whigs if they don’t open themselves up to modern thought. A party which includes members who believe in creationism has no place in the twenty-first century. There have been some voices in the Republican Party which has resisted its current extremist tendencies.  Colin Powell recently warned Republicans against listening to Rush Limbaugh. It is also necessary for them to reject the entire fantasy world of conservative talk radio. In recent weeks I’ve also note that some Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christine Todd Whitman, along with columnists such as Kathleen Parker, have taken a more moderate stand than is common in the Republican Party, but I’ve also noted how resistant many Republicans are to moderating their views.

The mind set of the religious right, and why they are unlikely to moderate their views, can be seen in this response to my writings supporting modernization of Republican viewsin this response by Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator:

The real question isn’t the influence of Dobson, but rather the influence of God, and if you’re waiting for God to moderate his views, I suspect you’ll be waiting a long time.

I discussed the absurdity of this argument, along with the importance of a secular government as wisely advocated by the Founding Fathers, in this post last week. This concept is an important part of our heritage, and is necessary to allow all to worship, or not worship, as they choose. While this view is clear in the writings of the Founding Fathers, along with many court decisions, the religious right has been promoting a revisionist history which denies this. Although many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, who had a radically different view of the role of God in human affairs compared to Christianity, many Republicans, including the supposedly moderate John McCain, also falsely claim that the United States was founded as a Christian country.

As I’ve discussed in many previous posts, such as here, religious beliefs do not provide sufficient justification under our system of government for public policy decisions. I’ve also noted that Barack Obama has expressed similar views. This presents the fundamental difference in belief between supporters of modernity and the religious right. The real issue is not one of life style as many liberals live an essentially conservative life style, but a question of whether one believes the power of government should be used to impose life style choices upon others.

As Republicans search for ideas they might look back to promises of Ronald Reagan to get government off our backs. Instead of applying this solely to allowing business to go unregulated, they must reconsider their views on reproductive rights, embryonic stem cell research, end of life decisions as in the Terri Schiavo case, same-sex marriage, and other issues where personal morality should not be regulated by government. Barry Goldwater rejected the religious right and in his later years considered himself a liberal. If Republicans want to provide a viable alternateve to the Democratic Party, the Republicans should follow Barry Goldwater’s lead on this matter and reject the influence of the religious right. They cannot develop and promote good ideas until they face reality and reject the bad ideas which have destroyed their party.

The Republican Reaction Against Modernity

Yesterday I presented an example of how the religious right is resistant to moderating their views and how they reject those who attempt to do so. The mind set of the religious right, and why they are unlikely to ever moderate their views, can be seen in this response by Robert Stacy McCain at The American Spectator:

The real question isn’t the influence of Dobson, but rather the influence of God, and if you’re waiting for God to moderate his views, I suspect you’ll be waiting a long time.

The assumptions behind this comment are rather disturbing in a modern democracy. The basic assumption is that those in the religious right know the actual views of God and therefore have the right to impose these views upon others. Of course even among Christians there are a wide variety of views as to what God really desires. If the Jesus as described in the Bible were to really appear, I believe he would be appalled by the religious right and see this as one of the greatest evils of our society.

Beyond differences of opinion as to the nature of the Christian God, there are other religions with different beliefs. There are also the fundamental questions of whether there is a creator at all, and if so whether we obligated to live under his beliefs. As humans were created with free will it is valid to question whether humans are any more obligated to follow the views of a creator of the universe (assuming such views could ever be established) than a child is obligated to forever follow the views of the parents who created him.

The Founding Fathers recognized the problem of religious groups attempting to impose their views upon others and intentionally created a secular government characterized by separation of church and state. While this view is clear in the writings of the Founding Fathers, along with many court decisions, the religious right has been promoting a revisionist history which denies this. Although many of the Founding Fathers were Deists, who had a radically different view of the role of God in human affairs compared to Christianity, many Republicans also falsely claim that the United States was founded as a Christian country.

I’ve discussed many times, such as here, how religious beliefs do not provide sufficient justification under our system of government for public policy decisions. I’ve also noted that Barack Obama has expressed similar views. This presents the fundamental difference in belief between supporters of modernity and the religious right, and is argued again today in an exchange between Andrew Sullivan and Peter Suderman. Suderman writes:

…it’s always struck as strange when people argue that Christians have every right to their beliefs, and that those beliefs ought to be firmly respected — but that in politics, those beliefs ought to be kept to oneself. For many Christians, it’s integral to their faith that every part of their life, including their work, be comported in accordance with their religious beliefs. The idea that one ought to turn off or conveniently ignore his or her faith when participating in public life is anathema to many devout believers, and when proponents of a purely secular politics suggest that believers should be able to do that without compromising their faith, they misunderstand the entire nature of religious belief. What the most ardent secularists end up saying is, “I’ll respect your beliefs — provided you never act upon them around me.”

Sullivan debunks this in arguing:

Er, no. You can act upon them all you want. It is when you require others to be governed by laws deduced entirely from your own religious convictions that problems emerge.

What modernity requires is not that you cease living according to your faith, but that you accept that others may differ and that therefore politics requires a form of discourse that is reasonable and accessible to believer and non-believer alike. This religious restraint in politics is critical to the maintenance of liberal democracy, and that is why Christianism is so hostile to modernity, though nowhere near as threatening as Islamism.

Allowing others to be other is what we call modernity. In my view, it is worth defending. And that’s why I think of myself as a conservative rather than as a reactionary. I like the pluralism of modernity; it doesn’t threaten me or my faith. And if one’s faith is dependent on being reinforced in every aspect of other people’s lives, then it is a rather insecure faith, don’t you think?

Christians have the right to live their lives based upon the teachings of their religion. If they believe that something is the actual view of God they are free to live based upon this. They do not have the right to use the power of the state to impose these views (or their interpretations of religion) upon others.

I’ve had several recent posts on the problems faced by the Republican Party due to the control exerted by the religious right. Robert Stacy McCain also commented on one of my earlier posts but appears mistaken about the nature of this objection. He responded to my view that the Republican Party will have trouble winning national elections if tied to the views of the religious right by writing:

That’s just atheistic bigotry, and as political analysis, it’s useless. Republicans did not lose the election because of creationism, and if Democrats want to presume that they now have a permanent majority on such a basis, I predict their majority will be remarkably short-lived.

First of all, this is not “atheistic bigotry.” The fundamentalist views of the religious right are certainly opposed by atheists, but are also opposed by many religious individuals who either do not share their religious views or who realize that government should not be used to impose their religious views upon others. He is also mistaken in thinking that I am either a Democrat (except perhaps by default due to the lack of a viable alternative) or see the fall of the GOP as a favorable development.

A strong two-party system is valuable in a liberal democracy and I see it as unfortunate that we now only have one viable option. In a two-party (or multi-party) system we have both greater opportunity for checks and balances upon the power of government and the opportunity for a greater variety of views to be offered by candidates. This is especially important for those of us whose views do not fit neatly into the traditional views of either major political party.

Rather than incorrectly seeing my writing as gloating by a Democrat who thinks they have achieved a permanent majority, Republicans such as McCain should see this as a warning of the dangers the Republicans now face as educated and affluent voters, along with the young, are decreasingly seeing them as a viable choice. Republicans are amazed that many of us affluent independents are now voting for the party which they argue will tax us more, failing to understand that a party which promotes views such as creationism will not even be considered, regardless of where they stand on other issues.

I wish to see a movement away from religious fundamentalism by the Republican Party both because I desire a second viable choice and because I do not believe Democrats have a guaranteed permanent majority. While I do believe the Republicans will eventually go the way of the Whigs if they do not accept modernization of their views, this can be a slow process. History and progress do not always move in a straight line and the Republicans very will might win some more elections before their inevitable decline. I would much rather see a Republican Party which accepts the modern world be in power than to have a repeat of the Bush years.

The Republicans have been in a slow decline for decades as two negative forces have increasingly gained influence. While for years Republicans would pander to the religious right for votes while laughing them off as nuts, the religious right now dominates the party. For a moment it appeared Republicans might be backing away from this with the nomination of John McCain, but now the views of Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee look like the more probable future for the GOP.

While the religious right has increased dominance, other conservative principles have been abandoned in favor of tactics. We have seen the original McCarthyism in the 1950’s followed by a resurgence of McCarthyist techniques by many Republicans. Republican victories in recent years have come more as a result of distorting the views of their opponents than promoting a coherent set of principles of their own. Even William Kristol has recently admitted that conservative talk of small government has little relationship to the reality of Republican rule.

For the most part the Republicans became more concerned about holding and expanding power than promoting principles, leaving the religious right with the only remaining viewpoint which had devoted followers. The religious right found a philosophical vacuum to fill in the GOP, regrettably turning them into a party which will increasingly have difficulty winning outside of the deep south and a handful of sparsely-populated western states. They simply cannot fight the modern world and deny modern science forever and expect to win.

William Kristol Admits Conservatives Don’t Back Small Government

Last week I looked at the significance of size of government, noting that even a libertarian publication was now acknowledging that small government might not necessarily result in greater freedom. This week William Kristol has an op-ed entitled Small Isn’t Beautiful. This might have been the most honest thing Kristol has ever written as he admits what many have realized for a long time–the GOP does not really support small government. He writes:

…conservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of “small-government conservatism.” It’s a banner many Republicans and conservatives have rediscovered since the election and have been waving around energetically. Jeb Bush, now considering a Senate run in 2010, even went so far as to tell Politico last month, “There should not be such a thing as a big-government Republican.”

Really? Jeb Bush was a successful and popular conservative governor of Florida, with tax cuts, policy reforms and privatizations of government services to show for his time in office. Still, in his two terms state spending increased over 50 percent — a rate faster than inflation plus population growth. It turns out, in the real world of Republican governance, that there aren’t a whole lot of small-government Republicans.

Five Republicans have won the presidency since 1932: Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the two George Bushes. Only Reagan was even close to being a small-government conservative. And he campaigned in 1980 more as a tax-cutter and national-defense-builder-upper, and less as a small-government enthusiast in the mold of the man he had supported — and who had lost — in 1964, Barry Goldwater. And Reagan’s record as governor and president wasn’t a particularly government-slashing one.

Even the G.O.P.’s 1994 Contract With America made only vague promises to eliminate the budget deficit, and proposed no specific cuts in government programs. It focused far more on crime, taxes, welfare reform and government reform. Indeed, the “Republican Revolution” of 1995 imploded primarily because of the Republican Congress’s one major small-government-type initiative — the attempt to “cut” (i.e., restrain the growth of) Medicare. George W. Bush seemed to learn the lesson. Prior to his re-election, he proposed and signed into law popular (and, it turned out, successful) legislation, opposed by small-government conservatives, adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

So talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it’s not to the public as a whole. This isn’t to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It’s just that what’s politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government. (Besides, the public knows that government’s not going to shrink much no matter who’s in power.)

Kristol is being surprisingly honest in admitting that the Republicans have not really supported small government in office. However if the Republicans are not the party of small government, what do they stand for? He does give some examples of what he believes conservatives should support, including “constitutional government.” However, just as Republicans have not supported limited government, their record on upholding the Constitution is also weak. Kristol and other conservatives are right to criticize George Bush for supporting big government, but an even more serious problem of the Bush administration has been their lack of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law.

If Conservatives want to claim to be supporters of constitutional government, they shoud have been protesting whenever George Bush and Dick Cheney reduced the checks and balances on Executive power. If conservatives respected the Constitution they would have fought the restrictions in civil liberties in the Patriot Act. If conservatives desired to uphold the Constitution and the beliefs of the Founding Fathers they would have fought against the Bush administration’s efforts to break down separation of church and state, instead of promoting a revisionist history regarding the idea.

There are certainly exceptions as some conservatives have defended civil liberties and opposed the acts of the Bush administration, but they are a small minority and not representative of the direction of the Republican Party. The Republican Party now stands for little more than the policies of the religious right, and is better characterized by their McCarthyist tactics than for holding principles.

Sam Donaldson Warns of Excessive Influence of Religion in Government

Newsbusters and other conservatives are upset that Sam Donaldson warned about the increased influence of religion on public policy in recent years. Donaldson hedged on the actual terminology of Christian theocracy. What Donaldson is speaking of falls far short of total theocracy with government based completely on religious rule. Donaldson is correct in his warnings about increased religious influence on public policy. The transcript from the discussion on This Week is below the fold.

Donaldson was speaking most directly about Mitt Romney’s recent speech along with the emergence of Mike Huckabee as a front runner. It should also be recalled that two other Republican candidates, John McCain and Ron Paul, have also made claims that this is a Christian nation. Conservatives have increasingly been promoting a revisionist history which denies our heritage of separation of church and state and the intention of the founding fathers to create a secular government. We have a president who believes God chose him to be president and advised him to go to war in Iraq. Some have also claimed that Rumsfeld’s decisions on the war were also inspired by God.

There are many examples of the increased influence of religion on public policy. Conservative challenges to abortion rights, funding of stem cell research, intrusion in end of life decisions in the Terri Schiavo case, and opposition to the rights of homosexuals are the most prominent examples in recent years. Republicans have also attempted to set by legislation the moment when a fetus can feel pain regardless of the medical facts.

In education there have been the attempts to sneak in teaching on creationism (even if called intelligent design) and limit teaching of evolution. However it is not only biology that faces attacks. Religious fundamentalists attack established science on cosmology when they disagree about the origins of the universe, and object to geology when they disagree over the age of the earth. Many believe that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. The Bush administration has even backed religious fundamentalists who object to the geological age of the Grand Canyon, preferring the view that it was created in the biblical flood. Many Republicans insist upon teaching abstinence-based sex education in place of effective sex education.


Mitt Romney’s Lack of Understanding of Religion and Government

Mitt Romney gave his religion speech today and, as expected, we found that he is no John Kennedy. He is also no Arnold Vinick, who would have told those who asked about his religion, as in this clip from The West Wing, that it was none of their business. Neither Kennedy’s speech or Vinick’s fictional comment would be accepted in today’s Republican Party.

My opinion on Romney’s speech doesn’t matter much as I was not the intended audience. I do question whether this speech will reassure Republicans who had doubts about Romney but we will need to wait for the reaction. In terms of a sensible statement on religion and politics, the speech was a disaster. This became apparent as soon as Romney claimed, “Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom.” I’ve even heard George Bush show more respect to those who do not believe.

At least Romney did make mention of separation of church and state, which many conservatives totally deny. He also spoke of “our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty,” but he does not appear to understand these principles. Nor does he understand secularism. Romney said:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

Romney makes the same mistake made by many conservatives in confusing secularism for opposition to religion. When Romney cites the founding fathers he fails to understand that many of them were simultaneously religious and believers in secularism. As historian Joseph Ellis recently explained in his book American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies At The Founding Of The Republic, the creation of a secular state was one of the great accomplishments of the founding fathers.

Romney notes that, “our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator.” What he fails to understand is that, while the Declaration of Independence makes reference to a Creator, the Constitution was specifically written without such references. While religion might influence the thoughts of some of the founding fathers they also understood that such religious influence has no place in the establishment of government or government policy.

Unfortunately for Romney he is on the wrong side of the culture wars in running as a Republican. Those running for leadership positions in the Democratic Party, such as Harry Reid, are not hindered by their religion as a candidate’s specific religion does not matter to those who respect separation of church and state. The founding fathers, as well as many religious leaders of the time, realized that strict separation of church and state is essential to guarantee religious freedom. Being a Mormon did not limit the political ambitions of Mitt’s father, a former Governor of Michigan and former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. That was a different era. Since that time conservatives have supported an increased role for religion in public life, and often promote a revisionist history which denies our heritage of separation of church and state. Mitt Romney is a victim of these changes. Either he does not understand this, or if he does understand he realizes that such a message would not be accepted by the party he wishes to lead.

Joseph Ellis On The Creation of A Secular State

Many conservatives (along with Ron Paul) promote a revisionist history of the United States in which they deny the intention of the founding fathers to create a secular society with separation of church and state. The Constitution was a radical document for its time in many ways, including breaking from tradition in not basing its authority on religion. The First Amendment elaborates on this point, with both the writings of the founding fathers and multiple court decisions interpreting this as a guarantee of separation of church and state.

Pulitzer Prize winning historian Joseph J. Ellis looks at the accomplishments of the founding fathers from the time of the Declaration of Independence through the early years of the nation in his new book, American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies At The Founding Of The Republic. In looking at the crucial period from 1775 to 1803 Ellis identifies five core achievements of the founding fathers (pages 8-9):

  1. The revolutionary generation won the first successful war for colonial independence in the modern era.
  2. They established the first nation-sized republic.
  3. They created the first wholly secular state.
  4. They rejected the conventional wisdom that political sovereignty must reside in one agreed-upon location and that sovereignty was by definition singular and indivisible. They created over-lapping sources of authority in which blurring of jurisdiction between federal and state power become an asset rather than a liability.
  5. They created political parties as institutionalized channels for ongoing debate, which eventually permitted dissent to be regarded not as a treasonable act, but as a legitimate voice in an endless argument.

The third and fourth points conflict with the views of many conservatives, including Ron Paul, who are actually promoting their own personal views as opposed to the views of the founding fathers as they often claim.The religious right has been attempting to impose their views by denying that separation of church and state is an important part of the heritage of this country. Just as there is no controversy over evolution among biologists, legitimate historians such as Ellis write not of a controversy but describe separation of church and state as an undisputed fact. The full description of this core achievement reads:

…they created the first wholly secular state. Before the American Revolution it was broadly assumed that shared religious convictions were the primary basis for the common values that linked together the people of any political community, indeed the ideological glue that made any sense of community possible. By insisting on the complete separation of church and state, the founders successfully overturned this long-standing presumption.

Paul Supporters Receiving Increasingly Negative Press

Last Thursday I presented a somewhat tongue in cheek report on a bipartisan effort to go to war to rid the blogosphere of the problem of the Ron Paul supporters. While the war effort was intended to be humorous, the disdain for many of the Paul supporters among both conservative and liberal bloggers is quite real and the Paul supports are receiving an increasing amount of negative coverage of their actions.

Conservatives have the most problem since Paul is running as a Republican and his supporters have more reason at present to attack other Republicans than Democrats. Shortly after my post on the topic, conservative columnist Mona Charen posted a Memo to Ron Paul Supporters. Charen made the following complaints, with further elaboration in her column: Paul is inconsistent, historically challenged, unserious, and too cozy with kooks and conspiracy theorists. While the bulk of the post is centered around criticism of Paul, it is clear that she is influence by the annoyances of his followers as she writes, “Like every other journalist in America, and who knows, maybe the world or even the universe, I’ve been deluged with your letters and e-mails.”

CQ Politics has a story specifically on the problems of Paul supporters, primarily for the conservative blogs:

Indeed, things have gotten so bad that a growing number of political blogs and discussion boards — not exactly prime outlets of delicacy in public-spirited discourse — have taken the drastic step of barring especially vocal backers of the Texas congressman from their ranks. Two high-profile conservative blogs, redstate.com and littlegreenfootballs.com, have issued selective bans on the more disruptive Paul supporters trolling the sites. And this month, Bobby Eberle, who runs the site GOPUSA.com, addressed an open letter to Paul backers urging civility.

Eberle’s letter took pains to note that he wasn’t singling out Paul supporters per se but rather “the aggressive network of online fans who bombard discussion boards, spam Web sites, flood online polls, and behave in a manner that puts their candidate in an extremely bad light.”

Eberle says that in seven years of running GOPUSA.com, he’s never come across users as routinely abusive as Paul backers can be. “The typical e-mail from a Ron Paul supporter often contains profanity and is filled with name-calling and attacks on the other candidates,” he says. “They throw out slurs such as ‘neo-con’ or ‘fake Republican’ or ‘sheeple’ or ‘jerks’ or worse. They say people are ‘stupid,’ ‘idiots,’ ‘traitors,’ and worse for not supporting Ron Paul.

The story also notes how Paul supporters “have spoiled the fun when the site has sponsored unscientific polls to gauge the popularity of the Republican field.” After describing action taken by other conservative blogs an isolated Paul supporter is quoted as seeing the problems which arise from their actions:

At least some Paul enthusiasts have begun arguing that their online zeal may be on the verge of becoming counterproductive. “Now that Dr. Paul has more attention from the mainstream media, we have to take extra precaution to ensure that we are being as tactful as humanly possible,” one anonymous poster wrote recently on a popular Paul discussion board about the congressman, who’s also a physician. “We cannot afford to give the mainstream media or any of Dr. Paul’s opponents ammo.”

But the Paul campaign says it’s in no position to enforce such message discipline among its supporters. “These are independent supporters that are acting on their own volition,” says campaign spokesman Jesse Benton. “The campaign doesn’t have control of or influence over that.”

The lack of control is only partially true. In 2003-4 there was similar, and probably more widespread, use of the internet by supporters of Howard Dean. Their actions varied from constructive actions (which is also seen by some Paul supporters, such as in fund raising) as well as spamming comparable to that seen by the Paul supporters. Joe Trippi and some Dean supporters realized the harm that the latter were causing and did make an effort to convince them to cease their activities. Naturally they were not 100% effective but their efforts did help reduce the harm to the campaign.

Many Paul supporters, even more than Dean supporters, fail to comprehend that their efforts are frequently counterproductive. They need to decide if their goal is to win arguments (primarily in their own minds) or to actually win friends and influence people. While the problem is greatest in the conservative blogosphere, liberal blogs are also affected. I’ve found that many liberal bloggers, including myself, who were initially sympathetic towards Paul due to his beliefs on the war and civil liberties now have a much lower opinion of Paul which is somewhat due to the conduct of his supporters.

The problems from the Paul supporters include those quoted from the CQ article above but also include many of the attitudes expressed, particularly racism, anti-Semitism, and promotion of a variety of conspiracy theories. They often repeat the same unsubstantiated revisionist history used by the religious right to defend Paul’s absurd beliefs which deny that the Founding Fathers intended to create a secular society. While Paul supporters might believe the false history they promote, along with the conspiracy theories they subscribe to, such claims only convinces others that they are a bunch of kooks. The debate tactics used by Paul supporters are also particularly counterproductive. For example, I’ve had numerous Paul supporters attempt to argue with me by claiming that I believe or that I’ve written something completely different from what I believe or have written. I know what I believe and what I’ve written, and it is ridiculous to believe that taking an except out of context is not going to make me think otherwise. Such tactics will quickly convince me that the Paul supporter is not worthy of conversing with, but is certainly not going to make me any more supportive of their candidate.

While it might not be entirely fair, the conduct of Paul’s supporters does reflect on Ron Paul. It is meaningful that Howard Dean’s campaign made an effort to get Dean’s supporters to behave responsibly but Paul’s campaign does not. Paul also encourages much of the other criticism of him based upon that of his supporters. Paul’s refusal to return the contribution from Stromfront founder Don Black, as would be expected from any serious candidate, seriously harms his credibility. When he has written that this is a Christian nation and writes about the Israeli lobby it comes as no surprise that anti-Semites such as Hutton Gibson, Holocaust denier and father of Mel Gibson, have endorsed him. Often Paul will refrain from totally endorsing the conspiracy theories of his followers, but he suggests agreement with their beliefs in his writings and letters written to contributors. He frequently appears on talk shows hosted by conspiracy theorists and has his column published by neo-Nazis. While Paul generally does refrain from appearing as irrational as his supporters, his actions do raise questions and the conduct of his supporters only makes observers wonder if deep down Paul isn’t just another one of them. While no candidate can benefit from the actions of supporters who come across as kooks, Ron Paul is particularly susceptible to harm from association with such supporters.

Update: Wall Street Journal Joins Coverage of Paul Supporters

Bipartisan War Declared on “Paultards”

Ron Paul himself might be a decent guy, but by now most bloggers have a pretty low opinion of his supporters, who undoubtedly do Paul more harm than good (except for the days on which they raise four million dollars, which is always helpful). The “Paultards” just don’t seem to understand basic “netiquette,” the difference between blogs and debating forums, and good manners in general. Many sites now outright ban Paul supporters. Others of us find it necessary to utilize heavy moderation to maintain the quality of our sites.

Rather than banning Paul supporters outright (and many have asked for this) I prefer to allow selective posts to provide some discussion and elaboration of the subjects of the post without allowing the comment section to degrade to total nonsense. Some posts are weeded out for duplication of matters already discussed, and far more are weeded out for their sheer idiocy. I doubt I will allow many more posts on the dangers of the Council on Foreign Relations, the United Nations, or the Trilateral Commission. If you are really afraid that these groups are planning to take away your guns, get off the damn internet and barricade yourself in your house to protect your guns and your precious bodily fluids. I might allow further discussion of giant lizard conspiracy theories as this one was new to me, and is at least still of some comic value worthy of a Robert Anton Wilson novel.

Further racist and anti-Semitic posts are definitely not welcome. This includes those variations which claim that when Ron Paul wrote that blacks are prone to violence and are unable to come to sensible political opinions he was not being racist, but was just making a statement of fact. Those statements are racist, and at least Paul has tried to distance himself from his writings with such claims. If you believe that those statements were not racist and are a statement of fact, you are a racist–and that is a fact.

I’m also not terribly interested in comments which demonstrate how Paul’s record is better than Hillary Clinton’s or George Bush’s. These are two awfully low bars to surpass and doing so does not impress me.

Among the annoying comments which are invariably deleted are those which claim that a post was written on Ron Paul in order to bring in traffic from his supporters. I already have well over six thousand subscribers plus readers who come to the site, and many more who read posts which are picked up by several newspaper and television web sites. While this is well below the readership of Daily Kos, it is plenty and the handful of Paul supporters who come to spam are hardly needed. I’ve written on libertarianism even before hardly anybody heard of Ron Paul, and have posts on most of the candidates. The posts are written for intelligent, thinking people who are interested in serious consideration of the candidates and issues. That excludes most of the “Paultards.” Actually I was writing on politics, including libertarianism, even before Paul’s first presidential run, which was before the internet and back in the days when we had to use mimeograph and snail mail to distribute our work.

Perhaps most frustrating of all is seeing the manner in which libertarianism has deteriorated over the years if the “Paultards” are representative. In reality they are far closer to the social conservatives than libertarians, even if they do oppose the Iraq war and the drug war. They echo the same revisionist history denying separation of church and state as the religious right, and join them in imposing their religious views, such as on abortion, on others. That is not libertarianism as I used to know it. Many Paultards also justify Paul’s support for earmarks for his district, claiming this has no effect on increasing government spending. Von Mises, von Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman, and every other libertarian economist who has ever lived are rolling over in their graves, hoping that next month’s cover story on Reason announces: Ron Paul and the Paultards Are Not Libertarians–Do Not Confuse Our Work With Them. Ayn Rand is pretty pissed off too, but she didn’t like libertarians much even when she was alive, so that doesn’t count.

Many feel the “Paultards” must be stopped for the good of the blogosphere. I’d also add preserving the dignity of libertarianism as another reason for this. Recently RedState restricted posting by Paul supporters who had been members for under six months, while allowing anyone to continue to discuss libertarian positions. Wonkette has offered to make the war on “Paultards” a bipartisan effort and sent RedState this message:

Dear whoever runs things at Redstate.com:

We don’t care for your website. Just not our thing, ya know? But if Congress has taught us anything, it’s that Congress can’t teach us anything about working together. We may not like your internets, and you may not like ours, but we must work together to destroy a mutual enemy — illegal alien spambots, a.k.a. Paultards.

We were impressed with your recent banning of Paultards. We have one or two that we kind of like, but we try our best to ban the others. Nevertheless, these little CGI-based runts find their way to new cyber enclaves, from which they donate $4.3 million dollars to celebrate Guy Fawkes, as popularized by that sad excuse for a film, V for Vendetta.

This is a call for internet bipartisanship. We must bipartisan…ly declare war on the Paultards! We don’t know precisely what this war entails. This is where you come in, since you’re the Republicans. You guys know how to carry out wars, right? Strategy and the like? Well, you at least know how to start wars, which is fine with us. We welcome an insurgency. Bring it on, as your leader would say.

As we’ve both witnessed over the past few years, Congress hasn’t passed like, a single bill at all because of immature spats and dangerous political posturing. We will show them how to put aside our differences and work together for AMERICA, by ridding the internet of pompous Paultards. It will be like the U.S. and the Soviet Union teaming up to stop the Nazis. We get to be FDR though. Actually fuck it, we’ll be Stalin.

What say ye?

Bon chance,

RedState has responded:

Dear Wonkette,


Bombing starts in five minutes.


PS – We’d prefer to be Churchill than that socialist FDR. OK? We vote Kaus for FDR.

[UPDATE:] Attn Paultards: We are taking the initiative in this and declaring Pejman the Jew our Field Marshall in the war. Fear us.

By the way, we’re not much into occupations these day. War is fine, we’re really good at that. Occupation is hell. I hear Field Marshall Yousefzadeh just wants to go with an annihilation strategy.

On with bipartisanship, and on with the war!

Update: Mona Charen drops a bomb on the “Paultards.”

Ron Paul’s Voting Record Examined

Orcinus has accumulated an impressive list of bills supported by Ron Paul. These will probably be defended by his supporters but also demonstrate why there is a low ceiling on Paul’s potential support. As long as he remains the lone Republican who is making sense on some issues such as Iraq he will receive some favorable attention, but this will never translate into a meaningful number of votes.

In reviewing Paul’s record there is some ambiguity as he has reportedly introduced some bills to make a point and then voted against them. This makes any review based upon his voting record alone subject to misinterpretation, but I’ve also noted in previous posts that there are areas where Paul’s philosophy is contrary to supporting freedom as most would use the word.

Paul’s record can be summarized with a few trends. Many of his votes involve his support for the gold standard, abolition of the Federal Reserve and his opposition to virtually every program of the federal government. While this platform will never achieve widespread support, there’s not any real news here. It comes as no surprise, and is consistent with his public statements, to see that Paul opposes environmental laws, anti-trust laws, and agencies such as OSHA.

Paul’s writings, as are the comments of his supporters throughout the blogosphere, are full of conspiracy theories involving the United Nations, Jews, the Trilateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Therefore his votes against membership in the United Nations come as no surprise.

Where Paul betrays his claims to being a libertarian is in his views on separation of church and state and abortion rights. I’ve discussed Paul’s promotion of right wing revisionist history on separation of church and state in several previous posts, along with his opposition to secularism and his claims that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian nation. Paul’s support for the federal ban on so-called partial birth abortions also contradicts his usual support for leaving matters to the states. His use of the erroneous term “partial birth abortion” along with his support for legislation to eliminate the legal distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human are particularly surprising considering his training as an Obstetrician.

The other aspect of Paul’s voting record which contradicts his rhetoric is his support for pork to support his own district as described by The Wall Street Journal:

After reporters started asking questions, the Congressman disclosed his requests this year for about $400 million worth of federal funding for no fewer than 65 earmarks. They include such urgent national wartime priorities as an $8 million request for the marketing of wild American shrimp and $2.3 million to fund shrimp-fishing research.

The listing at Orcinus does not include many of these earmarks but does list several of his bills to support the shrimp industry. The list also is intended to show areas where the author disagrees with Paul and therefore does exclude areas where Paul does deserve credit. These include his opposition to the Iraq war (along with extending it to Iran), his opposition to the restrictions on civil liberties and increase in power of the Executive Branch under George Bush, and his opposition to the drug war.