Bloggers fight over politicians all the time. They usually split up into predictable groups. That's banal.
But Ron Paul is changing that in interesting ways.
This isn't really a substantive post about Ron Paul's positions and their merits. That would take a lot longer than I have to do decently. It's more an observation about the way he's drawn both support and derision from unexpected places.
Ron Paul is running for the Republican nomination and is often billed as a libertarian. But his candidacy has created some strange bedfellows:
* Red State, a site popular among conservatives and plagiarism enthusiasts, actually banned pro-Paul chatter for a while. This illustrates one of the most prominent factors driving the Paul debate: his online supporters are legion, they apparently sit around Googling his name all day, and they swarm forums and comments on threads when his name is raised. And sometimes when it isn't. This has caused substantial anti-Paul sentiment in the blogosphere.
* Little Green a Footballs, a site very popular among people who put up posters of Babe and Porky Pig in their rooms because it might deter the Muslim hordes seeking to force them to pray to Mecca at gunpoint, has had a long-term hate relationship with Paul. The relationship went far south after LGF's proprietor stopped including Paul in candidate polls because the Paulians would send up their Paul-signal and flood the poll, often generating a result suggesting that 80% of Americans thought Paul had won a particular debate. So LGF dumped Paul polling and took up, with glee, mockery of Paulians.
* Sadly, No — a liberal satirical blog I link with embarrassing frequency — posted an argument that, in effect, Paul's detractors on the Left should focus on his anti-war stance and not get hung up on his alleged connections to various undesirables such as Nazis. Here we see what I think is another one of the main factors making Paul's support and opposition unpredictable — his unqualified opposition to the war in Iraq. Make no mistake, Sadly, No does not support Paul. But they are, in a significant sense, defending him.
* Andrew Sullivan, a self-described true conservative who is faithfully devoted to all bedrock principles underlying being Andrew Sullivan, has recently come out defending Paul from what he describes as smears suggesting that Paul is a closet Nazi. He's had a series of posts mixing it up with Paul critics — for instance, by arguing that criticism of Paul based on his supporters is hypocritical unless the same standards are applied to, say, Giuliani. This is all somewhat odd — Paul is no supporter of Sullivan on crucial civil liberties issues like gay rights.
* Glen Greenwald, another liberal blogger, has an extremely lengthy and detailed post here, the upshot of which seems to be that he sees many of the attacks on Paul as unfair smears. Once again, Paul's anti-war stance seems to play a prominent role.
Then there are plenty of blogs falling the way you would expect them to. Orcinus, a blog the chief weapon of which is a soul-crushing level of thoroughness, has been dogging Paul's heels. It's not surprising that given Dave at Orcinus' background and concerns, his main focus has been on some of Paul's more McVeigh-esque followers and supporters. Orcinus has an entirely legitimate point, as far as I am concerned, that a Presidential candidate should probably return a donation from an avowed white supremacist, for appearances if nothing else. More recently Dave has put up posts going into amazing depth regarding Paul's more unusual legislative positions and looking further into his scary-far-right supporter contingent.
So what the Hell is going on? I'd offer the following observations, which I do not claim are original:
* A web-savvy support base is a double-edged sword. Paul's most motivated internet supporters have needlessly alienated some people whose blogs are widely read. This may not be an attribute of Ron Paul supporters in particular; it just may be that no candidate has previously had a web based that was annoying in such an organized fashion.
* Like I said above I think I'd give back the money from the White Supremacist boosters. Supporters and defenders may have a point that some attacks on Paul are about guilt by association. But the breadth and depth of Paul's extremist support (ably detailed at Orcinus), combined with some of his past statements and some of his more recent releases that seem spun to please that crowd, justifies careful scrutiny.
* The Iraq was so completely dominates our politics that Paul's steadfast opposition to it completely distorts normal support and opposition patterns. And I have to hand it to him — good for him about being up front about it. I suspect that a number of the Dems feel the same way but don't have the stones to say so or are too politically cautious to say so.
* Paul is not a libertarian in the way I think most of us understand that word. That is, he isn't actually a strong defender of individual liberty. Rather, he's more like an extreme federalist. Take, for instance, his stance on flag burning, a matter of some controversy this week. As near as I can parse it, Paul doesn't want a federal law banning flag burning both because it would violate the First Amendment and because it would exceed the proper scope of Congress' power. But he doesn't have any problem with states banning it, and doesn't think the First Amendment should prevent them. In other words, unless I am mistaking him, he rejects the incorporation doctrine. In the context of modern political thought, that's fairly extreme. I can sit down and debate with someone who wants to get rid of all the alphabet soup of federal agencies. But if someone feels that the bill of rights should not restrain the states in the wake of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, I don't think we have common ground — and I certainly don't think he's a libertarian as I understand that word. I would call him a liberafederalist — someone who thinks that removing fetters on states' rights will naturally increase individual liberty. I leave it to the individual historian of the 20th century to evaluate that belief.
* Look, if you give a Congressional shoutout to folks who think that the 16th Amendment was never ratified — a tax protester classic — you're going to get some guff. Same to a lesser extent with being really concerned with the gold standard.
I find this one really interesting, so I suspect I will return to it.
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