One missed note about Ron Paul

In my long Ron Paul post, I left out a point I wanted to make about Paul’s dog-whistle politics. For those unfamiliar with the idea, dog-whistle politics is “a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.”

The most striking explication of dog-whistle racial politics on the right-wing comes from the famous Republican strategist Lee Atwater. Atwater remarked:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968, you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

The difficulty with certain kinds of dog-whistle politics is that you cannot ever be certain whether a politician actually intends a dog-whistle effect. A politician who is genuinely interested in cutting welfare programs is not readily distinguishable from one whose criticism of welfare is simply a coded way to signal that they think Blacks are lazy (e.g. those who perpetuated the welfare queen stupidity).

So the best you can generally do with any given politician is guess what they are trying to say. But with Ron Paul’s checkered past, it becomes very difficult not to regard his adamant dislike for the federal government, welfare programs, and the Civil Rights Act as nothing more than Old South dog-whistle politics.

In any case, you know that is how the racist fringe he has engaged with in the past understands those statements. That is what explains the swell of white supremacist support Paul received in 2008 and again this election. It is possible that Paul is totally innocent in all of this, but extremely implausible. His years of working the racist fringe along with his former chief of staff Lew Rockwell — the libertarian tactician who celebrated the congressional campaign victory of KKK Grand Wizard David Duke — has put him in the perfect dog-whistle position among the right-wing fringe.

Whether Paul is intending racial dog-whistling or these right-wing groups are just projecting it onto him is ultimately of little importance. The fact simply is that Paul’s desire to eventually cut all government social programs will hurt people of color the most. The racists know it; Ron Paul knows it; and, it would be devastating if Paul ever had a change to make it happen.