One of the frustrating things about being a libertarian is that almost by definition any libertarian who actually makes a serious run for a national office also tends to be a complete nutter. The Libertarian Party remains a bad joke and the Republican Party give us libertarians like Ron Paul.
Since the late 1970s, Paul had published a monthly newsletter under a number of different titles including The Freedom Report and The Ron Paul Investment Letter. The New Republic’s James Kirchick’s wrote an article, Angry White Man, on the eve of the New Hampshire primary that documented racist content that appeared in the newsletters beginning in the late 1980s. Among other things, the newsletters accused Martin Luther King, Jr. of being a pedophile, referred to blacks as “animals”. In light of Paul’s support of the paleo-conservative view that the single worst event in U.S. history was the Civil War, there’s no reasonable doubt that the newsletter intentionally advanced racist ideas as part of its appeal.
The newsletter also contained explicitly anti-homosexual statements such as this gem,
Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.
There is also plenty of conspiracy theory nonsense about the Trilateral Commission, allegations that AIDS was intentionally created by WHO researchers, etc. Paul was running ads in Michigan claiming that NAFTA was part of some grand conspiracy to create a single North American state.
Paul clearly understands that the newsletters are a problem, but has dissembled over them. When his Democratic opponent in his 1996 House race brought up some of the racist quotes, Paul accused his opponent of taking the quotes out of context. By 2001, Paul had a completely different explanation — he hadn’t written the offending passages, nor had he actually been aware of them at the time they were written, even though the newsletter was published under his name and he benefited greatly from the income the newsletters generated.
So you can either believe a) that Paul is a racist, or b) he’s not a racist, but he allowed others to write racist articles that he did not approve or read even though the newsletter went out under his name. Either explanation renders Paul unfit for public office, period, much less for President.
Yet his supporters don’t see it that way. To Ron Paul supporters this is old news being dredged up by a conspiracy designed to bring down Paul’s revolutionary run for the White House. Many attack Kirchick for being a lousy reporter or repeating this “old” story. Even the normally rational writers at Reason magazine, many of whom have been very supportive of Paul’s candidacy, have certainly not treated this story in the same way they would have if it came out that, say, John Edwards had been publishing a newsletter in the 1980s and 1990s filled with racist and homophobic invectives.
Libertarianism is such a fringe movement anyway, that it is hard to say that this episode will damage it. But it will certainly offer a very high profile example for liberals and left-wingers who already argue that libertarianism is an ideology whose subtext would be to preserve white, upper class privilege. The fact that so many of his supporters are able to so easily dismiss writings that Paul distributed under his name certainly doesn’t bode well for the possibility of a genuine libertarian political movement either independently or within the Republican Party.