Old News, Cont.

Correction: After some prodding from Julian Sanchez, I re-read the Dave's piece. Calling it a defense is wrong. It isn't. It's an explanation. My apologies. I leave the text intact so that nothing is hidden.


Yesteday Ron Paul claimed on CNN that he'd never read the newsletters that went out in his name. Here is Ron Paul in a 1995 video discussing the very newsletters he claims to never have read. 


If you can find away to explain away a hateful newsletter written in someone's own name, it's likely you can find some way to explain this video away too. There's always a path to make yourself right, if that's your intent. Indeed, at this point it probably behooves me to stop arguing.

But I would ask you suffer me one final point: Dave Wiegel convincingly argues that Paul isn't a bigot, simply part of coalition who saw bigotry as a potent political force. This is meant as a defense. In fact it's an unwittingly damning indictment, that puts Ron Paul in the ugly tradition of non-racist demagogues:

In 1952, [George Wallace] became the Circuit Judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in Alabama. Here he became known as "the fighting little judge," a nod to his past boxing association. He gained a reputation for fairness regardless of the race of the plaintiff, and J. L. Chestnut, a black lawyer, recalled, "Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me 'Mister' in a courtroom."

On the other hand, "Wallace was the first Southern judge to issue an injunction against removal of segregation signs in railroad terminals." Wallace blocked federal efforts to review Barbour County voting lists, for which he was cited for criminal contempt of court in 1959. Wallace also granted probation to some blacks, which may have cost him the 1958 gubernatorial election.

He was defeated by John Patterson in Alabama's Democratic gubernatorial primary election in 1958, which at the time was the decisive election, the general election still almost always being a mere formality. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. Patterson ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP.

After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, "Seymore, you know why I lost that governor's race?... I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I'll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again."
In the wake of his defeat, Wallace "made a Faustian bargain," said Emory University professor Dan Carter. "In order to survive and get ahead politically in the 1960s, he sold his soul to the devil on race."

He adopted hard-line segregationism, and used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election. When a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor."

That last quote is chilling--but not quite as chilling as this:

"When I became governor, there were 14 of us running for governor that time and all 14 of us were outspoken for segregation in the public schools," Patterson said. "And if you had been perceived not to have been strong for that, you would not have won....I regret that, but there was not anything I could do about it but to live with it."

That's John Patterson--the man who defeated Wallace by "outniggering him." Patterson was speaking in 2008, shortly after having cast a vote for the first black president in the country's history.

It is comforting to think of racism as species of misanthropy, or akin to child molestation, thus exonerating all those who bear no real hatred in their heart. It's much more troubling to think of it as its always been--a means of political organization and power distribution. Such a definition makes the "I'm a good person" defense irrelevant. 

I could easily believe that Ron Paul holds no more particular disdain for blacks than George Wallace or John Patterson. These were not evil men. They were good people, who consented to evil in the pursuit of power. 

When Andrew says the Ron Paul newsletters are old news, he has no idea how right he is.

We'll cap at 500. Have fun.

MORE: Forgive me. This forthright post from Conor deserves a read.



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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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