THE BLOG
12/29/2011 01:18 pm ET | Updated Feb 28, 2012

Ron Paul's Southern Cast of Mind

That giant sucking sound you hear is Ron Paul's presidential bid. For the sake of the country, though, I hope he wins Iowa.

Last week, Reuters reported on a solicitation in the early 1990s that urged voters to subscribe to his newsletters, The Ron Paul Investment Letter and The Ron Paul Political Report. These promised to help protect assets and make money by revealing the "coming race war," the "perverted, pagan playground of the powerful," a "federal-homosexual cover-up," and the "the plot for world government, world money and world central banking."

It's pretty much a sales pitch that hits all the high notes of white supremacy, homophobia, anti-Semitism and paranoia. It's also pretty much how you define "political shit-storm."

CNN's Gloria Borger asked Paul to explain himself in an interview last week. He said he didn't read the newsletters, didn't write them and disavows them. She pressed him further, noting that, well, your name is on them. He answered by walking away.

Drew Ivers, Paul's campaign chairman in Iowa, told reporters that Paul didn't write the solicitation or the newsletters. "It is ridiculous to imply that Ron Paul is a bigot, racist, or unethical," he said.

He's right, of course.

One shouldn't imply that Paul is a bigot, racist, or unethical.

One should come out and say it. In plain language.

Language is exactly what everyone's getting hung up on. Naturally. It's staggering that a presidential contender surging in the polls in Iowa, the first state in the nation to pick a challenger, would express such bigotry or be associated with people who do.

Even so, I agree with Paul's camp. You shouldn't take his words out of context. We shouldn't take such things as "Red debt bomb" and "IRS agent with an AK-47" and "KGB-level security" and "totalitarian bills [money]" out of their original settings.

No, these phrases, all found in the solicitation letter, should be understood as the building blocks of a worldview -- one that's irreconcilable with the best American values.

If you read the whole letter, you see it's about proposed alterations to U.S. currency like the kind that happened in the 2000s in which holograms, etc., were inserted into bills to combat counterfeiters.

The author exploits this pretty ingeniously. White supremacy, homophobia, anti-Semitism and paranoia are already on simmer anyway. Why not turn the heat up and make a buck? Outraged by blacks on welfare? Buy my newsletter. Think the feds are after your nest-egg? Buy my report. Think Jews have created a secret network of blah-blah-blah? Easy money.

But like I said, it's not the bit and pieces of Paul's newsletters that are alarming. It's what they add up to that's stunning to those of us who believe democracy is the rule of the majority.

Paul and his ilk believe they are the Real Americans. Just like Southern Confederates. Conveniently, Southern politics dominated national politics from the Jefferson's presidency until Lincoln's despite being in the minority in their own states (slaves outnumbered whites) and compared to the ever-growing North.

According to Michael Lind, they were able to do this for a simple reason: If Southerners didn't get what they wanted, they'd break up the union. Which of course they did. They might have thought themselves the real Americans, but of importance was maintaining power, not the United States.

A guerrilla war began after the Civil War ended. Southern power players defied federal attempts to democratize the South. But it was a war on facts, too. With years of revisionism behind him, Ron Paul can say that slavery was on its way out, because the British Empire had abolished it and that Lincoln could have avoided war had he bought the slaves. He didn't, Paul has implied, because Lincoln was a dictator hell-bent on expanding his dominion.

Liberals don't take this seriously, but they should. The most vivid image contained in the solicitation letter is that of the Soviet Union. Remember the "totalitarian bills"? The message is clear: Federal power is like Stalinism. First they take your property (slaves), then they take your money (federal taxes), then they give your money to people who didn't earn it (former slaves).

The majority is supposed to rule. For those of Paul's Southern cast of mind, that's what's wrong, so they divide the majority up with state's rights. It's an old tactic that keeps on keeping on.

That's why I hope Paul wins Iowa. And only Iowa.

Tribalism like Paul's thrives underground. Paul can stop the game when he doesn't like how it's going (as he did with CNN's Bolger, as the Confederates did with the union). Under scrutiny, though, he won't be able to walk away. It would a very small step toward a kind of truth and reconciliation that this country has never had.