With Ron Paul ascending in Iowa, winning the hearts of independents, and even the endorsement of Andrew Sullivan, it’s worth pointing something out: Ron Paul is not a kindly old libertarian who just wants everybody to be free. He’s a really creepy bigot.

Around four years ago, James Kirchick reported a lengthy story delving into Paul’s worldview. As Kirchick writes, Paul comes out of an intellectual tradition called “paleolibertarianism,” which is a version of libertarianism heavily tinged with far-right cultural views. The gist is that Paul is tied in deep and extensive ways to neo-Confederates, and somewhat less tightly to the right-wing militia movement. His newsletter, which he wrote and edited for years, was a constant organ of vile racism and homophobia. This is not just picking out a phrase here and there. Fear and hatred of blacks and gays, along with a somewhat less pronounced paranoia about Jewish dual loyalty, are fundamental elements of his thinking. The most comparable figure to Paul is Pat Buchanan, the main differences being that Paul emphasizes economic issues more, and has more dogmatically pro-market views.

How, then, has Paul become a figure of admiration among social liberals?

One reason is that nobody is attacking him. Paul is (correctly) considered to have no chance to actually win the GOP nomination, so debate moderators have not bothered to research his past, instead tossing off generalized questions that allow him to portray himself on his preferred terms. The Republican Establishment is focusing all its fire on Newt Gingrich, and indeed, Paul’s rise in Iowa would greatly aid Mitt Romney’s campaign by preventing an acceptable alternative from emerging from the state with momentum.

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