Ron Paul prefers hurricanes to wipe out thousands instead of measley dozens
I hate giving attention to Ron Paul, who is a familiar type in Texas: equal parts racist old crank that obsesses over conspiracy theories that have their historical roots in anti-Semiticism and vicious misogynist who thinks women's sexual liberation is the worst thing that's ever happened in history. Unfortunately, Paul has managed to snag the affections of a collection of white men who imagine themselves to be "liberal", because they hear he supports legalizing marijuana, though they hide behind his opposition to the war because even they know that it's fucking disgusting to believe it's more important for dudes to have legal rights to joints than women to have legal rights to abortion. Paulbots are literally the most annoying people on Earth, because there is literally nothing their hero can do that they won't vociferously defend, sometimes even while claiming not to support his point of view. After all, they aren't prepared yet to follow their hero's prescribed lifestyle of marrying a church lady and giving up on the hope of interesting sex for the rest of their lives, but they know that keeping their already dim hopes of sex with live, consenting women alive means at least pretending like they are also repulsed by statements like, "order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks," and "the federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS". Being Paulbots, they actually claim that these prior statements by Paul are fine, because they claim to believe his transparent lie that someone else wrote them for a newsletter and he just happened to sign his name to them without knowing what was in them. This, even though in many of the offensive statements, he took great pains to make it clear that he was the one writing them. For instance, in the rant about the "federal-homosexual cover-up on AIDS", Paul wrote, "my training as a physician helps me see through this one." But Paulbots are so dedicated to seeing this Bible-thumping, racist, misogynist piece of shit as their hero that they'll claim with straight faces that somehow all those first person statements in newsletters Ron Paul signed his name to were not written by him. The man could eat a live kitten on TV, and while it was still squeaking in pain and terror as life seeped out of it and its blood ran down his face, they would say, "CNN is only telling you that's a kitten because they're part of the oligarchy, dude," before taking another puff on the joint.
So I wasn't surprised to have angry Paulbots defend their hero on Twitter when I posted a link to Ron Paul suggesting that the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was the gold standard in how our country should respond to hurricanes, and that we shouldn't have FEMA coordinating rescue efforts that would prevent horrors like that hurricane, which killed three times as many people as the attacks on 9/11. (Galveston is in his district, too, so Paul isn't fucking around when he idealizes the drowning deaths of thousands of people.) Paul helpfully added that drowned bodies are good for our national character, adding, "FEMA creates many of our problems because they sell the insurance because you can't buy it from a private company, which means there's a lot of danger, so we pay people to build on beaches, and then we have to go and rescue them." Angry Paulbots responded to my disapproval of this by sending things like old articles praising Galveston for being able to recover from a hurricane completely destroying their town. Of course, this was nonsensical, because as admirable as the rebuilding efforts may have been, they had nothing to do with the point at hand, which is that it's important to have a federal agency to organize and run efforts to prevent people from drowning in the first place. One Paulbot actually had the nerve to cite Hurricane Katrina as a reason we don't need FEMA. When I pointed out that FEMA was being run in 2005 exactly as Paul wants—which is to say, not at all—the Paulbot had no response.
In a sense, Ron Paul is just a sideshow, and his hateful desire to have people drown as some sort of lesson to people who might live on the coast (as if they do that for the hell of it and not because that's where their jobs are, or as if there's really huge parts of the country where there are never any natural dangers—by the way, Paul is breaking his own moral code by living in D.C.) is just another nasty thing he said to appeal to cranks who just enjoy being assholes, no matter how "progressive" they claim to be. But it's also important to pay attention to these narratives, because a lot of them are tried out by fringe sorts like Paul and then mainstreamed in right wing channels. One of the biggest problems is that when things go right, as they largely did with the response to Irene, the minimal damage perversely gets people to believe that we don't need massive response efforts. "That wasn't so bad," people think, "so I don't know why we need building codes, infrastructure spending, and coordinated government responses to natural disasters." You know, even though these are the reasons that it wasn't so bad. It's a lot like someone who eats right and exercises their whole life, and when they don't develop heart disease, saying, "Man, I guess I wasted all that effort."
Paul's function in the conservative movement is to pull it to the right. He comes out and says something outlandish like claiming that we don't need FEMA or that desegregation actually worsened race relations (the insinuation being that white people can only deal with black people if they have formal legal superiority over them), and that helps make crazy wingnuttery that falls just short that sound more moderate. He runs out and denounces efforts to keep people alive and idealizes a situation where 8,000 people died. That gives other conservatives space to demand a defunding of FEMA and National Weather Services, because hey, at least they aren't opening praising a situation where thousands drown to death. Also, by focusing attention on 1900, Paul can distract from people comparing the excellent government response to Irene with the piss-poor government response to Katrina.
As I noted yesterday, Democrats need to loudly resist this. Not only denounce Paul's statements, but go the next step and hang him on Republicans in general. Irene is a great occasion to show how effective government can be if being run by people who believe in government. It's often hard to show how that works, because as noted before, when things are going well, people tend not to notice them. But one opportunity is to highlight ignorant statements like Paul's and contrast them with our realities.