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July 10, 2013 12:57 PM Rand Paul and His Confederate Friends

By Ed Kilgore

The second-day story about Rand Paul and the neo-Confederate history of his book co-author and social media director Jack Hunter involves the motives of the Washington Free Beacon in publishing Alana Goodman’s highly negative piece on Hunter. At the paleo-connish American Conservative, where Hunter has been a contributor, Daniel McCarthy says it’s simple:

The Washington Free Beacon is the neoconservative answer to the Daily Caller, and it made its dubious mark earlier this year with a sustained stream of attacks against Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. Why the Free Beacon would devote so much attention to Hagel is no secret: Hagel was a somewhat late but nonetheless prominent critic of the Iraq War and America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
The Free Beacon is now giving the same treatment to Jack Hunter, who has written for The American Conservative and today serves as Sen. Rand Paul’s director of new media. Coincidentally or not, Hunter has also been an eloquent critic of the foreign policy supported by the Free Beacon’s ideological family.

Huh. I have to admit, I didn’t know the Free Beacon (often called the “Free Bacon” by its lefty detractors) had any ideology beyond Breitbartian savagery towards the heathen liberals. Yes, its founder and editor-in-chief, Matthew Continetti, is an alumnus of the neocon redoubt The Weekly Standard, and is Bill Kristol’s son-in-law. But Continetti is also closely identified with Sarah Palin, and anyone who can divine any coherent ideology in her opportunistic shrieking is seeing something I can’t see.

In any event, McCarthy’s defense of Hunter treats the neo-confederate stuff sort of as youthful indiscretions, and his radio shock jock “Southern Avenger” persona as a “naive” stunt that doesn’t reflect the man’s mature thinking on race or history. Whatever.

As Jonathan Chait observed yesterday, at some point you have to figure that the chronic association of secessionists and racists with the Paul Revolution (and more generally with libertarianism and “constitutional conservatism”) exists for a reason; it’s not a coincidence or a figment of hostile imaginations.

The deep connection between the Pauls and the neo-Confederate movement doesn’t discredit their ideas, but it’s also not just an indiscretion. It’s a reflection of the fact that white supremacy is a much more important historical constituency for anti-government ideas than libertarians like to admit.

But at least one libertarian-oriented writer, the Cato Institute’s Jason Kuznicki, is fed up, and writes eloquently at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen about the tendency of the Pauls and their allies to coddle if not conspire with friends of the Lost Cause:

I will certainly stop thinking of Rand Paul as the “good” Paul, the one who was over all that bad, old, racist, secessionist nonsense. Very obviously, he’s just fine with all that. He can’t not be fine with it. He must both know about it and tolerate it. The association here seems a good deal stronger, if anything, than the one between the elder Paul and his neo-Confederate associates.
I do not have to tolerate this stuff, and I won’t. Rand Paul has always insisted that he was a conservative, not a libertarian, and I’d sometimes tried to say, “Well, yeah, but he kind of really is a libertarian. Sort of.” From now on, the conservatives can have him, and they will hear no objections from me. Take him, he’s yours….
Anyone who cares about human liberty — to whatever degree — ought to despise the Confederacy, ought to mock and desecrate its symbols, and ought never to let Confederate apologists pass unchallenged.
Those who make excuses for the Confederacy are at best ignorant, and even that ignorance is hard to fathom. Those who wave the Confederate flag just to make other people angry? Well, I get angry at them. It works every time, and I’m not even a little ashamed of it.
All friends of the Confederacy are my enemies. Wherever they appear. They’re your enemies too — they are the enemies of the entire human race — and the only remaining question is whether you face up to your responsibility as a human being and disown them.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I don’t know how representative Kuznicki’s reaction is of libertarians generally, but if it is, then it would seem that there is no longer a united front between libertarians and paleoconservatives in their battle with the neocons. And that could be bad news for Rand Paul even if he manages to go a few weeks without new revelations of unsavory associations. Indeed, as he seeks acceptance as a mainstream figure in the Republican Party (as Stuart Reid explains in the July/August issue of the Monthly), he might want to take a closer look at the parade he’s leading.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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