A crucial element of Paul’s worldview and that of his paleoconservative brethren is that America began to go to hell in a hand-basket with the Union victory in the American Civil War. Abraham Lincoln’s firm use of executive power to crush the slaveholding states’ attempt to secede initiated, in their view, the centralization of federal government power that continues to this day. The 1992 issue of the Ron Paul Survival Report (the name of which was a deliberate appeal to the then burgeoning far-right “survivalist” movement preparing for racial apocalypse) stated that “the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society” and that “there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it.” Ironically, while Paul was applauding Ukrainian independence 20 years ago, he is now cheering the Crimea’s forcible reintegration into Russia.

In addition to whitewashing Russian aggression, Paul depicts some of the most benign elements of America’s overseas involvement as nefarious and illegitimate. “The evidence is pretty clear that the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] financed by our government have been agitating with billions of dollars, trying to get that government changed,” he told The Guardian. “Our hands are not clean.”