Ron Paul: Secession "deeply American"
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, speaks at a rally at the University of South Florida Sun Dome on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012. / AP
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., defended the secession petitions circulating on the White House website, saying the petitioners "raise a lot of worthwhile questions about the nature of our union."
In a post under the "Texas Straight Talk" section of Paul's House website, the congressman disputed the charge that talk of secession is "mere sour grapes over the election," exalting secession as a "deeply American principle."
"This country was born through secession," Paul writes. "Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those "traitors" became our country's greatest patriots. There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents."
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Paul's argument, at times an almost-scholarly rumination on historical documents and founding fathers, cites the Declaration of Independence's dissolution of political union as a historical precedent, and quotes Thomas Jefferson's 1825 letter to Thomas Giles in which the founding father argued that states "should separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers."
And everywhere Paul looks, he sees government unlimited.
"Consider the ballot measures that passed in Colorado and Washington state regarding marijuana laws," writes Paul. "The people in those states have clearly indicated that they are ready to try something different where drug policy is concerned, yet they will still face a tremendous threat from the federal government. In California, the Feds have been arresting peaceful medical marijuana users and raiding dispensaries that state and local governments have sanctioned. This shouldn't happen in a free country."
He also singles out Obamacare as an example of federal overreach: "It remains to be seen what will happen in states that are refusing to comply with the deeply unpopular mandates of Obamacare by not setting up healthcare exchanges. It appears the Federal government will not respect those decisions either."
Paul argues that secession, far from being treasonous, must be seen as a final safeguard against an unduly transgressive central government: "In a free country, governments derive their power from the consent of the governed. When the people have very clearly withdrawn their consent for a law, the discussion should be over. If the Feds refuse to accept that and continue to run roughshod over the people, at what point do we acknowledge that that is not freedom anymore? At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government?"
He concludes, "If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free."
Paul's defense of secession can be seen as another example of his states' rights absolutism - more an exercise in ideological consistency than a legitimate incitement to dissolve the union. But critics will doubtlessly accuse Paul of irresponsibly throwing kerosene on the already-inflamed secession debate that has sprung up in the wake of President Obama's reelection.
Paul's bids for the White House - as a Republican in 2008 and 2012, as a Libertarian in 1988 - all ended in defeat for the congressman.
Still, the presidential bids have been credited with advancing the Texas congressman's brand of libertarianism within the GOP and the public at large. In the wake of the GOP's across-the-board drubbing in November, some Republicans casting about for a solution have identified Paul's platform - sound money, minimalist government, isolationist foreign policy - as a salve for what ails the Republican Party.
The 77-year-old representative, who is retiring from Congress in January after more than three decades in Washington, will soon be unable to carry his own torch on Capitol Hill.
Then again, he may not need to: his son, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been identified by many Paul-acolytes as the congressman's heir-apparent and is already generating buzz as a potential 2016 presidential contender in his own right.
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