Ron Paul has returned to the hot-button issue of secession, arguing that leaving the Union is a legitimate way for states to "stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties."
Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas known for his libertarian views, said on his House website:
"Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. 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."
The Civil War was of course fought in part over secession when the South tried to form the Confederate States of America and retain slavery. That war cost huge numbers of lives and money but in the end the Union was preserved.
But Paul said, "[I]f the people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free? If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free ... If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it."
A Paul spokeswoman told my U.S. News colleague Elizabeth Flock last week that Paul "feels the same way" about secession as he did in April 2009 when he said on YouTube that secession is a legitimate issue to debate.
Since Obama was re-elected November 6, petitions have been circulated in a number of states including Texas supporting secession. Now Paul has used that development as a news peg to expand on his views about secession.
Paul ran for the GOP presidential nomination this year. He fell short but inspired some of the most enthusiastic followers of any campaign.
He is retiring from the House when his term ends in January. But Paul, 77, says he will continue to give speeches on college campuses to spread his libertarian ideas, which call for maximizing personal liberty, cutting government, and reducing U.S. military operations abroad.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Facebook or Twitter.