Political Animal


November 20, 2012 12:38 PM Hell Yes, Ron Paul is Fergettin’

By Ed Kilgore

Even as his son the junior senator from Kentucky signals a possible 2016 presidential run, retiring congressman Ron Paul is demonstrating that even he has some opinions that political exigencies apparently inhibited him from expressing earlier. Here’s this via Politico:

“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,” the former presidential candidate wrote in a post on his House website. “There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.”
He continued: “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.”

In his essay, Paul acknowledges but then dismisses the rather obvious objection to this line of thinking:

Is it treasonous to want to secede from the United States? Many think the question of secession was settled by our Civil War. On the contrary; the principles of self-governance and voluntary association are at the core of our founding. Clearly Thomas Jefferson believed secession was proper, albeit as a last resort. Writing to William Giles in 1825, he concluded 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.”
Keep in mind that the first and third paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence expressly contemplate the dissolution of a political union when the underlying government becomes tyrannical.

Ah, yes, the Declaration Mysticism that is at the heart of so-called “constitutional conservatism” and that has crept its way into standard Republican rhetoric. And Paul conveniently shows why this is a dangerous habit of mind, because as a matter of fact, this was the subject “settled by our Civil War,” a conclusion that can only be challenged by those who proclaim an eternal right of revolution or secession that no Constitution can abridge. During the debate over the purpose of the Civil War in the non-seceding states, the forces of conciliation that favored peace without the abolition of slavery argued for “the Union as it was and the Constitution as it is.” There was zero disagreement over the “right” to secession itself. Paul and others like him are straight-out neo-Confederates.

But unlike other neo-Confederates, Paul isn’t being totally honest about his position. When I was a child growing up in the Jim Crow South, a popular bumper sticker and auto-tag showed a Confederate soldier flourishing the Battle Flag with the legend: “Hell no, I ain’t Fergettin’.” Ron Paul most definitely is, and that could be a problem for Rand Paul, whose proto-candidacy for president leans heavily on “state’s rights” answers to many controversial questions.

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.


  • Cugel on November 20, 2012 12:49 PM:

    We should call their bluff and tell them we're ready to let them go. In reality, the South does not WANT to secede.

    What they want is to rant and complain that they didn't get their way in the last election. And it's horrible that white evangelicals aren't running everything now. Clearly the end of days!

    Can you imagine Kentucky becoming a separate 3rd world country? How would their economy survive if they had to pay tariffs to ship goods to the U.S., if they couldn't rely on our tax dollars to bail them out of debt every year?

    Would the rest of the South join them? Almost certainly not. We could let the idiots know that they will have to take responsibility for their actions -- since we aren't going to fight to keep them around this time.

    If they seriously want to secede, we're going to let them go -- and watch them collapse and wind up like Haiti within about 6 months!

    Of course the biggest problem is that much of their population would want to immigrate to the U.S.!

  • martin on November 20, 2012 12:53 PM:

    As I've said before about the mindset down here: The South didn't lose, it just staged a tactical retreat.

  • greennotGreen on November 20, 2012 12:54 PM:

    But right now, no state is asking to secede. Individual citizens are signing petitions asking that some states be allowed to secede. Those individuals are perfectly free to leave the United States themselves and go to any country that will have them. However, until the elected state representatives of any state vote to ask to secede, there is no constitutional question at all.

    After the 2004 election, I thought about moving to Canada. It's nice there, and they have a lot of the benefits of government I'd like to see in the U.S., but I love my country, so I decided to stay and fight. And we won! Not everything all at once, but we're incrementally on a better path than we were under Bush II. That's what patriots do - we stay and work for a better America.

  • Otis on November 20, 2012 12:55 PM:

    He continued: “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.”

    If only there was some way for the majority of people of the country to express their displeasure with existing members of the government .. say every two or four years ... and remove them from office ...

  • T2 on November 20, 2012 1:00 PM:

    I've often met people who say "you know, Ron Paul has some pretty good ideas"...to which I reply "actually, I think so too, but it's his bad ideas that matter much more".

    I'd love to see some national TV News show put up a list of things states' citizens can look forward to losing when they secede. It's a pretty long list of pretty important things.

  • Gandalf on November 20, 2012 1:02 PM:

    Ron Paul lives in a bubble of his own making. He remnds of the kid who doesn't get his way so he's going to take his ball and go home. the only freedoms I've seen being taken away has been by republicans.

  • DRF on November 20, 2012 1:03 PM:

    Otis hits the nail on the head. If you are concerned about the Federal Government encroaching on individual rights, then you vote for President, House and Senate candidates who agree with you. That's your remedy.

    It's also worth mentioning that part of the role of the Federal courts is to protect against unconstitutional encroachments on liberty.

    Are the democratic process and the independent judiciary not adequate safeguards? I understand that Paul is admired for his principled approach to issues, but the fact is he isn't all that bright.

  • Josef K on November 20, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Ron Paul: “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,”

    Um, no, it wasn't. This country was "born" through a collection of colonies declaring themselves a nation independent of the control of a Parliament where they enjoyed no sitting representatives. Given this, the original colonies had no real legal recourse to address their grievances with London.

    The CSA, by contrast, had Representatives and Senators seated in Congress when they decided to break from the Union. As such, they had multiple avenues by which to address their grievances with Washington DC. The point of those grievances being chattal slavery kinda kills whatever 'moral' standing the CSA had to begin with.

    For Rep. Paul to equate the two situations reveals far too much about the man's thinking than any sane, patriotic person should feel confortable standing near.

  • Anonymous on November 20, 2012 1:21 PM:

    On the flip side, the states that are most wanting to secede have elected, and therefore inflicted on the rest of us, the most radical, Bible thumping, ignorant people that have stifled the forward movement of the country. People like Ron Paul think that's a positive, I guess?

  • c u n d gulag on November 20, 2012 1:22 PM:

    That that epic feckin' dumb@$$, Rand Paul, can even be considered Presidential material, should be a national joke.

    But, since we already elected one in George W. Bush, I ain't laughin'.

    Here's what this epic feckin' dumb@$$ had to say on the Supreme Courts Obamacare decision:
    "Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional," the freshman lawmaker said in a statement. "While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right."

    THAT kind of epic feckin' stupid, you CAN'T fix!!!

  • Otis on November 20, 2012 1:30 PM:

    I agree with everything c u n d gulag has to say about both Paul's.
    However, it's pretty much standard for everyone along the political spectrum to say a Supreme Court decision is "unconstitutional" when they mean "I disagree with it". Doesn't matter if it's Brown vs Board of Education, Citizen's United, Roe v Wade, or Gore v Bush.

  • Crissa on November 20, 2012 1:31 PM:

    If they can convince a majority of their state and 3/4 of the other states, sure, you can secede.

    Until then, you have tje right to contribute, vote and/or leave. You can complain, too, but I don't have to listen.

  • LAC on November 20, 2012 1:50 PM:

    Jaysus, this twisted old man's goodbye lasts longer than a Cher farewell tour. Take your sour old man successionist ass off the stage already. And thanks for leaving us with a mess - otherwise known as your son.

  • Mudge on November 20, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Ron Paul missed a word. He meant to say "Secession and slavery are deeply American principles".

    The southern states were the sore losers in the evolution of the nation; they knew that as non-slave states were added, they'd be out-voted in the Senate on the retrograde issue of slavery. Ron Paul and those like him are sore losers in the evolution of demographics. They see being permanently outvoted on their own retrograde issues.

    Both view(ed) secession as the the answer. Only in the sense that sore losers resort to secession is it an American principle.

  • Anonymous on November 20, 2012 2:35 PM:

    One thing that must be remembered about Rand Paul is that he is a quack, or a fake doctor. He pretends to be a certified physician, but he is not. His certification is issued by a board which is not accepted anywhere except in his house, since his wife runs the national board. He is not certified.

    He is a fake.

  • Rick B on November 20, 2012 3:05 PM:

    Why is it that small town physicians, dentists, and contstruction company owners are so willing to abandon social stability under the law in favor of their own desire for some imagined and painless "liberty?" They can get all the liberty they could handle by simply giving away their property and going on the road hitch-hiking.

    It's the ownership of property that restricts their liberty, not the government.

  • POed Lib on November 20, 2012 4:32 PM:

    Rick B: These people are most likely to be of the opinion that they are "self-made". And there is no doubt that the effort that is made to succeed in such arenas is a strenuous one. However, there is also no doubt that every physician has a mom and dad who worked like crazy to get them prepped. Most have wives who work to get them through med school (and who are often abandoned by the assholes once they get into the money). I work with physicians, and I understand their hubris and in many cases total lack of humility.

  • JH on November 20, 2012 10:08 PM:

    Name calling isn't persuasive. What about the abolitionist states before the civil war that wanted to secede because they didn't want to be with slaveholding type people? Were they neoconfederate as well?

    It only makes it more clear that you have no answer for the issues when you sling boogey men, instead.

  • June on November 21, 2012 11:08 AM:

    Have to wonder what part of Paul's rhapsodizing about secession on his House website contributes to his being a representative of the United States. He's got everything to say about how to tear apart the Union, but apparently nothing to add about creating unity among Americans. It's been 147 years since the end of the Civil War. How many more hundreds of years is it going to take before folks like the Pauls finally have their fill of wallowing and re-wallowing in that distant past.

  • Sean Scallon on November 21, 2012 2:55 PM:

    Before y'all think this is purely a "Southern" question. I suggest you follow this link to check out this website (http://vermontrepublic.org/). Before the War Between the States the only region of the country which seriously broached the topic of secession was Federalist dominated New England during the War of 1812.

    There is nothing in the Constitution which explicitly forbids secession which is what Dr. Paul is trying to say and yes, the colonies technically seceeded from the British Empire. Secession goes all over the world from Slovakia to East Timor to South Sudan and possibly Catalonia and Scotland. It is not a taboo subject.

    I doubt if the Constitution would have been signed if some of the states (South Carolina in particular) thought joining the Union would be akin to joining a gang ("When you're a Jet you'e a Jet all the way...to your last dying day)with no way out. But the real question is not the Constitution at all. It's the reaction of the central government to secession or any kind of nullification or interposition and I think it's quite clear as to what it would be. There were many in the North who were more than happy to let the South go in 1860-61 but Lincoln the American nationalist (not an abolitionist) would not permit this nor would any other government. Eisenhower was not particularly enthusiastic about desegregation and I suppose could have shrugged his shoulders at the "massive resistance". No sir. When the government's authority was challenged in Arkansas he responded with federal troops with no qualms about it. Even Tennessee slave holder Andy Jackson was prepared to level Charleston Harbor if South Carolina didn't back down on nullification.

    As you can see, it doesn't matter what party or person or region holds the office of the Presidency. The person charge will do what is necessary to keep the country together because that is his job. Even pastoral, peaceful Vermont would be invaded by federal troops sent Obama himself if such a ordinance of secession was passed by the legislature.

    This is why this topic, while nice diversion from post-election blues, is ultimately a dead end and really not worth talking about unless there is a wholesale sea change in the nationalist culture of Americans (which pretty deep even on this website) and and a change in the view of the Presidency for it to happen. Ron Paul would have represented such a change and but only 2 million voters felt the same way. Ergo, it's not going to happen at any level or any scale in this country (especially when more feasible intra-state secessions and divisions can't get off the ground), at least not right now.