Jeff expresses my own feelings on Ron Paul pretty well:
I’m not great fan of Ron Paul’s foreign policy, but when it comes to certain aspects of the Constitution, he’s precisely correct and a forceful advocate for the document’s integrity. It is fashionable these days to repeat the rote trope that the legality of secession as a Constitutional issue was “settled” by the Civil War. Which is a lot like saying that the lie of US military preeminence was “settled” by Viet Nam.
Personally, I’ve always considered Paul’s and the big-L Libertarians’ foreign-policy views to be little short of completely nuts. But on domestic and Constitutional issues, he’s usually right on the beam. Such as, say, here:
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Monday that secession was a “deeply American principle,” amid a growing number of people petitioning the White House to let their states secede from the U.S.
“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.”
“At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government?” Paul wrote.
He added: “And if people or states are not free to leave the United States as a last resort, can they really think of themselves as free?
The knee-jerk reaction to a statement like that from most of us–or non-Southerners, anyway–is usually pretty disdainful, if not damned near apoplectic. But that’s never made any sense at all to me; if the right of secession is off the table, as Paul says, then these words have neither meaning nor practical application:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
And all this puts me in mind of a brilliant bit of classic Twain speechifying from A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court:
You see, my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its office-holders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death. To be loyal to rags, to shout for rags, to worship rags, to die for rags–that is a loyalty of unreason, it is pure animal; it belongs to the monarchy, was invented by monarchy; let monarchy keep it.
An association of supposedly free states that doesn’t allow for some mechanism of withdrawal when the central government invalidates its claim to legitimacy by overstepping its proper limits isn’t an association of free states at all; we can argue over how such a mechanism might render the association too fragile or unstable to survive for long as a practical matter, but I don’t see how anybody can seriously dispute that such an involuntary arrangement at least has more in common with tyranny than it ever will with federalism. Nor do I think it unpatriotic to take note when institutions have ceased to function as guardians of liberty and become coercive–“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.” As I’ve said before, I’m not arguing either for or ag’in it at this time. But I can’t quite go along with a flat or outraged refusal to even countenance discussion of it. Back to Jeff for the wrap-up:
The Constitution is in flux.It lives and breathes. And right now, it is siding with us — with social justice, with tolerance, with egalitarianism, with the natural right to have wealth collected by the government and then redistributed as the government sees fit, picking winners and loser, and dictating the kinds of contracts you must enter into. For fairness.
That’s the American way. And we will not tolerate your temper tantrums. Which are probably just another form of racism. You want your precious liberties back? Come and take them. But do it from within the corrupt system whose rules we write and enforce.
Jeff is channeling the liberal-fascist argument for submission and obeisance there, obviously. But it’s also pretty obvious that that’s how plenty of us on the Right see the thing, too.
Update! Good comment from McGehee:
“If this be treason, make the most of it.”
Though, since I consider my loyalty to “America” to be to its Constitution rather than to its government-of-the-moment, I would argue that while treason has been committed, it was not committed by those advocating secession.