Column: Farewell To A True Statesman
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
On Wednesday, Rep. Ron Paul gave his farewell address to Congress, marking the end of his 22-year career in the House of Representatives. Focusing on his bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency, Paul decided not to run for reelection last year.
Noted for his libertarian views, Paul stood out against the mainstream Republican ideology. He strongly disagreed with the Republicans’ “post-Sept. 11” foreign policy and called for a non-interventionist approach to dealing with international affairs. When Republicans claimed to be the party of “small government,” he replied that they were for “big government” just as much as the Democrats were, just a different kind. Above all else, Paul held the Constitution at the center of all of his beliefs, claiming that he would never support legislation that was not expressly authorized by the Constitution.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the views Paul advocates, I think that he is more significant than just the sum of his views. In many ways, he served as a sort of “lone voice in the wilderness” for the Republican Party. Unlike many lone figures, Paul developed a particularly devoted following in the last six years, one that expanded beyond the typical Republican base. He attracted an enormous following among college students, drawing in large crowds at historically liberal universities such as U.C. Berkeley. His core message of liberty and personal freedom is what appeals to these traditionally left-leaning demographics.
In a field dominated almost entirely by lawyers, businessmen, and lifelong politicians, Paul worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist. Although there is certainly a self-selecting aspect to the professional makeup of Congress, I think that the sort of professional diversity that Paul brings to the legislature is important and adds perspective to a group of people with a very singular way of thinking.
Another tenet at the heart of his beliefs is his strong belief in federalism. In today’s climate of the ever-increasing power of the federal government, Paul has always called for giving complete jurisdiction over matters ranging from education to the death penalty to abortion back to the states. Numerous times he has called for the dismantling of entire federal agencies and he wants to shrink the government enough to balance the budget while eliminating the income tax entirely.
Whether or not you agree with Paul’s policies, the one thing that cannot be ignored is the prescience of his predictions about the future of America. In 2002, he foresaw not only the results of the war that the United States was waging in Afghanistan, but also the beginning of a war in Iraq, the Arab Spring, the economic recession, and the further expanse of the government and budget deficits under both the current and next administration. In 1996, he predicted a terrorist attack against the U.S. that would result from then-president Clinton’s foreign policy of bombing and killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Paul’s influence and legacy have yet to be determined, I think that his beliefs and approach to government will live on far past his retirement. Although parts of his ideology have always been controversial, the honesty and consistency with which he abided by his beliefs is admirable in a day and age where politicians flip-flop their positions to suit the electorate. When most politicians are concerned with only their own advancement, I think that Paul’s willingness to sacrifice his ambitions for the presidency in order to stand for what he really believes in makes him more than just another politician. He is one, in an ever-diminishing group, of today’s true statesmen.