Ron Paul: Petitions on secession raise 'worthwhile questions'

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) said in a blog post Monday that secession protests launched in the wake of President Obama's reelection "raise a lot of worthwhile questions about the nature of our union."

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Thousands of Americans have signed digital petitions — at least one from every state — on the White House's "We the People" petition website. The administration has promised a response to every petition on the site that collects at least 25,000 signatures within 30 days. At least seven states, including Texas, have hit that mark.

Paul, writing on his congressional website, conceded that he "wouldn't hold my breath" on states, including his own, actually moving to leave the union. But he argues that "secession is a deeply American principle" rooted in the country's Revolutionary War that sought independence from Great Britain.

"There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents," Paul writes. "That is what our Revolutionary War was all about and today our own federal government is vastly overstepping its constitutional bounds with no signs of reform. In fact, the recent election only further entrenched the status quo."

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Paul goes on to cite recent state-level efforts to legalize marijuana — and subsequent federal arrests — as an example of what "shouldn't happen in a free country."

"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?" Paul asks. "At what point should the people dissolve the political bands which have connected them with an increasingly tyrannical and oppressive federal government?  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?"

Paul concludes by arguing "if a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free."

But while the Texas congressman sees clear ability for states to secede, the legal actuality is considerably more murky. There is no constitutional mechanism by which states can leave the union, and the federal government responded forcibly when states attempted to secede during the Civil War.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia actually addressed the question in a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal, in which the conservative justice said the "answer is clear."

"If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede," Scalia wrote.

The secession move also does not seem particularly popular among large swaths of the population. According to a YouGov poll released Friday, more than half of all Americans opposed seeing their state secede, with 42 percent strongly opposing the idea. Only 22 percent said they supported secession.