Many people, Democrats and Republicans alike, dismiss Texas Rep. Ron Paul as a crazy old man whose support for the sale of unpasteurized milk and call for a return to the gold standard render him and his ideas unworthy of serious consideration. But luckily, an increasing number of young people have looked past this flippant view to embrace Paul’s vision of a limited government shaped by free-market principles and a stringent dedication to civil liberties.
After 23 years in congressional office, Paul is retiring at the end of the year. His humble yet inspiring farewell address before Congress last Wednesday should remind students that in order for the United States be restored as a nation that truly espouses principles of liberty, they must be the ones to carry forward his legacy through political activism and efforts to raise awareness.
In his farewell address, the 77-year-old Republican congressman leveled blows at both dominant political parties, suggesting that both sides’ unwillingness to cut spending from their parties’ high-priority projects means that the deep budgetary hole the United States has dug itself into is not likely to be filled anytime soon.
“One side doesn’t give up one penny on military spending, the other side doesn’t give up one penny on welfare spending … and the downward spiral continues,” he said.
Where partisan politicians have refused to break from their one-track party molds, Paul has avoided being confined to such a limited mindset. Though he is a Republican by official affiliation, he breaks from his colleagues by refusing to stand by superfluous military spending and antiquated immigration policies. And though he never fits neatly within one party platform, his positions display a level of consistency that is rare, even among the most die-hard Republicans and Democrats.
What Paul believes in and has always promoted is a commitment to common sense principles of unfettered free markets and a commitment to individual rights. In short, he stands for liberty.
Paul’s farewell address and exit from Congress come at a crucial point of crossroads in American politics. In addition to partisan gridlock, the government is cracking down on the most fundamental civil liberties granted by the Constitution through legislation that borders on the tyrannical.
Perhaps the explosion of Ron Paul mania in our generation is a result of growing up in the post-9/11 security state. We live in the shadow of constitutionally dubious laws, such as the PATRIOT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, both of which provide the government with unprecedented powers including the indefinite detention of citizens and the suspension of due process rights for detainees — all in the name of national security.
Young Paul supporters see the grave danger inherent in the indiscriminate expansion of executive power, which has the potential to undermine the values and beliefs that America has historically stood for. What has separated the United States from other nations and made it an exemplar of democratic values for the world is its constitutional dedication to civil liberties and the protection of the individual from government tyranny, but this has been eroded in the past decade. Our generation is the one that will reap the consequences if we fail to speak out against this erosion now.
During his farewell speech, Paul lamented the lack of enthusiasm for liberty among his colleagues in Congress, but expressed optimism at the fact that “tens of thousands of teenagers and college age students” have taken up the torch of liberty “with great enthusiasm.”
Though it is regrettable that most politicians and citizens do not agree with Paul’s platform, it is time that our generation pick up where he left off and work toward restoring the founding principles of the Constitution.
Students shouldn’t feel uncomfortable defending an unconventional candidate or standing up for civil liberties at a protest. Our future depends on a fundamental change in how government is run, and there is no better time than now for resurrecting liberty, Ron Paul style.
Sarah Cueva is a junior majoring in political science and Middle East studies. Her column “Leaning Toward Liberty” runs Mondays.