Wednesday marked a closing of the Ron Paul chapter in modern Texas politics. The Texas Republican, famous for his libertarian views, delivered yesterday what he said would likely be his final speech on the House floor, since he is retiring next month. In July 2011, he announced that he would not seek reelection for Congress because he wanted to focus on his 2012 run for Republican presidential nominee.
In true Ron Paul fashion, he used his farewell address to lambast federal government. "The major stumbling block to real change in Washington is the total resistance to admitting that the country is broke," he said, and proceeded to hit all his usual talking points: Freedom has been lost in America, and the government's infringement on individual liberties has spiraled the nation into peril. Poverty, dependence on government programs, and the current economic condition are national crises. Politicians, he contended, are doing their jobs wrong:
If authoritarianism leads to poverty and war and less freedom for all individuals and is controlled by rich special interests, the people should be begging for liberty. There certainly was a strong enough sentiment for more freedom at the time of our founding that motivated those who were willing to fight in the revolution against the powerful British government.
During my time in Congress the appetite for liberty has been quite weak; the understanding of its significance negligible.
Paul, who represents the 14th district of Texas and has served as a U.S. Rep. for 23 years over a 36-year period, has not enjoyed much success on the lawmaking front. A Washington Post piece last year notes that it took Paul 482 shots for a bill he authored to be signed into law. That law, David Fahrenthold notes, was not landmark legislation; rather, it granted the sale of a Galveston customhouse.
The unassuming-looking, 76-year-old former OB-GYN has long been known (and often ridiculed) as a frequent naysayer in the House, even being dubbed "Dr. No" by his colleagues because he consistently votes "no" to any measure that he feels violates the Constitution. In Congress, he has been defined by the unpopularity of his ideas and his voting consistency.
But despite Paul's ineffectual career in the House, he caught national attention when he went up for the 2008 Republican nomination for president, and his views continued gaining traction in the 2012 Republican nominee contest. Paul's most significant achievement might be the delegate backing he received during that campaign. Kevin Kelley, at the Washington Times Communities site, argues that Paul's support from Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado earlier this year "won [him] far more than the election. He has won the trust and the imagination of the people, Rocky Balboa-style."
The congressman's retirement will signal a new phase for Paul and the libertarian movement in Texas, though he said in a September radio interview that he would stay "active" and continue to appear at speaking engagements, etc. to promote his message. (He has already weighed in on the Texas secession conversation, maintaining his 2009 position that the notion is " very American .")
Could Paul be clearing the way for his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, to step into the national spotlight and fight for a presidential bid in 2016? The answer remains to be seen. But either way, Rand will no doubt carry on his father's messages about conservatism and the government's deviation from Constitutional ideals. As Ron Paul summed up at the end of his speech, which he shared with his more than 1 million followers on Facebook Wednesday:
I have come to one firm conviction after these many years of trying to figure out 'the plain truth of things.' The best chance for achieving peace and prosperity, for the maximum number of people worldwide, is to pursue the cause of LIBERTY.
You can watch Rep. Paul's full 48-minute speech here: