An encouraging trend that has continued for some time now is the daily e-mail I receive in my Google Alert for the word “nullification.” Though purely anecdotal, this is no doubt indicative of the growing movement to resist the federal government’s unconstitutional consolidation of power. The alerts often contain links to letters to editors of newspapers, blog posts, and articles published by various organizations, all of which are in favor of nullifying Washington D.C.’s breach of the constitution. And of course there are plenty of detractors who, for varying reasons, oppose the idea of keeping the feds in check via the states.
While the opponents of a Jeffersonian remedy certainly have the upper hand in terms of media exposure, it’s quite clear they’re in way over their heads, historically and intellectually. Of course I’m not so naïve as to believe that most of these critics have any real interest in presenting an objective view, or that all they really need is a good rebuttal to set them straight. I know that instead they would prefer to bar the gates (despite the walls crumbling around them, as Gary North so eloquently put it) and try to hold back the rising tide of dissent against Washington’s illegitimacy. That’s what all this demagoguery from mainstream news sources is; it’s as clear an indication as any that their really scared and it’s why Tenthers ought to press the issue even harder.
Just last week the editorial board of Jackson, Mississippi’s McComb Enterprise-Journal breathed a sigh of relief when representative Scott Delano pulled a bill that would have assisted the state in nullifying unconstitutional federal legislation. The bill’s proponents are no doubt feeling defeated, but the board couldn’t be happier. They’ve suggested that the republican legislator “should be commended for his prudence” in the matter.
Ah yes, prudence, that virtue whereby one party grants another the unchecked leeway to determine the limits of its own power. What could possibly go wrong?
It would seem the limit to how bad things can get is restricted only by the imagination of would-be despots, provided nothing stands in their way. But that’s the rub, since the start of this year’s legislative session there has been a tremendous backlash from the states. At last count there were more than seventy proposed bills that would nullify everything from the TSA and The Drug War™, to gun legislation and the so-called Affordable Care Act.
According to the McComb Enterprise-Journal, the proposed legislation would have established a “Committee on the Neutralization of Federal Laws to review existing federal laws and executive orders and recommend those to be ignored.” Provided the state’s legislature approved, “Mississippians would not be obligated to abide by [unconstitutional] federal dictates.” This of course is intolerable in their eyes. Imagine the hysteria resulting from one state refusing to be cowed into, oh let’s say, rounding up members of an ethnic minority and locking them up in a concentration camp for an indefinite period, as happened to many Americans during WWII. Or, how is that modern society could possibly continue if the thugs at our airports face penalties for molesting travelers?
This sort of indignation from traditional media sources is revealing. When government (at any level) assumes new authority we’re to believe that “the will of the people,” as expressed through the legislature, is Holy Writ. However, it’s clear that such is not the case when the feds are challenged by one of the states. The lesson here is that democracy is great, as long as the dictator wins. But if the representatives do what the people want, and the people want something which is verboten, well, we can’t have that.
In typical fashion the editorial board made sure to remind their readers that the “[nullification] argument has caused great misery in Mississippi ever since the Civil War.” In fact, nullification was chafing a number of Mississippians before the War Between the States ever got started. That’s because the wealthy plantation owners, many of whom claimed to own slaves, were growing tired of northern states nullifying the Federal Fugitive Slave law. They had lobbied their congressional delegations to secure some of the most tyrannical legislation in order to maintain control of their “property,” and all of it was being thwarted by a bunch of abolitionists, who refused to kidnap human beings and send them back into bondage.
Thus, Mississippi joined the confederacy in 1861, publishing this document, which stated their intention was to preserve slavery and oppose those states who had nullified their attempt at keeping the practice alive. When modern opponents link nullification to the War Between the States, they’re conflating two issues. The first is nullification, which, you’ll note was carried out by abolitionists. The second is secession, which happened to occur in the south. Both of these happen to be non-violent solutions to problems stemming from what appear to be irreconcilable differences.
The only reason a protracted war took place was that Lincoln’s troops invaded. This was another cause the Mississippi legislature gave for dissolving the state’s ties to the union. They charged that the Union Army “[applied] flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives.” It should be clear that nullification was not the cause of the war – Lincoln’s refusal to allow secession was. When opponents try to link the two they’re wrong, historically speaking, but it seems pretty clear what their intention is. For if we grant them that southern nullification did lead to the war, and any attempt at present-day nullification would do the same, their argument seems to justify military aggression.
In the case of the McComb Enterprise-Journal, one of their concerns was that nullifying federal edicts would reinforce Mississippi’s “image of a backward, recalcitrant state.” Yeah, I mean progressive, forward thinking states like California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Vermont would never do such a thing. Except they have. There has been tremendous push-back from a number of “Blue” states regarding medical marijuana laws (and even its recreational use), along with opposition to REAL-ID, the Department of Energy, and the NDAA. So while the newspaper editors are getting all hot under the collar because republicans are opposing the president’s health care and gun control initiatives, one has to wonder if they feel the same about democrats pushing to decriminalize weed in the state.
Not to be a completely wet blanket, they do offer an approved list of methods to resist the feds. In their view it is “fine for conservatives to challenge the ideas of the Democrat in the White House.” See, they’re accommodating aren’t they? They would suggest that individuals who are opposed to the federal government go to the federal government and ask them to kindly stop assuming too much power. Of course if that worked half as often as it’s suggested there’d be no need to raise the issue of nullification and life would be much simpler. The truth is that rearranging congress and petitioning the courts are some of the least effective means by which to reduce federal power.
Consider the case of abortion. It became a matter for federal justices forty years ago when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973. Abortion opponents have lobbied congress, backed “pro-life” candidates for office, and tried using the courts to their advantage. Since then twenty sessions of congress have been held, eight presidents have presided over eleven terms, and a conservative estimate is that the high court has heard somewhere north of three thousand cases. Opponents of abortion are – at least at the federal level – no closer today than they were forty years ago to overturning the ruling, or returning the issue to the states, where it more rightfully belongs. Contrast this lousy record with that of medical marijuana advocates who, by focusing their efforts at the state and local levels have managed to achieve significant success.
So I look forward to receiving my daily alerts on nullification. Whether I receive links to friends promoting the practice or opponents with heartburn over the issue, I know that substantial progress is being made toward rolling back the federal government. I encourage you to volunteer and get involved by joining a chapter (or perhaps starting a new one), and help push nullification to the point that Washington can hardly get anything done, because there’s no one left who cares to follow their stupid orders.