In a snarky, condescending article titled, “SC Nullification – Are these guys nuts?,” published in several Palmetto State newspapers, Phil Noble promoted the most repeated misconceptions and mischaracterizations of nullification. The president of the South Carolina New Democrats repeated them without references, without diligence to the facts, and with malice.
According to Noble and other opponents, “this nullification stuff,” was used only in the years leading up to the Civil War. He claims nullification history started in the 1850s (and then oddly references the “nullification crisis” of the 1830s.)
In fact, nullification traces its history to the earliest days of the Republic.
Nullification is the action of a sovereign entity protecting the natural rights of individuals to lead their own lives and make their own choices. Its legitimacy rests on the fact that the Constitution created a federal system featuring a general government exercising limited, enumerated powers. The states and the people retain all powers not delegated. Nullification provides a mechanism to check federal power. Without this process, we end up with an indefinite federal government, subject only to particular exceptions, not the limited government the founders created.
In 1798, the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions were written to advance nullification in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Alien Acts vested the president with unconstitutional power, and the Sedition Act actually outlawed criticizing the government. In response, Thomas Jefferson and “Father of the Constitution” James Madison penned a pair of resolutions passed by the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures, declaring the acts “null, void and of no force.”
Apparently, that makes Jefferson and Madison “nuts.”
But Noble did get one thing half right. There were nullification efforts in the years leading up to the Civil War – by northern states.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 counts among the most disgusting acts ever passed by Congress. This so-called law denied a black person accused of escaping slavery any semblance of due process. A white man could basically drag a black man or woman south into slavery on the power of his word. Both denied the most basic right of due process.
Northern states passed personal liberty laws refusing compliance with the Fugitive Slave Acts and in some cases imposing penalties on federal agents. Northerners didn’t believe they should repatriate escaped slaves back to the plantations without due process.
Apparently, that makes northern abolitionists “nuts.”
Fast forward to today. Eighteen states have legalized medical marijuana, despite federal laws to the contrary. State refusal to comply with marijuana laws effectively nullifies those unconstitutional acts. Are we to believe Mr. Noble favors state cooperation with the federal “War on Drugs?” Should states scrap medical marijuana programs and instead send state law enforcement out to arrest cancer patients?
Apparently so. To do otherwise is “nuts.”
Mr. Noble even takes aim at state efforts to block indefinite detention without due process written into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
“That’s right; the South Carolina Senate is actually challenging the US Government on national defense issues. That’s nuts.”
But even the ACLU supports noncompliance efforts to thwart NDAA detention. S.92 simply states that no state law enforcement officer may aid the federal government in detaining a citizen of South Carolina indefinitely without due process. In fact, the ACLU wrote its own model legislation denouncing and requiring noncompliance with NDAA detention. The San Francisco 99% coalition led efforts to pass a local resolution against NDAA detention and calling for noncompliance in that city too.
Question: if using the word “nullification” helps conservatives understand the process and encourages them to act in support of things that the ACLU and the San Francisco 99% coalition are doing – wouldn’t any real progressive applaud the measure?
Of course! Unless they are total hypocrites.
South Carolina nullification opponents really take issue with efforts to nullify the federal health care act. Rep. Bill Chumley’s H3101 would require the South Carolina general assembly to “adopt and enact all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ within the limits of this State.” Nobel makes a factual error in his article, referencing a $5,000 fine and five years in prison. Those criminal penalties were amended out. Nobel is either woefully misinformed, or he lied. He clearly wants to scare people into opposing the bill, even though the majority of South Carolinians reject what has become known as Obamacare.
Nullification runs the gamut. It can take the form of slapping slave catchers with kidnapping charges, or of states simply ignoring federal marijuana laws. At the opposite end of the nullification spectrum sits a six year old nullifying his mom’s decision to serve broccoli for dinner. Somewhere in the middle, South Carolina has the opportunity to follow the example set by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These nullification bills stop a bully, defend our right to choose our own way in life, and protect human dignity that comes with the exercise of our God given free will.
Mike Maharrey contributed to this column.