David Rosman likes to believe he is a man who values integrity. He explains in a column published in the Missiourian that it’s the most important attribute he looks for when choosing political candidates, even above full agreement on policy issues. Odd then, why he’s so opposed to efforts in Missouri to override the governor’s veto of a bill nullifying federal laws contravening the 2nd Amendment.
The claim is that politicians who support nullification lack integrity, and the implication is that nullification itself is corrupt or dishonest. Quite the opposite is true.
In Missouri, when a member of the house or senate is sworn into office, he must swear to “support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri….” Both constitutions explicitly uphold the right of the people to own firearms. Therefore, any state legislator who acts to restrict this right is violating his oath, in effect breaching a contract with the people of the state of Missouri. This is the true act of dishonesty, not the effort to restore the balance of power that is supposed to be the cornerstone of the federal system.
From the start, Rosman offers a non sequitur as the foundation for his reason for opposing nullification. He makes the naïve assertion that “through war and the courts [nullification] has failed every time.” This in no way demonstrates how nullification is incompatible with integrity; it’s just an incoherent jump from one claim to the other. Furthermore, it’s completely false. No serious student of history or politics believes such a ridiculous thing. It serves only as a distraction, a red herring to throw off the scent of anyone curious as to the nature and purpose of nullification.
As for the claims about war and the courts, two hurdles exist for opponents of nullification.
The first is that brute force is no substitute for a civilized argument. While it can and often does end disputes in the short run, it does not truly resolve anything, since it leaves open the question of who is right, legally and ethically. Would Rosman agree that a car-jacker is the true and just owner of a vehicle, simply because the thief won the physical struggle for possession? It’s doubtful, which would refute his claim that war definitively solves a legal question. If in fact he would support this definition of ownership, it becomes clear that any reasonable discourse isn’t possible.
Relying on a federal court’s opinion as to whether nullification is justified is simply begging the question. The authority of the states to interpret the constitution is the very basis of nullification. Therefore, seeking the court’s blessing is irrelevant. There is no power granted to the courts in the constitution that appoints them sole arbiter in such a dispute. Nor is it wise to expect federal judges to respect the prerogative of the states, since the bias in favor of the federal government is obvious. On mere reflection we see why this is so, federal judges are part of the federal government.
After the boilerplate war and courts argument, comes the pedestrian supremacy clause argument wrongly thought to be the stake in the heart of nullification. Our critic writes:
Now, we all understand the federal supremacy laws. The Constitution Article VI, Clause 2; ‘This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.’
That is simple and straightforward. So much so that it makes me wonder how my very patriotic GOP friends just do not understand it.
While this clause is “simple and straightforward,” it’s patently obvious that we don’t “all understand the federal supremacy laws.” Rosman was at least honest enough to include the whole quote, which is more than could be said of most critics. Arguably there are two words here which carry more weight than any of the others: “pursuance thereof.”
The absolute requirement for any federal law to hold supremacy under the constitution is that it be in pursuance of, i.e., in accordance with, the constitution. Since not all legislation is supreme, the question becomes which pieces of legislation are pursuant to the constitution – and thus legitimate under the law – and which are not. This is a matter for state legislatures, under the principle of nullification.
In response to those who appeal to the language of the 2nd Amendment, Rosman counters that Republican politicians have already acted to curtail the rights of individuals to own certain firearms. Like the pious statement about integrity above, this is an irrelevant distraction. Who cares what some politicians have done in the past? Quite obviously, previous usurpation is no sound basis upon which to build a case.
When nullification deniers argue that the principle isn’t acceptable because it “fails every time,” they are implicitly suggesting that nullification would be an acceptable political tool if it worked. That’s not a logically sound argument either, but taken at face value, we see that indeed nullification does work. In fact there’s more nullification happening right now than at any other time in history.
Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana for medical use; two states have made it legal for recreational users. Twenty four states have nullified the REAL ID Act. Nine states have passed a Firearms Freedom Act (the subject of Rosman’s column); one state made gold and silver coins legal tender; two states have restricted the use of drones in law enforcement. Dozens of states have these and more pending. In all, thirty eight states are actively nullifying federal laws; at least ten states are nullifying multiple federal laws.
This shift away from centralization is wholly the result of public opinion. Despite a relentless barrage of misinformation and ridicule from the political class and its kept media, a majority of the voting public supports nullification. And that’s what makes this whole debate so great; it’s happening in spite of all the opposition from the ruling class. Rosman has nothing but contempt for the legislators trying to override the governor’s veto, the four Democrats especially. They’re the real targets of his admonishment for restoring integrity in the State House. That they would follow their constituents is repugnant to him, revealing an underlying contempt for those looking to regain some liberty.
Rosman asks “what does [it] say about the integrity of the representatives [who are trying to nullify federal law]?” A better question is this: what does it say that so many legislators, including the governor, are refusing to honor the oath they swore when accepting positions in the state government? If the issue of integrity is so important, then challenging the opponents of the 2nd Amendment, and by extension the rights of the people of Missouri, ought to be forefront in the mind of such a high-minded political commentator as Rosman.