The modern nullification movement took another leap forward in 2015 and continued to build momentum through 2016.
From its early days as a rejection of federal power on a single-issue, the movement has grown organically into a loose coalition of disparate groups doing the same on issues across the political spectrum.
The new “State of the Nullification Movement” Report connects the dots between efforts that might seem wholly independent of each other to the casual observer. But, when viewed as a whole, it reveals a thriving movement that has developed into a revolutionary political force.
Some of these efforts are not self-identified as “nullification” per se by advocates, and often-times, various players are at odds with each other when it comes to their overall political goals.
As political theorist Murray Rothbard wrote in his seminal work, Conceived in Liberty, this is often common in revolutionary movements. He noted that, “the tendency of historians of every revolution…has been to present a simplistic and black-and-white version of the drives behind the revolutionary forces,” and he pointed out that doing so “betrays an unrealistic naivete.”
True revolutionary movements rarely have a single, narrow impetus or focus. They are, as Rothbard wrote, “made by mass of people, people who are willing to rupture the settled habits of a lifetime, including especially the habit of obedience to an existing government.”
As the report shows, the motives behind the various actors in the modern nullification movement vary as much as any group of people when it comes to political goals. Rothbard considered this “dynamism” one of the “major characteristics” of a revolution, as it creates an “unfreezing of the political and social order” for people, whatever their motivations may be.
By revolution, or revolutionary, the nullification movement is not one of the stereotypical types – that is, one characterized by a physical upheaval against the established order. Instead, it is a deeper, more philosophical revolution – a revolution in thought.
John Adams, Founding Father and second president of the United States, described the American revolution in much the same way. In his 1818 letter to Hezekiah Niles, he wrote:
But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.
Today’s nullification movement is revolutionary because it offers the hope of smashing the established political order; one of “voting the bums out” only to see new “bums” violate the Constitution in more costly and dangerous ways each year.
Report: 58 pages
Written by: Michael Maharrey and Michael Boldin
Publisher: Tenth Amendment Center (February, 2017)
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