by Chris Dixon, Maine Tenth Amendment Center

The Tenth Amendment got a breath of life when the Tea Party uprising proved to be successful in the November midterm elections, bringing in many candidates who, while mostly Republican, where not on board with the mainstream Republican agenda. Many were supporters of the Tenth Amendment and States’ Rights and going forward in 2011, we’re seeing some results already.

Maine has joined other states, including Wyoming and Montana, in introducing legislation that would reject the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, more commonly known as “Obamacare.” And while the State Legislators press forward standing up for the cause of local governance and the balance of government, the media unites under the usual cause of defending the Federal Government. This time, it’s the war on nullification.

Here in Maine, Democrats have been criticizing the idea (as noted in previous articles by the Maine Tenth Amendment Center), but they have obviously forgotten that it was their party who introduced Maine to the concept of nullification. It was not the Republicans who stood up against an unconstitutional law that would unload a significant financial burden on Maine (although many Republicans did join in), it was a Democratic Legislature that sought to nullify the REAL ID Act of 2005. Why are things different now? Because their team now has the top spot in the Federal Government?

Sahil Kapur of Raw Story and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wasted no time recently in going after Wyoming for their introduction of Legislation, sponsored by ten State Representatives and three State Senators, that would nullify the controversial healthcare law.

Kapur writes in an article for Raw Story:

Even if the legislation is approved, it won’t survive in the courts as states cannot override or subvert federal law. But the symbolism of the effort reflects just how intense conservative animus against the reforms has become, as House Republicans prepare for a vote to repeal the law.

Similar to the liberal animus against George W. Bush with REAL ID? Regardless, this is not your typical conservative group of politicians in the various State Legislatures. Conservatives have, like liberals, in the past subscribed to the idea that our representative government is at the mercy of unelected judges and an unrestricted executive, while lower levels are merely administrative units with no power beyond execution of the higher will. The idea of nullification is not exclusive to any wing on a political spectrum or to any one polarizing party; Maine shows this through its nullification of REAL ID under Democrats and now the attempt to nullify the healthcare reform law under Republicans. It’s an American idea.

There was a reason there was a division of power in the government. But there was also a reason there was a Federal Government. Liberals often swing back at the point that our Founders feared a strong government, by stating that the weak government concept had failed under the Articles of Confederation. It did, but that’s why we have a cooperative government where the various branches and levels have their assigned areas. We’re not a dictatorship; the lifetime lawyers who face no election do not rule us, nor does the executive and all of his unelected cronies. If this were the case than having a Congress, State Legislatures, or any other part of our representative government, would be pointless. We wouldn’t need it, because the executive could pass down his orders and the lawyers next door would affirm it, without respect to laws or the Constitution that provides for the structure of our government. But this is not the case.

Ezra Klein goes further to state in a Washington Post article:

Given the extremism of the rhetoric at the top, is it any wonder that there is incredible fear trickling down to the grass roots? If those are the stakes, then of course criminalizing any implementation of the bill makes sense. Frankly, if those are the stakes, then violent resistance might be required.

Advocating violence against nullification? Sounds strangely similar to Alexander Hamilton’s response to the resolutions passed in Kentucky and Virginia in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts, when he suggested building up the troops and testing the resistance of Virginia. It’s unfortunate to see those attempting to restore the balance of our representative government met with opposition that sometimes suggests violence.

Now Christopher Weaver at NPR has joined the bandwagon of opposition, this time specifically putting its aim on Maine. Here are some points from the article:

Shortly after the midterm election, Trish Riley, the defeated Democratic governor’s top health adviser, told us Maine officials envisioned a health reform rollout that would in some ways be “more robust than Massachusetts.” Now, at least some newly empowered conservative lawmakers are pushing to make the realization of that vision a crime.

It would be in Riley’s worst interest in defending healthcare reform, to bring up former Governor John Baldacci’s track record with it. Dirigo Health, the controversial State program, has not been the standard of government healthcare that it was hyped up to be. Instead, it has been a financial failure and has not come close to insuring as much citizens as it’s advocates had promised.

The article also states:

These aren’t novel moves for state-level health law opponents. Before the law even passed, local legislators in all but a dozen states had introduced or passed legislation to erect health overhaul hurdles, USA Today reported last year. But adding jail time ups the ante.

So it’s alright for the Federal Government to throw citizens in prison for not cooperating with an unconstitutional mandate that is absolutely unamerican, but not for the State Legislators to defend their citizens against unlawful exercising of power?

And then in the article, the writer goes after Maine State Representative Richard Cebra, a Republican from Naples. Representative Cebra is the one who introduced LD 58, “An Act To Prohibit Enforcement of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” He is not, as the media suggests, playing partisan politics as the Republicans rally against a bill, supposedly only because it was a Democratic piece of legislation. Previously, Rep. Cebra has sought to introduce a State Sovereignty Resolution, but it was quickly voted down by the Democrats who had then controlled the Legislature. Democrats voting down a States’ Rights resolution just a couple years after being the leader in a nullification movement against a Republican president sounds more like politics-as-usual, than the Republicans. But the point is, Rep. Cebra has great intentions, not political ones., a site that portrays itself as being the opposite of popular Maine website As Maine Goes, which it accuses of being conservative, has also gone after LD 58. The staunchly-partisan website takes a couple shots in this article:

Look: Whether or not the ACA is constitutional isn’t even important when considering this law. This law is illegal even IF the ACA is later found to be unconstitutional. Why? Because the court system is the final arbiter. States can’t just decide which Federal laws to follow and which they won’t.

Not according to two key Founding Fathers who were instrumental in the creation of our country. Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the Declaration of Independence had introduced resolutions in Kentucky in both 1798 and 1799. James Madison, the principle author of the Constitution, had introduced a resolution in 1798. All three of these resolutions had affirmed that any law in violation of the Constitution is null and void. For those who claim constitutionality of Congressional acts vary by interpretation, the Constitution is very straightforward with the powers of Congress. Article 1, Section 8 lists the specifically enumerated powers of Congress, while the Tenth Amendment states that Congress can do nothing more than that.

But the title of the article, “These Maine Legislators Don’t Understand How America Works,” is all wrong. For as shown in the previous paragraph, the Maine Legislators, just as Jefferson and Madison did, have it all right. It’s Kapur, Klein, Weaver, and AsMaineGoesLolz, who don’t understand how America was designed to work.

So the critics of Mr. Cebra and the co-sponsors of LD 58 and of other States: on behalf of every educated Tenther, please open up a Constitution and read it.

Chris Dixon [send him email] is the state chapter coordinator for the Maine Tenth Amendment Center. He is also a writer for Maine Web News.

Copyright © 2011 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Chris Dixon
Latest posts by Chris Dixon (see all)

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


maharrey minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.