Walking along the midway of this grand carnival we call national politics, a brightly lit booth caught my eye. Dance music boomed from a loudspeaker, punctuated by the staccato voice of the carnie urging me to play his game.

“Step right up, step right up! Power to the states, right here! Come play the Tenth Amendment game!”

As I approached, I realized none other than Mitt Romney was running the booth. Behind him, I saw six bright yellow milk jugs stacked in a pyramid. Curiosity got the best of me.

“What’s this about?” I inquired.

“Knock down the federal health care pyramid and win a prize!” Romney boomed, somehow managing to speak without disturbing his bright toothy smile.

“What’s the prize,” I asked, still somewhat skeptical.

“Why, your liberty!” he beamed.

I picked up the hard wooden ball. Printed on the side were the words, Tenth Amendment.

“What’s this?” I asked, weighing the ball in my hand. It felt good. Right. Powerful.

“Well, it’s all about the Constitution. The federal government doesn’t have the right to make you buy health insurance,” he said knowingly.

“You mean like you made the folks in Massachusetts do?” I asked hesitantly.

A frown flickered across his face; then the smile returned.

“There are some similarities between what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did, but there are some big differences. And one is, I believe in the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution. And that says that powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved by the states and the people,” he said. “We put together a plan that was right for Massachusetts. The president took the power of the people and the states away from them and put in place a one-size-fits-all plan. It’s bad law.” 1

I rubbed the ball absentmindedly, pondering my options.

“Go on, try it,” he urged.

“How much?”

The smile broadened. “Not much. Just one token.”

I pulled a token out of my pocket and flipped it in the air a few times.

“Come on, give it a toss,” Romney said expectantly.

What the hell, I thought. Seems easy enough. And lord knows, I could use some more liberty. So I tossed Mitt the token, took aim and heaved the ball at the milk jugs.


A perfect throw.

Yellow jugs shot into the air, pirouetting like ballerinas before tumbling to the ground. I did a little victory fist-pump and stepped forward to collect my prize.

But Mitt looked angry.

“You lose!” he howled.

“What?” I responded incredulously. “I knocked over all of them. I win.”

Romney pointed at some green jugs scattered about among the yellow. “You knocked over the green ones. That’s against the rules. You lose.”

I hadn’t even noticed the green ones, but as Romney’s assistant reset the jugs, I realized that green ones were positioned in the shadows directly behind the yellow jugs, placed in such a way as to become virtually invisible. The setup made it next to impossible to knock over the yellow jugs without also toppling the greenies.

“So, what are the green ones,” I inquired, trying to contain my anger at being jipped.

“Medical marijuana,” Romney sneered with obvious disdain.

“And I can’t knock those over with the Tenth Amendment ball?”

“I think medical marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it’s a gateway drug to other drug violations. The use of illegal drugs in this country is leading to terrible consequences in places like Mexico, and actually in our own country. I oppose legalization of marijuana. I oppose legalizations of other kinds of drugs.” 2.

“But isn’t that also a decision reserved to the states and the people?”

“Go away, loser,” he growled, turning his back on me.

I stomped away, angry. But what could I do? I should have known the game was rigged. They all are, right?

So I ambled along the midway, bought a big stick of cotton candy, washed it down with a cold Coke and then gnawed my way through a funnel cake. I felt better. Giddy almost.

That’s when another booth caught my eye.

This one had louder music and brighter lights. AC/DC blasted from loudspeakers, and a strobe light played over the ground in front of the game. Even from a distance, I could see President Obama manned this booth. The familiar “O” logo painted on the roof was a dead giveaway.

Obama beckoned me over. “Step right up! Step right up! Play the greatest game at the carnival,” he intoned enthusiastically, flashing his pearly whites as he spoke.

“So, what’s this game?” I asked, my recent frustration now a faint memory.

“It’s the Tenth Amendment game,” Obama quipped. “Power to the states.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I played that game already over…”

Obama cut me off. “This one is better. Easier. And more fair. Just shoot a duck and you win.”

I leaned in and peered closely at the row of ducks on a conveyer belt slowly making their way from left to right across the booth. The ducks alternated – two males with a tux, followed by two females in wedding gowns.”

The president apparently read the confusion on my face. “Gay marriage!” He handed me a gun with Tenth Amendment printed on the side. “I respect the beliefs of others, and the right of religious institutions to act in accordance with their own doctrines. But I believe that in the eyes of the law, all Americans should be treated equally. And where states enact same-sex marriage, no federal act should invalidate them.” 3.

“What do I get if I hit one,” I asked, weighing the gun in my hands. It felt good. Right. Powerful.

A presidential pause.


I was sold. The sign indicated it just cost one token, so I flipped one over to Obama and he plucked it out of the air. I aimed…steady…slowly pulled the trigger…


Over went the duck.

But I knew in that moment I wouldn’t win a prize. A cannabis plant hidden behind the duck fell over too.

“I’m sorry. You lose,” Obama said in a patronizing tone

“Let me guess,” I say, resignation dripping from my words. “Medical marijuana.”

“Let me be clear, I am the president.” Obama lectured. “State medical marijuana programs violate federal law. I must send in the DEA to arrest those criminals so my Justice Department can prosecute them all.”

“But isn’t medical marijuana also an issue that should be left to the states and the people?”

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“Shut up, loser.”

I glared at the president. “So you can’t win. This game is rigged. You just want power to do things your own way!” I bellow. “You are nothing but a carnival huckster. Just like that other guy, Romney!”

Obama merely smiled.

“What did you expect?” he asked with a shrug. “We work for the same people.”

Mike Maharrey

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.”



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