Florida state senator Don Gaetz would make an excellent congressman!

In a recent e-mail exchange with a constituent, the incoming Florida Senate president demonstrates the reverence of federal power and arrogance typical of so many in the political class necessary build a successful career in Washington D.C.

The constituent wrote Gaetz urging him to push the Florida legislature to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Niceville Republican made it clear he will have no part in nullifying, despite acknowledging the unconstitutionality of the PPACA.

“Like you, I believe Obamacare is unconstitutional and wrong-headed policy. I have consistently voted in the Florida Legislature for legislation that affirms our state’s options, obligations and sovereignty under the United States Constitution. I am working every day to ensure the election of national candidates who will repeal and replace this extraordinarily bad policy.”

I’m sure Gaetz will get some kudos from the Republican Party establishment for inserting the GOP talking point “Repeal and Replace.” Of course, this merely serves to demonstrate Gaetz doesn’t understand the division of power between the state and federal governments.

The whole notion of “replace” indicates that the Florida senator comfortably accepts federal meddling in health care, despite the fact that the Constitution enumerates no federal power to create and run a health care system for the entire U.S. That role rightly belongs among “those objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State,” that James Madison insisted remain with the states and people.

No, Gaetz has no intention of really standing up against Washington D.C. In fact, he makes it clear that defending federal power counts as his highest priority.

Sorry Floridians.

“I have sworn an oath on my father’s Bible before Almighty God to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and government of the United States.”

Judging by his adamant refusal to consider nullification, and his praise for President Andrew Jackson when he told a “nullifier”, “Liberty and union.  Now and forever.  One and inseperable, ” [sic]  it appears Gaetz has his priorities a little out of order.

By refusing to take action when the feds overstep their delegated authority, he places defending “the government of the United States” above protecting the integrity of the Constitution. He elevates the created above the creator by refusing to take action when the general government formed by the people of the several states echoes the Monster’s chilling words to Dr. Frankenstein.

“You are my creator, but I am your master. Obey!”

You see, when the federal government exercises undelegated power, it nullifies the Constitution.  James Madison made it clear in the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 that “in case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted” state officials “have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose for arresting the progress of the evil, and for maintaining within their respective limits, the authorities, rights and liberties appertaining to them.”

What did Madison mean by “interpose?” Thomas Jefferson explains in the Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.

To take from the States all the powers of self-government and transfer them to a general and consolidated government, without regard to the special delegations and reservations solemnly agreed to in that compact, is not for the peace, happiness or prosperity of these States; and that therefore this commonwealth is determined, as it doubts not its co-States are, to submit to undelegated, and consequently unlimited powers in no man, or body of men on earth: that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the general government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.

In his eagerness to prop up federal power, Gaetz misses the key phrase in the supremacy clause. “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof… shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” He turns constitutional federal supremacy into a justification for unlimited and unchecked federal power.  His version of the clause reads more like, “This Constitution, the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof and any other damn thing the federal government decides it wants to do shall be the supreme law of the land.”

And with an arrogance found in so many members of America’s political class, Gaetz backs up his bastardized vision for federal supremacy with a masterfully executed “might makes right” argument.

“You have an interesting explanation for the Civil War,” he told his constituent in an email. “But it is well to remember that it was Lee who offered his sword to Grant at Appomatox [sic] Court House in April, 1865, not the other way around.  That sort of settled the question of whether the supremecy [sic] clause in the Constitution trumps states’ rights.”

So basically, Gaetz asserts that if I insist that the sky is green, and I bludgeon him over the head with a baseball bat until he agrees with me – the sky is in fact green.


In fact, the Civil War did not change the relationship between the states and the federal government created by the Constitution. The states and the people thereof still retain sovereign authority over every object not delegated to the federal government. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox did not negate the Tenth Amendment. And it did not somehow place a mantle of unlimited power on the federal government, Lincoln’s cannons notwithstanding.

Gaetz really would make an outstanding congressman, or maybe even a president. He clearly loves power and believes in wielding coercive force to advance his political cause. Check out his preferred method of handling those of us who assert the state’s right and duty to check federal power through the principles of nullification.

As to nullification, I tend to favor the approach used by Florida’s first Governor, Andrew Jackson:

It is said that one evening, while he was president, General Jackson was interrupted in his reading in his bedroom by an alarmed military aide who breathlessly reported, “Mr. President, the “nullifiers” are in front of the Executive Mansion with torches and guns. They are screaming that each state has the right to decide for itself which federal laws to follow. They threaten to burn us down if you will not agree with them.”

Without lifting his head from his reading, Andrew Jackson said, “Shoot the first nullifier who touches the Flag. And hang the rest.”

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Chaplain (Gaetz’s constituent), I have sworn an oath on my father’s Bible before Almighty God to preserve, protect and defend the constitution and government of the United States. And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Count me with Andrew Jackson.

Well, Gaetz, you can have your shootings and your hangings. And you can have Andrew Jackson. Go ahead – stand with those who place protecting an out of control government above the Constitution and the people they were elected to serve. Count me in with James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

And count me in with Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Abram D. Smith, who thought it was more important to protect due process and basic concepts of liberty than it was to prop up overreaching federal power. His court declared the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 unconstitutional, null and void in the state. You find no awe of federal power in Smith’s opinion – no willingness to unquestioningly support a U.S. government trampling the rights of black citizens in Wisconsin. Smith respected the government created by the Constitution, but was determined to keep it chained within its proper bounds.

“Every jot and tittle of power delegated to the Federal Government will be acquiesced in, but every jot and tittle of power reserved to the States will be rigidly asserted and as rigidly sustained.”

Yes, please count me among the nullifiers.

Mike Maharrey