When government does not follow the rules given to it, what do you do about it?
So asks Michael Boldin, director and founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, at the beginning of the documentary Nullification: The Rightful Remedy. Produced by Jason Rink and the Tenth Amendment Center, the film is a concise, articulate, and engaging examination of how, as the title suggests, nullification is the “rightful remedy” to unconstitutional federal actions.
To most Americans, nullification is a foreign term. For others, it’s a code word, like “states’ rights,” to refer to attempts to block federal laws against segregation, slavery, and the oppression of racial minorities. A series of short clips from TV news channel hosts and interviews with Constitutional scholars explain how this attitude is common and prevalent.
The film is intended to educate and convince people otherwise. Through interviews and clips from speeches and lectures, Boldin, along with historian Kevin Gutzman, Sheriff Richard Mack, author Thomas E. Woods, Jr and others, sets out to dispel the myths surrounding nullification, the Tenth Amendment, and the relationship between the federal government and the states.
Though much of the film is devoted to this task, it is accomplished with such ease that a viewer without any prior knowledge of the topic might walk away confused by how such inaccuracies exist at all.
Gutzman’s explanation of the actual historical record behind nullification, going back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, makes for an even pace that doesn’t distract or cause confusion for the audience.
Despite its perceived connection to slavery, Woods points out this is nonsense. In reality, nullification was used by abolitionists in defiance of federal fugitive slave laws and to the indignation of pro-slavery politicians. Meanwhile, actual measures taken against racial minorities, such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, were carried out through federal power via an executive order (later upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court). The War on Drugs, too, is the result of federal laws.
Woods also provides compelling practical reasons for why nullifying unconstitutional federal laws is preferable to other methods currently employed which have produced little to no results in the political realm (which, naturally, is why nullification is considered verboten).
In describing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, as well as Madison’s Report of 1800, Woods argues that the people cannot rely on the federal courts, as so many do, to arbitrate between them and other sections of the federal government.
Driving the final nail on the coffin of the nullification-slavery myth is the real-life story of runaway slave Joshua Glover as told by Mike Maharrey, communications director for the TAC. It is one of the film’s highlights, as Maharrey’s tale puts a face and personal narrative into the concept of nullification, exposing slavery as a federally-enforced institution bitterly resented by northern states like Wisconsin.
As the film progresses, we see nullification put into action in the states, where laws have been passed decriminalizing marijuana, and rendering federal laws like the Real ID Act toothless.
Concluding with thought-provoking sound bites from pro-liberty musician Jordan Page, it ends on an uplifting note and a call to action.
Running at just over 70 minutes, Nullification: The Rightful Remedy is a great resource for both defenders of the Tenth Amendment as well as newcomers interested in bringing about real political change.