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.
Quaint, I know, but to the federal government were delegated only limited and enumerated powers (Article I, Section 8): 17 to be precise. Most everything it does these days is extra-constitutional.
Forced to accept piles of paper from the federales, for “federally mandated increases in spending on Medicaid and education,” some states have realized that the price is too steep. Not only would they have to obey the occupying force; but states could expect to splinter under the statist burden of a panoply of programs prescribed by the Healer-in-Chief, who would play them like hooked fish.
So, governors and state representatives are invoking that which ought to have been the law of the land: the ingenious Tenth Amendment. In short order, at least twenty eight states resolved to reclaim the people’s “unalienable rights,” by beating back the federal occupier and voiding unconstitutional federal laws.
Sights set on sovereignty, Montana’s Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer has signed a bill rejecting any federal meddling with arms and ammunition that are made in Montana and stay in the Big Sky State.
They may not call it interposition and nullification, but legislators in the Texas and Utah state legislatures are planning to practice the doctrine Thomas Jefferson and James Madison perfected in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798.
Writes historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr.: “The Virginia Resolutions spoke of the states’ rights to ‘interpose’ between the federal government and the people of the states; the Kentucky Resolutions used the term nullification – the states, they said, could nullify federal laws that they believed to be unconstitutional.”
“Jefferson,” explains Woods, “considered states’ rights a much more important and effective safeguard of people’s liberties than the ‘checks and balances’ among the three branches of the federal government.”
And for good reason. Judicial review was intended to curb Congress and restrain the executive. But the unholy federal trinity — the judicial, legislative, and executive — has simply colluded in an alliance that has helped to abolish the Tenth Amendment.
But what happens if you are of the ossified opposition — a neoconservative, or the kind of Republican for whom the manner in which Abraham Lincoln sundered the federal structure was both constitutional and moral? Why, then, you’re in a bit of a pickle.
These days neoconservatives are celebrating signs of local self-government, not for love of liberty and an appreciation of states’ right, but because they mistake the awakening for a mere revolt against the ruling rat pack (Democrats). To his credit, Harvard graduate Ben Shapiro is a bright neoconservative, who’s well aware of the contradiction inherent in his sudden support for the states in their lunge for liberty:
The federal response to the slavery question was quick and right – President Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War restored for all time the founding promises of the Declaration of Independence. Despite the Civil War, however, the legacy of Jim Crow further eroded the moral authority of states’ rights. And the federal government, wielding the ethical imperative of racial equality, stepped in. States’ rights advocates were forever branded as bigoted Orval Faubus types, standing in the doorways of segregated schoolhouses.
Now states are surprised to find that their ability to resist federal directives has been all but extinguished. They are surprised that they are no longer able to set their own standards regarding social, economic or criminal policy. They are surprised that through a combination of moral blindness and drooling greed, they surrendered their role in the constitutional system.
Surrendered? Not quite. “Honest Abe” was victorious in the War Between the States because, to vanquish the South, he invalidated the Constitution and violated the compact and comity between the sovereign states. Lincoln created a reality on the ground by brute force, not by constitutional warrant. This savagery owed little to the Constitution.
Neoliberal Chris Matthews of MSNBC had a similar reaction when Governor Rick Perry made it plain he would be asserting Texas’ rights. “That’s the kind of talk we heard in 1861. That’s what killed 600,000 Americans,” hollered the “Hardball” host.
By this lame logic, secession or state sovereignty is proscribed because last it was invoked, a bully launched a war. Or, as Kirkpatrick Sale, director of the pro-secession Middlebury Institute, countered: “The victory by a superior military might is not the same thing as the creation of a superior constitutional right.”
Sovereignty, of course, can be resuscitated; and the lost Constitution restored.
The pathology caused by an overweening federal government is fueling the fever of freedom among the states and their people ─ it is the fever a healthy organism develops to fight-off an invading pathogen.