Is Nullification Gaining Mainstream Momentum?

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
07/31/2013
       
Is Nullification Gaining Mainstream Momentum?

Reports in mainstream media outlets and a recent Rasmussen poll suggest that nullification is growing in popularity.

Are states ready to flex their constitutional muscle and restrain the federal behemoth with the chains of the Constitution?

Maybe.

In an article published by Politico on July 27, Tal Kopan wrote, “Infuriated by what they see as the long arm of Washington reaching into their business, states are increasingly telling the feds: Keep out!”

And, in May, The New American reported on a Rasmussen poll where 44 percent of those who participated in the survey believe states retain the right to nullify any act of the federal government they deem constitutionally invalid.  

Simply stated, nullification is the exercise by a state or states of the right to hold as null, void, and of no legal effect any act of the federal government that exceeds the boundaries of the powers given to it by the states in the Constitution.

And it must be pointed out that despite opponents’ cries of “anarchy,” nullification is not the right of states to nullify any federal act. Rather, it is the right of states to choose to not enforce any federal act that fails to conform to the constitutionally established limits on the authority of the federal government.

Nullification presupposes that there are myriad areas over which the Constitution has given limited purview to the federal government: defense, naturalization, foreign relations, interstate commerce, etc. 

When Washington decides to go walkabout, however, and start legislating (or issuing edicts, in the case of President Obama) in areas not within its constitutional boundaries (healthcare, education, gun ownership), the states reserve the right to check that usurpation by refusing to afford such acts the power of law. Conversely, it would be a usurpation on the part of the states should they attempt to disregard federal laws that are constitutionally sound.

Americans, it seems, are getting the message that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison sent out over 200 years ago in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.

As Madison wrote in the Virginia Resolution of 1798, "In case of a deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers, not granted by the said compact, the states who are parties thereto, 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."

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