Nationalists are filling newspapers and websites with attacks on nullification.
A post on the Maddow Blog on MSNBC.com published April 4 argues that “Nullification Must Never Be on the Table.” The author, Steven Benen, aims to disarm state legislators standing up to federal excesses by declaring, “Not to put too fine a point on this, but there's nothing to discuss — state lawmakers can't pick and choose which federal laws they'll honor.”
With respect, Mr. Benen, they can — and must — do just that, if the union is to endure.
Perhaps Benen is well-meaning and simply believes, as many do, that state nullification statutes will lead to chaos. If that is the case, here is something to soothe his worried mind.
Nullification is not the right of states to nullify any federal act. Rather, it is the right to choose to not enforce any federal act that fails to conform to the constitutionally established limits on its authority. Nullification presupposes that there are myriad (albeit limited) areas over which the Constitution has given 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.
Speaking of crisis, on March 28, several newspapers in South Carolina published an article penned by Phil Noble. In the piece, Noble relies more on sarcasm than scholarship, describing advocates of nullification as “nuts” and portraying them as redneck racists whose opposition to federal overreach has less to do with their love of the Constitution than with their hatred for the color of the president’s skin. Doubt it? Consider this selection from Noble’s article:
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