Where secession petitions failed, nullification succeeds

Where the secessionist temper tantrums failed, legal state nullification succeeds.

DALLAS, November 29, 2012– After the election, online secession petitions flooded the White House website. The movement went viral, reigniting the uncivil war of words between partisan demagogues. For weeks, debates razed the Internet as secessionists cried freedom and detractors charged dissenters with treason.

Petitioners complained that the American Dream has been mortgaged to special interests. This last decade, Washington has increasingly disregarded its constitutional limits without concern for the people. The steady disintegration of the people’s power has erected an arcane, despotic state belligerent to the rule of law. For these reasons, they sought separation.

The protests are now an obsolete fad, likely remembered as a post-election tantrum because the measure was fruitless, accomplishing nothing. But where secession petitions failed to produce change local nullification measures, or legal resistance to unconstitutional federal laws, continues to thrive.

As the federal government increasingly treads on states grabbing unconstitutional powers, local legislators have progressively invalidated abusive legislation, affirming their lawful rights through exercise of the Tenth Amendment.

Whether eroding archaic “Drug War” prohibitions, extending legal protections to same-sex couples, or nullifying corporate healthcare schemes, states are legislating for their electorate as the Founders intended. The Tenth Amendment Center is at the forefront of these endeavors and in recent years, has experienced a bi-partisan surge in membership and interest.

In an interview regarding the issue of secession and nullification the Communications Director for Tenth Amendment Center, Mike Maharrey, provided some insight into the realistic future of state’s rights, secession and legal nullification.

Your organization works within state legislatures to nullify, not separate. What are your thoughts on the secessionist movement and its potential impact?

The secession petitions certainly highlight the growing frustration of many Americans. But secession is a non-starter and the petition drive is, quite frankly, silly. You don’t ask permission to secede. You just do it. Can you imagine Sam Adams sending a petition to King George III begging him to let the colonies go their own way? I really don’t think most of the petition signers have really thought about the actual ramifications of secession. They are just frustrated and grasping at solutions. 

At the Tenth Amendment Center, we choose to focus on a solution that is one: actionable - and two: effective. That is state nullification of unconstitutional acts. We view nullification as the middle road between unlimited submission and destroying the Union. Our goal is to harness this energy, educate Americans and block this unconstitutional federal overreach. If we can do that, secession wouldn’t even be a consideration.

If the federal government continues abusing its limited powers despite restraints codified by the Constitution, do you foresee more rigorous nullification in the future or another constitutional convention?  

If the last election and the feedback from state legislatures as they prepare for the 2013 session are any indication, we will see a huge growth in nullification efforts. Six states passed what are, in essence, nullification measures.

Alabama, Montana and Wyoming approved health care freedom amendments. Massachusetts voters elected to create a medical marijuana program. Washington and Colorado went further with outright weed decriminalization. All six of these measures defy presumed federal authority. We are already seeing nullification bills pre-filed in state legislatures – some of them with some pretty sharp teeth.

I have heard talk about an Article V convention, specifically connected to passing a balanced budget amendment. But even if that comes about, nullification will remain an important tool. As we have seen over the last 100 years, the feds aren’t inclined to follow the Constitution we have.

What makes anybody think they will follow an amendment, unless the states develop mechanisms to block unconstitutional acts and the will to use them?

Do recent state actions to nullify the National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA) kidnapping provisions, archaic, unproductive marijuana prohibitions or federal marriage protection laws, etc. contradict contrarians that claim the movement is pointless?

Federal law is supreme. Unconstitutional acts are not. Only acts passed in pursuance of the Constitution – the words “in pursuance thereof” taken verbatim from the Supremacy Clause – stand as legitimate law.  When the Congress, or the president, or a court acts outside of the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, it is an illegal usurpation of power. It is void, unauthoritive and of no force by definition.

Quite frankly, I don’t care what the contrarians say. The states don’t need their permission to exercise their sovereign powers. James Madison explained the intended division of power in Federalist 45. The powers delegated to the federal government are “few and defined,” focusing primarily on “external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce.” The powers left to the states are “numerous and indefinite,” and encompass all of the things “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.” So when the feds start meddling in health care, an area over which no constitutionally delegated federal power exists, or telling people what plant they can grow in their own back yard and smoke inside their own home, it is up to the state to step in and say, “NO!” Not your power; you may not interfere.

So these contrarians or legal scholars can say it’s pointless, but medical marijuana is thriving in 18 states, and two states decriminalizing pot despite the feds saying it’s illegal would seem to indicate otherwise!

What are some of the most successful cases of nullification in the most recent 10 years? 

Marijuana and Real ID. 

We’ve touched on marijuana The Supreme Court ruled that the feds could regulate and ban medical marijuana. Did the few states like California that had programs at the time shut them down when the robed demi-gods passed their edict? No. Did tanks roll through the streets of L.A.? No. Did other states look at the decision and say, “Oh, we’d better not do that.” No. The exact opposite occurred. More states legalized medicinal marijuana.

Now we have 18 states with legalized medical cannabis. Colorado and Washington just told the feds to take their unconstitutional drug war someplace else. When enough states ignore these federal mandates, there isn’t much the feds can do about it, other than unleash the occasional raid to pretend they are still in charge.

Then there is the Real ID Act of 2005. With Maine leading the way, more than two-dozen states refused to implement it. Others drug their feet. Some objected on civil liberty principles. Others didn’t want to bear the cost. The feds kept pushing back deadlines and giving states more time. And they kept not doing what the act called for. It’s almost 2013. Still no real ID program in the form the act demanded. The law remains on the books, but it is effectively nullified.

What are three laws you see mobilizing nullification efforts and in which states?

There are going to be so many initiatives, I really can’t chronicle all of them. Sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center indicate that at least 10 state legislatures will consider bills to block detention without due process under the NDAA. A bill has already been prefiled in Texas, along with another bill to stop the most invasive TSA groping.

Nobody likes the TSA, so that movement has the potential to take off as well. The health care act will also create a flurry of activity. We’re already seeing it with governors refusing to set up state exchanges. This is going to create a burden on the feds I’m not sure they’re prepared to deal with.

What about nullification and your organization attracts bi-partisanship? 

We advance a principle, not a political agenda. Follow the Constitution every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses. As a result, there are issues we champion that appeal to the right – such as health care freedom and firearms freedom, and there are other issues that appeal to the left – weed and stopping the erosion of our civil liberties through garbage like the Patriot Act and the NDAA. And some issues everybody can get on board with. I mean, nobody wants to get felt up just because they bought an airline ticket. The TSA is pretty much universally hated.

Our goal is to bring these folks in through the various issues, and then bring them together around the principle. Both sides of the political spectrum need to understand that centralized power is just dangerous. And when you give “your guy” more power, you are giving “their guy” that same additional power to use against you when they are in control. Less power in D.C. and more in the hands of the people is always a good thing.

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Unless drastic reforms sweep Washington, alert citizens will remain wary of negligent bureaucracy. If recent power shifts continue to expand unproductive, corrupt government Americans will increase efforts to affirm their inalienable rights legislatively. More citizens involved in policy-making are positive trends, especially at the state level with organizations like Tenth Amendment Center.

Americans should remember their history, however. The last time free, sovereign states petitioned for separation they did so within their own state governments. They also lost a war against the federal government and its compliant states, resulting in the destruction of the south, mass murder, and the death of the Second American republic.

Neutering abusive legislation is not accomplished by dividing the union or signing a fleeting petition to make a statement, but wielding the very tools the Founders designed to prevent the development of centralized tyranny. Online petitions are instantly gratifying, but the defense of liberty requires eternal vigilance and local participation. The rewards for intimate advocacy are far greater than the momentary excitement of partisan snubbing.

Visit their website to learn more about the Tenth Amendment Center.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Tiffany Madison

Tiffany is a writer and veteran's advocate. Her column focuses on civil liberties, veteran's issues and current events. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanymadisonFacebook or her website.

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