I’ve been spending this week in New York City with my daughter Veronica, so I’ve taken time off from writing.
But man, that Jeff Sessions.
Just the other day, he said:
There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is “the supreme law of the land.” I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled.
As the author of Nullification, I am driven insane by fact-free platitudes like this.
(Nullification is the idea that the states have the right to prevent the enforcement of unconstitutional federal laws.)
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Let’s be clear: Sessions is making precisely the argument that every left-liberal outfit on earth, from ThinkProgress to the Southern Poverty Law Center, was making not ten years ago, when the modern nullification movement was getting started.
All we heard was: Supremacy Clause! John C. Calhoun! Civil War!
Regarding Calhoun, I’m convinced the reason they mention him is (1) most Americans have no idea who he is, and (2) he’s been sufficiently demonized in the minds of those who have, that anything he’s associated with becomes automatically suspect.
They never used Thomas Jefferson’s name, even though the first full-fledged articulation of the idea of nullification, including the very word itself, came from his pen. (Why they wouldn’t want to associate Thomas Jefferson’s name with an idea they seek to demonize is an exercise I leave to the student.)
On the Civil War: the Civil War was not fought over nullification, and in fact at the time of the war it was the northern states that had much more recently been engaged in nullification. The legitimacy of nullification involves a philosophical argument, and philosophical arguments are not – at least to reasonable people – decided one way or the other by violence. No one would say, when confronted with the plight of the Plains Indians, “Didn’t the U.S. Army settle that?”
As for the Supremacy Clause, that and a lot more are covered in my nullification FAQ (where you’ll also find a link to get a free audiobook version of Nullification, which made the thought controllers go even crazier than they already were):