Friday, June 4, 2010

States’ Fights

John C. Calhoun is back with a vengeance, warming the hearts of Old South romantics while chilling the blood of modern liberals. He conjures up images both appealing and appalling: old-fashioned patriotism, partisan demagoguery, genuine fears, love of liberty. The modern Tea Party movement owes much of its inspiration to the Ron Paul campaign, the only national effort in recent years to mention the Tenth Amendment. Yet inevitably talk of nullification evokes memories of Calhoun and the Lost Cause—even though the roots of the idea run much deeper. The re-emergence of nullification—the repudiation or ignoring of a federal law by a state government—poses an interesting challenge to the power of the federal government and its monopoly on constitutional interpretation. In recent decades, the first organized attempt came from the Left and libertarian Right’s advocacy of medical marijuana. The movement achieved success in California in 1996 with passage of Proposition 215—a direct affront to federal anti-drug laws—and has since spread to 13 other states. Nullification has been gaining popularity in states North, South, and West. One week before Obama assumed office, Joel Boniek introduced the Montana Firearms Freedom Act into the state legislature. Another recent nullification effort concerns the Real ID Act of 2005, which sets national standards for state driver’s licenses. As with firearms law, opposition to Real ID is a bipartisan effort...more

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