Monday, April 05, 2010

Tea Party Invoking Stale States’ Rights Argument

By George E. Hardin 
Memphis Tri-State Defender
| Published 04/1/2010

Tea Party Invoking Stale States’ Rights Argument

The Tea Party movement is resurrecting the idea of interposition and nullification in its mounting opposition to the health care reform bill. It is a doctrine presented by those who believe in extreme states’ rights to the detriment of the federal union. Those who hold this view believe states can interpose their own laws to prevent the implementation of federal laws with which they disagree – in this case the health care bill. And they believe they can nullify any federal acts they feel are in opposition to their own interests.

Segregationists used the same ideas in the 1950s to oppose the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed “separate but equal” public schools. In the 19th century those who believed they had a right to enslave black Americans advocated the same concept. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has legally discredited interposition and nullification.

Dr. Martin Luther King Luther referred to this failed strategy in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech when he said, “I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor (George Wallace) having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Mitt Romney is now attacking the health care plan, which has provisions similar to the legislation that passed while he was governor of Massachusetts. He has been derided by some of the state’s residents who have objections to the plan’s provisions. He responded by saying the plan was not perfect. Yet he and his fellow Republicans are railing against Obama’s good plan because it isn’t perfect. The president has called it a middle of the road approach, noting the government is not taking over anything. It is observing its right to present legislation that advances the common good.

The governor of Texas, who earlier suggested his state would be better off if it would secede from the union, also has commended the idea of interposition and nullification to show disdain for the federal government.

The dialogue seems less about health care opposition and more about discrediting Obama. Some of the hateful signs have said: “Obama Plan: White Slavery” and “Obamanomics: Monkey See, Monkey Spend.”

It is unfortunate that the word “fight” as a figure of speech is being taken literally by some right-wingers. Sarah Palin has said “reload” to attack Obama, and John McCain has endorsed that viewpoint. McCain, who gave a memorable concession speech and claimed to put his country first is now urging Republicans not to support any Obama proposals. The satirist Bill Maher said, “You can’t use the statement ‘there will be no cooperation for the rest of the year’ as a threat if there was no cooperation in the first half of the year.”

A recent Harris Poll indicates 67 percent of Republicans surveyed believe Obama is a socialist; 45 percent believe Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is not eligible to be president; 38 percent say Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did:” and 24 percent say Obama “may be the Antichrist.” The president also was called “anti-American” and condemned as someone who “wants the terrorists to win.”

The poll said that those who were less educated were more likely to hold the most extreme views, clinging to their opinions and ignoring the facts.

The Daily Beast, quoting Horace Mann, said, “Ignorance breeds monsters to fill up the vacancies of the soul that are unoccupied by the verities of knowledge.” And as for those screaming they want their country back, the most legitimate people to utter such a claim would be the American Indians.

(George E. Hardin worked as a photographer, reporter and editor, and in public relations during a long career before he retired. His column appears every other week.)

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