You don’t hear much about States Rights these days. The death of some 650,000 Americans in Mr. Lincoln’s war in the early 1860s firmly settled the issue. After wrecking the economy and burning a few cities, the Yankees rode Dixie like a rented mule for many years after. The topic hasn’t come up much since then.
Obama’s desire to nationalize just about everything has got politicians in many states thinking again about their own power and state sovereignty. I find the change refreshing. Twenty-two states have passed or are considering passage of resolutions declaring their sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.
This little known item in the Bill of Rights reads as follows: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
It follows the severe limits on federal power that appear in the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
These amendments have never been repealed, though they have certainly been neglected. The idea that there are limits on federal power is almost quaint these days. The notion that the states decide law within their own borders has been dispensed with by the Supreme Court as recently as 2005 in Gonzalez v. Raich. There the robes decided that locally grown pot was illegal even though it never left the state, and state law had made it legal.
Now, however, we find there is some fear among state law makers that the national government under President Obama might seek to exercise power not granted to the feds under the Constitution. Heaven forefend! Where ever would they get an idea like that?
It never occurred to them when swarms of federal agents arrived to trample the Constitution in the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Nothing until now has worried them about federal officials spending vast sums of borrowed money. The numbers have become suddenly much larger, however.
And I don’t think opposition is out of thrift, or good sense, or a new respect for the founding documents. I suspect it’s that the opposing politicos are not getting to spend the loot themselves that really bothers them. But motives are not my concern here. What matters is that our local representatives appear finally to be noticing that the monster from D.C. is becoming a might pushy.
Ideas are emerging from state legislatures that haven’t seen the light of day for a hundred and fifty years. Radical notions that the federal government is one of limited and specifically enumerated powers. That those powers do not include local law enforcement. That they do not include such items as declaring martial law without the approval of the locals, or restricting gun rights, or demanding foreign service from State National Guardsmen in an undeclared war.
It was ideas like these that got a lot of press in the South before the shooting started at Fort Sumter.
The following states have passed Tenth Amendment resolutions:
California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina , and Washington.
Hawaii (HI) is going for complete sovereignty, if not independence. It claims the island was never really a state of the U.S.A. Go for it, I say. Hawaii will be damn hard to invade.
Here are the states considering such declarations. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Ohio.
We’re still short of anything with the force of law, however. Resolutions are not laws. They simply give what is referred to as a “sense of the state legislature” to the federal government. But Resolutions can become Bills, and thus can become Laws.
Hard times have a way of making people look at things in a new light. If that light were the old beacon of freedom and independence that shines from the Constitution, let it shine I say.
Thomas Jefferson wisely observed that the government that governs best is that which governs least. No one would say that is the kind of government we have in Washington, D.C. The enormous leaps that Obama’s new regime is taking toward socializing the economy and centralizing power across the nation have rightly frightened even those unaware of Jefferson’s advice on government.
The closer our government is to home, the more responsive it will be to the people it claims to govern. I don’t delude myself that our state politicians have suddenly found a new respect for the Constitution, or that they are concerned about anything more than the erosion of their own power. Never the less, what ever brings about a loosening of the stranglehold that D.C. politicians have on nearly every aspect of American life is a welcome development. Whether it is a step toward limited constitutional government or civil war remains to be seen.