Building a bridge to the 19th century

BUILDING A BRIDGE TO THE 19TH CENTURY…. These “sovereignty” resolutions in “red” states are generating a little too much support for our modern democracy. Hendrik Hertzberg takes a closer look at a stark-raving mad resolution out of Georgia.

[Georgia] has passed a resolution that mixes three parts inanity and one part prospective treason into a Kompletely Krazy Kocktail of militia-minded moonshine and wacko white lightning — a resolution that not only endorses defiance of federal law but also threatens anarchy and revolution.

Really, you can’t make this stuff up. You have to read it in full to believe it. Even then you can’t believe it. You thought that “nullification” had been rendered inoperative by the Civil War? Well, think again. You considered secession a pre-Appomattox kind of thing? Well, reconsider. You assumed that John C. Calhoun was a dead parrot? Well, turns out he was only resting.

The resolution is written in a mock eighteenth-century style, ornate and pompous…. But the substance is even nuttier than the style.

The substance, if you want to call it that, delves into “nullification” theory (Georgia can nullify federal laws it doesn’t like), and suggests federal gun-control laws can lead to the disbandment of the United States.

The measure passed the Georgia state Senate 43 to 1. Similar measures have been embraced by lawmakers in other states, primarily in the South, and all of this comes after the governor of Texas spoke publicly about secession. Other governors, including South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, are reportedly warming up to Civil War-era ideas.

Ed Kilgore explained:

As someone just old enough to remember the last time when politicians in my home southern region made speeches rejecting the Supremacy Clause and the 14th amendment, I may take this sort of activity more seriously than some. But any way you slice it, Republicans are playing with some crazy fire. For all the efforts of its sponsors to sell the “sovereignty resolution” idea as a grassroots development flowing out of the so-called Tea Party Movement, its most avid supporters appear to be the John Birch Society and the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the White Citizens Councils of ill-fame. And given the incredibly unsavory provenance of this “idea,” it’s no surprise that these extremist groups are viewing the “movement” as an enormous vindication of their twisted points of view.

If John C. Calhoun offered the definitive articulation of the nullification theory, his nemesis, President Andrew Jackson, offered the definitive response, which holds true today. He said the doctrine was “incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”