Writing in the Lehigh Valley Independent, Jon Geeting uses Pennsylvania’s governor race to open a discussion about Tenth Amendment Advocacy. It is difficult to excerpt from Mr. Geeting’s article without losing context, so I’ll suggest that you go read it. It’s not very long.
In summary, Mr. Geeting uses the recent dust-up that arose when Attorney General Corbett referred to the Constitution as a “living document” to springboard into criticism of Congressman Rohrer for his support of the Tenth Amendment. This seems to be the core of Mr. Geeting’s objection to Tenth Amendment Advocacy:
He [Rohrer] doesn’t believe in case law, and is constantly flouting an extremist view that the 10th Amendment means states have veto power over nearly any exercise of federal power. His view of the Constitution is literal. If the Framers didn’t explicitly write on the paper that we should have a national healthcare system, then we shouldn’t have one. If the Framers didn’t write in Social Security, it’s unconstitutional. It’s absurd.
So we’re to believe that Corbett is a main stream thinker and Rohrer is an extremist, because of his literal view of the Constitution. Extremist? If we follow the link to the Pennsylvania Independent that Mr. Geeting provided, we find Corbett quoted as saying,
Mr. Corbett said in response to Mr. Rohrer “I continue to maintain that the Constitution must be strictly adhered to and protected. … My conviction that the Constitution must be upheld is so strong that I believe every piece of legislation, regardless of popularity or end result, must comply with this age tested document word for word.”
Judge for yourself, but I don’t see a whole lot of difference between Corbett’s “the Constitution must be strictly adhered to and protected” and “the Constitution is literal”, the view which Geeting attributes to Rohrer. If both leading candidates from the Republican party hold this view, I think we can dispose of the slur, “extremist”. Especially since Mr. Geeting’s article seems to imply that he views Corbett as a main stream thinker.
The reality is that the states have not just a right, but a duty, to nullify (or veto, as Mr. Geeting calls it) unconstitutional laws. We have seen this, not just in theory and history, but also in recent practice. Twenty five states have “vetoed” the unconstitutional REAL ID act and citizens in fourteen states have legal access to medical marijuana as a result of state laws that “veto” the federal marijuana laws within the states’ borders. Is it extremist to observe actual activities which are continuing successfully in many states, even now?
Mr. Geeting closes his article with a straw-man description, excerpted from Think Progress, of what tenthers believe. I can only wonder why he chose to go to Think Progress for a second-hand description. It might have been more informative if, instead, he had run a few web searches and found a web site run by a real, live, tenther. If Mr. Geeting had run a couple web searches, he might have instead closed with this excerpt from the Tenth Amendment Center,
The 10th Amendment doesn’t prohibit the feds from doing anything that “isn’t specifically spelled out in the Constitution” as this person claims, or as he’s saying other people claim. The 10th prevents the feds from exercising any power that hasn’t been delegated to it by We the People.”
While it may seem like an academic distinction, it certainly is not. The Founders debated this issue in depth and wanted to make sure that the federal government wasn’t hamstrung, and unable to deal with changes the future would obviously bring. So they called upon the Common Law doctrine of “principals and incidents” to ensure that government could adapt.