Outraged over efforts in the Arizona State Legislature to nullify unconstitutional federal commands and prohibitions, a growing number of Pima County residents and even a few of their state legislators are proposing that they be permitted to break away from the rest of Arizona in order to form their own state. If they are eventually successful, Tucson would almost certainly be it’s capital city.

I’ve been saying that this is what needs to happen for more than a decade. Perhaps a majority of the people who reside in what is known to be the more left-leaning, southern parts of our state, have long been fed up with the north’s social and fiscal conservatism. Now they are completely outraged over our movement to nullify every last federal act that a majority of our state legislators deem to be unconstitutional, but which they consider to be perfectly within the sphere of legitimate federal power.

A similar situation existed in the late 1850’s, when southern outrage reached a crescendo over northern states’ successful nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act. The south, for the most part, thought that the act was perfectly constitutional, whereas states’ like Wisconsin maintained that the act allowed for what amounted to illegal acts of kidnapping, since those accused of being fugitive slaves were denied a jury trial and other legal protections guaranteed  in the Bill of Rights. Considering it to be nothing more than an illegitimate act of usurpation (in spite of the fact that it was upheld by the Supreme Court in Abelman v. Booth), Wisconsin’s people, backed by their state government officials, successfully resisted the federal government’s attempts to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act within the borders of their state.

This was an important factor in several southern states’ decisions to secede from the Union. The question of leaving the Union is not explicitly addressed by the Constitution, probably because it was just assumed by those who ratified the Constitution to be an inherit power retained by every sovereign state. In today’s situation involving Pima county however, the south (of Arizona), does not wish to withdraw itself from the compact among the states, but simply wants to be re-admitted to the Union as a new one. Is there anything irrational, or wrong with that? I don’t think so. In fact, I think every Arizonan and every American should support their movement and help to foster similar movements, wherever disharmony and irreconcilable differences exist around the country.

There is a very specific, constitutional process by which the people who inhabit a portion of an existing state may petition their state and federal government to form a state of their own, after which they may be admitted to the Union on equal footing with every other state. Sure it would create some problems, but it would solve a lot more problems. The entire world has been undergoing a process of political decentralization for many years. Now, thankfully, it’s looking like the United States is no exception. Like any political solution, it won’t be perfect or trouble free, but in my humble opinion, the solution to problems created by decentralization, is almost always more decentralization.

Derek Sheriff

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