It’s no secret that MSNBC has no love for nullification.
Back in 2011, Rachel Maddow attempted to link the growing nullification movement to racism. Jason Rink used parts her television segment and refuted many of her statements in his documentary, Nullification: A Rightful Remedy.
The folks over at MSNBC haven’t changed their tune. Recently, The Rachel Maddow Show producer Steven Benen wrote a commentary on the show’s blog page called, Pointless Nullfication in Kansas critical of the recently passed Firearms Freedom Act. Tenth Amendment Center’s Executive Director Michael Boldin responded to Benen’s article with an audio segment, MSNBC: Where it’s Always Opposite Day.
And the assault continues.
Recently, Up with Steve Kornacki broadcasted a show segment, again discussing the Kansas Firearms Freedom Act.
The anti-nullification slant was apparent just from the selection panel members: Democrat State Senator David Haley, Harper’s Magazine Columnist Thomas Frank who is also author of What’s the Matter with Kansas, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner from MomsRising.org and the “token” Republican Sheila Frahm, also from Kansas.
After introducing his lineup, Kornacki built up a narrative focusing on the battle between two wings of the Republican Party within Kansas. The storyline was basically that an “extreme conservative wing” associated with Governor Brownback dominates Kansas politics. Then he quickly brings in former Republican Kansas Senator Sheila Frahm.
The earlier use of the word “token” wasn’t an error. Instead of coming to defense of the bill, she extended Kornacki’s narrative saying:
This is the first session that we have not had traditional Republicans in the Kansas Senate to help monitor what is going on and help balance what is going on, and we are very conscious about that across the state.
It should be noted that Frahm lost to Brownback in a U.S. Senate race back in 1996. Possible sour grapes?
If the Republican from Kansas is going to make such a statement, it’s clear that the panel has no members on it who are true defenders of nullification. Where was Tom Woods? Kevin Gutzman? Michael Boldin? Mike Maharrey? Anyone? The message is simple: Since no guest can actually defend nullification, it must be indefensible.
It’s also clear that the panel was made up of amateur historians. Thomas Frank repeated Rachel Maddow’s talking points from her televised segment (linked above) about how nullification was invented by John C. Calhoun. Frank went on to say:
His (Calhoun) idea was that the states came first. The States were prior to the federal government. If they felt something was unconstitutional and if they didn’t like something that we hereby nullify that in our state. This is a doctrine from the 1820s. It was bogus then. What’s funny is that it was the preeminent doctrine of the slave holding south. This is how they rationalized what they were doing. Kansas just wasn’t on the other side, but militantly on the other side.
It should be noted that as Frank delivered this dialogue, Frahm was in the background nodding “yes” vehemently. She even smirked a few times. Yes, a token.
It’s a given that the states actually did come first. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. Virginia wasn’t created after the Constitution was ratified.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison first formalized concept of nullification in the “Principles of 98” long before Calhoun. And Frank’s implication that the southern states were the lone proponents of nullification is absurd. Northern states leaned on the principles of nullification during Jefferson’s embargo and to resist federal conscription during the War of 1812. Even Daniel Webster defended state resistance to unconstitutional acts.
“The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State governments exist.”
When South Carolina seceded from the union, they stated in their Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union:
The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify* the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution.
In other words, South Carolina was actually complaining about Northern nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850! They even used the word, “nullify”. Whoa! This doesn’t fit the narrative MSNBC is creating.
After Frank finished his points, Kornacki continued the narrative of moderate Republicans working with Democrats to stop the more radical “conservative” Republicans. State Senator Haley confirmed this talking point.
After a break, Kornacki hyped up some of the language from the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act (SB93) that passed in their state senate. He read from the bill:
All federal acts, laws, orders, rules or regulations regarding firearms are a violation of the Second Amendment… The Legislature shall adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of any federal acts, laws, orders, or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The panel reacted as if a pregnant woman stood up during a wedding and claimed that her child belonged to the groom. A couple of members brought up how this just bypassed the Supreme Court. Constitutional “Expert” (Cough) (Cough) (Cough) Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner pointed out that the language in the Alabama bill is clearly unconstitutional. Well again, Jefferson (Author of the Declaration of Independence) and James Madison (Who is often referred by historians as the “Father of the Constitution.”) had no issue with this concept. Who do you believe: Rowe-Finkbeiner or Jefferson/Madison?
On top of that, even the Supreme Court has held that state governments do not have to enforce federal acts. There NO debating non-compliance is a legitimate state tactic. (See Printz v. United States and New York v. United States)
Next, Kornacki shifted gears and tried to paint nullification as a movement started in reaction to President Obama’s policies. He mentioned how states are attempting to nullify other things like Obamacare.
There may be some truth to this point in some political circles, but it should be noted that Michael Boldin created the Tenth Amendment Center during the Bush Administration. States refused to implement Real ID laws before Obama took office.
And of course, the most successful modern nullification movement revolves around marijuana. California started the process by legalizing medical marijuana way back in 1996. Last I checked, Obama wasn’t president then. After the Supreme Court ruled against California in Gonzales v. Raich, the movement didn’t die. In fact, it grew. Today, 19 states have legalized medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington state upped the ante last fall, legalizing weed completely.
Later in the broadcast, the focus shifted to the commerce clause and Kansas’ assertion the guns made in the state and remaining in the state do not fall under any federal regulatory authority. Kornacki pointed out that the Supreme Court already ruled on this issue, arguing commerce that stays within the states still impacts other states. (As if a SCOTUS decision necessarily lines up with the intent of the constitution. These folks would do well to remember the Supreme Court once ruled black people couldn’t be citizens.)
Ironically, Senator Haley used the example of Colorado passing recreational use of marijuana, asking what Kansas authorities should do if a someone from Colorado brings a prescription for marijuana with them into Kansas. However, no one use the “n” word when the Colorado point was brought up. (SURPRISE! SURPRISE!) What did Colorado do? Ah, nullify? Also, did Colorado pass recreational use of marijuana under far right wing conservatism? Yeah. No.
In fact, subjects ignored by the panel are as revealing as those discussed.
They made no mention of ACLU’s efforts to refuse compliance with detention provisions in the NDAA. The ACLU posted a toolkit of state and local resolutions opposing the NDAA on its webside. Again, nullification! No talk about nullifying drones. And as we’ve already seen, no discussion of efforts to nullify the unconstitutional “War on Drugs.”
States across the country are using nullification for both left and right winged causes. There is a historical precedent that nullification is valid and useful when the federal government overreaches its authority. This is what MSNBC clearly doesn’t want you to know.
*Added bold text for emphasis.
- The Tenth Amendment Solution to Political “Civil War” - July 27, 2018
- Podcast: The Jefferson Years and Mr. Madison’s War - January 12, 2018
- Brion McClanahan on the Original Meaning and Purpose of the 2nd Amendment - July 7, 2016