NOTE: After being interviewed pretty extensively for an op-ed on nullification that ran in the Chicago Tribune, it was suggested to me by the author that if I wanted to write a rebuttal, the letters editor of the paper was certainly open to publishing my thoughts as a short letter.

The following is the text of that letter to the editors of the Chicago Tribune – published on August 21, 2013.


The Chicago Tribune’s editorial, “Nullifying Washington,” did something unusual. It didn’t approach nullification as a wild, partisan movement of neo-confederates hell-bent on stopping Obama, or reinstating slavery.

As founder of the Tenth Amendment Center, considered the epicenter of the nullification movement, I’ve spoken to many reporters. They rarely discuss nullification like The Tribune did.


Here’s the standard rundown:

Nullification is pro-slavery.

Nullification is used only by the far-right. 

They never mention the fact that Northern States aggressively used nullification against federal slave laws in the 1850s.

I tell every reporter about the 20+ states essentially nullifying federal marijuana laws, and the ACLU led state-resistance to the REAL ID act. It rarely makes the story. It doesn’t fit the “only the right uses nullification” narrative.

Kudos to The Tribune for including those facts rather than pretending the two most successful modern nullification efforts don’t exist because they come from the left.

I don’t need to agree with everything written to appreciate fairness. For example, I know no Founder, ever, said the “final word” on Constitutionality “comes from the Supreme Court and no one else.”

And no, the Constitution doesn’t say “unequivocally that federal law overrules state law.” The Supremacy Clause tells us that federal laws made “in pursuance” of constitutionally delegated powers are supreme. Others are not.

But that’s OK. Honest people disagree. The dishonest try to frame the debate or hide important facts. I’m grateful to know that The Tribune isn’t falling into that category.

Michael Boldin

The 10th Amendment

“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.”



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