Over the weekend, CSPAN aired a discussion on nullification featuring Ian Millhiser of the progressive Center for American Progress and Ilya Shapiro of the libertarian CATO Institute.

Presumably, the discussion was journalistically balanced because it featured two men from polar opposite ends of the political spectrum. And while that might constitute “balance” in some sense of the word, it certainly wasn’t a balanced discussion on the principles of nullification, because everybody in the room opposed the idea.

Millhiser kicked things off by rightly pointing out that states gave up some sovereignty when they delegated specific powers to the general government, but went on to totally misrepresent nullification.

“Now you’re seeing some states who are basically saying they want to go back on that deal that they made when we became a union and say that the states should be allowed to overrule valid federal law that they don’t like.”

Shapiro essentially agreed, with the caveat that the feds can’t force states to enforce federal statutes.

“The Supreme Court has been quite clear on that. What states cannot do is stop federal officers from enforcing federal law. States can’t pass a law that, as Ian said, nullifies federal law.”

There you have it. These two guys agree. No nullification!

What a great “debate!”

Millhiser goes on to define “nullification” for the audience, also pointing out that the feds can’t force states to enforce federal acts.

“Nullification is when the state tries to tell the government it’s not allowed to enforce its own law.”

This raises an interesting question: who died and made this dude the authority on nullification? Why does he get to define the term? He does a pretty crappy job of it. And of course, the panel did not feature anybody actually involved in the nullification movement to challenge this nonsense.

“It’s fascinating that CSPAN doesn’t even contact the organization leading the efforts nationally – they just feature just two organizations that are on record opposing nullification,” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said. “It was so bad and so worthless that after the first few minutes, they really didn’t even talk about nullification. It was just legal analysis on various court cases and the like. When you get two people together who totally agree, you’re not going to have much of a show.”

Those of us at the heart of the nullification movement actually define it as any act, or set of acts, that makes a law null, void, or simply unenforceable within the borders of a state, city or county.  So all of the noncompliance that Millhiser and Shapiro agree is allowed constitutes nullification.

Sadly, there was nobody on the show to point this out.

And there was also nobody to challenge Millhiser’s asinine assertion that the doctrine of nullification holds that “the states should be allowed to overrule valid federal law that they don’t like.”

In truth, the principles of state nullification only apply to acts not “in pursuance of” the Constitution. Any federal act outside of constitutionally enumerated powers is, by definition, invalid. Even Alexander Hamilton, friendly to national power, agreed.

“There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the constitution, can be valid.”

Millhiser and Shapiro both stand tall among federal spremacists, clinging to the illogical notion that ANYTHING the federal government does and approves of through its own mechanism stands supreme.

Too bad CSPAN didn’t offer anybody the opportunity to challenge this silliness.

Mike Maharrey

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.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


Maharrey Minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.