In 1978, Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina appeared on William Buckley’s “Firing Line.”

The two had a memorable exchange about “backbone:”

SJE: “Frankly, I think the big trouble in public life is there are too many people in public life with the anatomy of the jellyfish. They haven’t got much backbone, and I think they need more backbone in government …”

WFB: “You think they should hang tough?”

SJE: “Well, I think they ought to get a backbone some way instead of being so much like jellyfish.”

WFB: “Like Gordon Liddy?”

SJE: “Well, Gordon Liddy has a little too much backbone. I’ll have to admit that I have a sort of sneaking admiration for a fellow like Gordon Liddy that does have an excess of backbone. His backbone exceeds his intelligence, really.”

Buckley tried to deflect what Ervin was saying. Ervin thought and argued throughout his career that too many people in Washington D.C. ignored the Constitution, including Richard Nixon.

That started as soon as he assumed office in 1955. For the next twenty years, Senator Sam fought against the consistent “shredding of the Constitution.”

The problem was that the progressive left and right never called it that.

They do now, openly.

In fact, they insist that the only way to save the Constitution is to shred the Constitution. It doesn’t work because it ties the hands of the central government and gives too much power to minorities, also known as “conservatives”, in small States.

You read that right. The progressive left wants to hammer political minorities.

As an aside, funny how the left never complains about Vermont, or Delaware, or Rhode Island, as having too much influence in the Senate. Only Wyoming. I wonder why?

We’ve all known this, but now that the progressive left is losing, at least sometimes, they are trying to figure out a way to openly game the system.

I would argue they’ve been doing this for over 100 years.

It’s always been open season on the Constitution, and most honest people recognized that fact.

Progressives just thought they were abiding by the document because the federal court system told them they were through several bad decisions.

This made for good podcast fodder, so I discuss it on episode 714 of The Brion McClanahan Show.

You can watch it here.


You can listen to it and download it here.

Brion McClanahan
Latest posts by Brion McClanahan (see all)

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.