Since the defeat of Mitt Romney nearly three weeks ago, there has been a surge of interest in nullification and, of all things, secession. It seems that with the Supreme Court solidifying the Affordable Care Act, and the GOP faring so poorly on election day, some rank-and-file conservatives are becoming open to some dangerous ideas. Not to let such notions as decentralization and self-determination get out of hand, Human Events was quick to dispatch Jarrett Stepman to straighten out conservatives regarding what was acceptable thought, according to their betters.
Poor Jarrett, a staff writer who studied political science at U.C. Davis, he was sent on a fool’s errand, but could have at least read up on the topic before sitting down to write this ridiculous piece. Fortunately, Tom Woods and Matt Renquist have set him straight and he hopefully now understands.
Woods points out that Stepman’s piece could just as easily have been published in the New Republic, and regarding decentralization, he notes that:
The idea that constituent parts could have prior liberties of their own that they might assert against the center is anathema not just to Stepman but to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and (with a few noble exceptions) the whole slate of modern political philosophers from Thomas Hobbes to Karl Marx. Stepman, like these thinkers, simply takes the unity and indivisibility of the state for granted. They and their horrific “one and indivisible” nonsense, meanwhile, gave birth to the single most destructive institution in human history, with the twentieth century as an especially grisly Exhibit A.
He goes on to destroy the argument that secession necessarily leads to war:
The doctrines of nullification and secession led to a bloody civil war, Stepman tells us. Again, our author’s inability to entertain a thought other than what he read in some textbook somewhere impairs his reasoning. The idea of decentralism did not lead to a bloody civil war. The doctrine of centralization, the un-American doctrine of the one-and-indivisible Union – the doctrine, in other words, of the modern state – led to a bloody civil war. So blinded is Stepman by his unthinking acceptance of the premises of modern political thought that he cannot even perceive the most obvious facts.
Tellingly, Scott Parks and Dana Wright, one a conservative the other a liberal, each share this view of secession, as both ridiculed Ron Paul for defending the notion on Tuesday’s edition of RadioActive. The single argument that Parks could muster was essentially that “secession was settled by the civil war,” thus revealing just how primitive his ability to reason is, that brute force and violence constitute a debate. For her part, Dana Wright could only manage an ad hominem, and both ignored Paul’s main point, that it was through seceding from England that the colonies gained independence.
As for the quaint lesson in history that makes up the bulk of Stepman’s article, Renquist puts it all in context. He shows how Stepman “leads readers to the conclusion that James Madison opposed nullification later in his life.” Our intrepid writer from Human Events quotes Madison from his Notes on Nullification, in which he counters South Carolina’s application of nullification. However, Renquist explains that:
it was not the general principle of nullification [Madison] was opposing. Rather, Madison was opposing the process established by the South Carolina legislature, in which all other states must recognize the nullifying power of a single state, unless ¾ of the states voted against it.
And he continues: “This is not the same nullification or interposition that Madison referred to in his Virginia Resolutions, and is clearly not the same as current nullification efforts. No current state is trying to achieve this objective.”
Both Woods and Renquist highlight the absurd contradiction Stepman makes when he concludes his anti-nullification piece by advocating… nullification. In one of his final paragraphs, Stepman writes:
One way that states are resisting ObamaCare is through the Health Care Freedom Act, which has already been passed in many states. The law states that no government entity can force an individual to participate in the healthcare system or stop an individual from purchasing treatment. Governors can also refuse to set up health care exchanges in their states. States are not obligated to set up health exchanges for the federal government, and if enough Republican governors, who control 30 states, take that action, it will put a major roadblock in the implementation of ObamaCare.
It’s simply amazing that anyone could exhibit such dissonance in one article, but there you have it.
Whether this new-found interest of some conservatives goes anywhere or not is still up for debate. It’s my suspicion that most of those now asking president Obama to dissolve the union would be booking travel accommodations to D.C. for January, had their candidate won, and nullification would furthest from their minds. But, there’s always hope that some of these people are genuine, and that they’ll be able to make a worthwhile impact.