How to Nullify Obama's Overreach

Opponents of the Obama Administration’s over-reaching policies may think there’s little hope for either a partial or complete reversal.

Best-selling author Thomas E. Woods, Jr. argues to the contrary.

Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century gives citizens hope that states already possess the tools to rein in oppressive new laws.

The nullification process isn’t untested.  It’s been used effectively throughout American history to restore the government to its proper balance.

In short, the Founding Fathers would be pleased to know nullification—the refusal to enforce laws deemed unconstitutional—was still helping restrain out-of-control growth.

Nullification, Woods writes, ensures that the federal government “cannot be permitted to hold a monopoly on constitutional interpretation.”  The government might otherwise grow at an alarming rate.

But can nullification work today?  Just consider the case of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which set new standards for state-approved identification cards.  Two dozen states nullified the act with the support of both fiscal conservatives and libertarians alike.  The law is still on the books, but the government doesn’t bother to enforce it.

And look no further than the ongoing battle regarding medical marijuana for another example of nullification in action.  The federal government says medical marijuana is illegal, but 14 states at the time of the book’s printing were resisting that policy.

Nullification may be a darling tactic of the right, but Woods says that liberals also should be wary of a government that’s too big to operate in a fully functional fashion.

Today’s schools teach children about three different constitutional clauses—including the General Welfare clause—that some contend allow for runaway government growth.  Woods brings the three into sharper focus, dispelling their respective myths and the dangerous notion of a “living Constitution,”

“A living Constitution is precisely what the American colonists fought against in the American Revolution,” he writes.

Woods even quotes famed pop singer Britney Speaks to buttress his argument, bemoaning how too many people blindly trust the government without giving it a discerning look. 

Schools that ignore or criticize the nullification process prevent people from considering it as a viable option in modern times.  And that, he says, might be the schools’ point.

Americans have a healthy suspicion of monopolies in nearly every form, So why would anyone consider a political monopoly a sound practice?  Our culture stubbornly clings to the idea that a centralized body can make the best decisions. 

“Nearly all modern political philosophers defend some form of it,” he writes.

So the question regarding the country’s future in general, and nullification in particular, is whether that line of reasoning can be broken.

Enter Obamacare, the unpopular legislation inspiring several states to try nullifying lawsuits meant to smite the new rules.

No matter what form the nullification takes—from lawsuits to new legislation—it means Americans won’t allow unconstitutional laws to be made without a fight.

Consider Missouri, a state in which 30 legislators rallied beside the lieutenant governor to endorse an amendment that would “nullify any attempt by the federal government to force residents of that state to purchase health insurance.”

And more state-based nullification measures are on the way or in action now, thanks to Obamacare, Woods notes.

If some states allow Obamacare while others don’t, it wouldn’t rip the country apart.  Frankly, that kind of scenario is in line with the Framers’ intentions, he notes.

Another fresh case of nullification in the news came during the Texas 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary battle.  Gov. Rick Perry and challenger Debra Medina both brought the topic up, driving outlets like MSNBC to distraction.

Even when a nullification argument is lost, it still aids the national debate, according to Woods.

“The very attempt at nullification and the ensuing controversy and debate can give rise to a veritable seminar in American history and constitutionalism, thereby filling the gaps that remain in most American‘s formal education,” he writes.

Nullification wraps up with the texts of a series of important documents that flesh out nullification’s place in our governing framework. 

The Virginia Resolutions of 1798 kicks off the list, showing how far back the issue can be traced.

A short but significant speech made by Connecticut Gov. Jonathan Trumbull in 1809 regarding an embargo enacted by President Thomas Jefferson is also included, as is a rigorous defense of nullification by Vice President John C. Calhoun.

Nullification isn’t merely a history lesson writ large.  It’s a template for those who feel runaway government must be stopped while keeping true to the Founders’ vision.