(June 17, Nola.com)   Sixty-seven members of the Louisiana House and 27 state senators have embarrassed themselves and the state by adopting a loony-radical resolution saying the state has “the sovereign right” to “nullify unconstitutional acts of the federal government.”

This “nullification” idea is demonstrably, factually wrong — and dangerous. It was already discredited long before the Civil War by none other than “Father of the Constitution” James Madison. And that war itself, at the cost of some 750,000 lives, settled the issue once and for all.

Ranting racists such as Alabama Gov. George Wallace tried, maliciously and unsuccessfully, to revive it in the 1960s, to the effect that any assertion of nullification powers today automatically carries with it the stench of the foulest bigotry.

It isn’t clear what precipitated the legislators’ descent into nonsense that is simultaneously arrant, aberrant, and abhorrent, but descend they did. In 40 breathless “whereas” clauses, Senate Concurrent Resolution 21 by Sen. Stewart Cathey Jr., R-Monroe, lays out a tendentious case, full of historical and theoretical errors, for why a state supposedly has the right, on its own, to declare acts of the federal government to be null and void. While many of the principles cited by the resolution are indeed sound — yes, of course the Constitution reserves numerous powers to the states or to the people, rather than the federal government — it has long been established that states are not individually empowered to determine the scope of those boundaries.

The resolution cites the authority of the infamous Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, penned by Thomas Jefferson in response to President John Adams’ inexcusable Alien and Sedition Acts. Not a single other state ever adopted the radical view of Jefferson, who was abroad when the Constitution was written and ratified. Even Jefferson’s close ally Madison felt obliged to offer a materially more moderate version in the Virginia Resolution of the same year.

When the brilliant but racist hothead John Calhoun three decades later tried to assert states’ “nullification” powers, Madison himself shot down his claims…. [The full column is at this link.]


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