Radical conservatives seek to nullify health care legislation

Wed, Dec 30, 2009


The sweeping health care reform bill passed by both houses of Congress has yet to be reconciled and presented to the President for his signature, but revanchist uber-conservatives are already trying to undo it.

Their plan: to amend state constitutions to make key provisions of the act unconstitutional. Here in Colorado, the feisty Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute is leading the charge.

As Jessica Fender wrote this morning in the Denver Post,

“Caldara’s proposal aims to bar the state from requiring its citizens to purchase health insurance, ensure Coloradans can pay out-of-pocket for health care expenses and allow them to purchase plans from other states.”

He hopes to make a draft of the initiative public next month.

Freshman state Rep. Cindy Acree, an Aurora Republican who wants Colorado to opt out of the federal plan, argues the state can’t afford the proposal and that the federal government is usurping states’ rights.

“Right now (there are states that) are in fiscal distress and cannot support or sustain the federal legislation as written,” Acree said. “And there are civil liberties here that are being infringed upon.”

Jon, Cindy, and all of you tea-partying irredentists-I’ve got some news for you. What you’re proposing amounts to “nullification,” a doctrine first expounded and refined by John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.

A little history lesson from the Infoplease encyclopedia: “nullification, in U.S. history, a doctrine expounded by the advocates of extreme states’ rights. It held that states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional. The doctrine was based on the theory that the Union is a voluntary compact of states and that the federal government has no right to exercise powers not specifically assigned to it by the U.S. Constitution.”

That doctrine gave birth to secessionism. Less than three decades after the nullification crisis of 1833 was resolved, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. The Civil War ensued.

That war not only freed Americans who had been legally enslaved for many generations, but shaped and reinforced our constitution, and put to rest forever the debates that had led to secession and war.

It’s dismaying to see nullification once more proposed by quasi-serious political figures, even ones as inconsequential as Caldara and Acree.

President Andrew Jackson, who was ready to use force against South Carolina over nullification made this toast at a Democratic Party banquet during 1831: “Our Federal Union – it must be preserved.”

John Calhoun, who favored nullification as a way to preserve the union and avoid secession responded: “The Union – next to our liberty most dear.”

Thirty years later, Abraham Lincoln sought to end the debate with these words, the concluding paragraph of the first Inaugural …

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln’s soaring words could not hold back the nation’s descent into war. Four years later, when the war had nearly come to an end, the dark words of the second Inaugural convey the terrible toll and burden of America’s grimmest conflict.

“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Here’s some advice: Spend New Year’s Day reading a good book. Might I suggest these two?

Ellis, Richard E. The Union at Risk: Jacksonian Democracy, States’ Rights, and the Nullification Crisis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Freehling, William W. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Lynn Liggett Says:

    They may be inconsequential political figures, but at least they are carrying out their voters will. They see this bill for the travesty that it is. If it does get signed into law the way it reads now, let’s hope it’s not your job that’s on the line because your company can’t afford to cover everyone. If this healthcare bill is so important, why not fund it with the billions of tax dollars the government so graciously forgave Citibank in order to allow the bank to repay it’s taxpayer bailout?
    Speaking of reading, here’s one for you – Ayn Rand “Atlas Shrugged.”

  2. Matt Says:

    I thought that is why we elected senators and representatives to congress? Just because your side of the aisle did not win the argument, you can’t say you won’t participate. Maybe if this country actually united together to tackle common issues we would not be having these sorts of debates. Instead, we place far more value on serving our own interests and padding our checking accounts. I suppose one’s right to own several properties or vehciles outweighs the need for cancer patients to afford their medications, right? Sorry for the ramble – thank you for the article.

  3. Karl Mason Says:

    So John, your answer to a power grab by one party over the other is to surrender and hope everything just works out? The position this nation finds itself in right now is precisely because the citizens have allowed their representatives to legislate away individual freedom and responsibility. Name one piece of legislation on the federal level that has been repealed due to its being unconstitutional. The attitude of just pass anything and we will fix it later has never in fact happened.

    Who is John Galt?

  4. Bon Says:

    New book to read. LINCOLN Uber Alles
    by John Avery Emison
    In the 21st century, America is haunted byLincoln’s blood lust for a coercive, dominant, unitary, unaccountable, debt-laden central government, concludes Emison. That is why this book matters. Lincoln opened the door to the Leviathan central state that mandates, manipulates, and regulates virtually every aspect of life in America and seeks unilateral hegemony around the globe. $24.95. $19.95 at Study both sides before you believe anything.

  5. Christopher Colvin Says:

    Aside from the “benefits” of this bill, or how much damage it will do to the United States, I’m still trying to determine where in the Constitution the Federal Government has the right to enforce this legislation if it passes. The government’s powers are limited and enumerated. The real issue is not whether or not this is a good bill, it’s whether or not the government is overstepping its bounds.

  6. M D Hunt Says:

    I normally have little time to argue with uber liberals that have too much time on their hand to push their liberal agenda, but too little time to read and comprehend the Constitution. If they would spend that time, they would find why those with even a small amount of financial and economic sense find this bill so abhorant and financially destructive to our country. I guess my belief makes me a tea bagger an uber conservative, to those media blow hards pushing hard for their agenda.

  7. Liam Says:

    “They may be inconsequential political figures, but at least they are carrying out their voters will.”

    What a crock. They are NOT carrying out “their” voters will. An overwhelming majority of the voters in this country (i.e. the United States of America) support health care reform. The bill that was passed will NOT raise my healthcare premiums. I did NOT tell my elected representatives to vote against the healthcare package.

    “Tea-partying irredentists” indeed. Thanks, John. I couldn’t agree more.

  8. M. Rueffert Says:

    Three words, as viewed by the average American citizen, are beginning to define national politicians, Washington and Washington politics. These three words are: Arrogance, Elitism and Entitlement. One more descriptive word that I would personally add is Godless.

    American citizens are beginning to see Washington politicians, Republicans and Democrats, as arrogant elitists who are totally dependent upon, and believe they are entitled to, the hard earned pay checks of the American citizen in the form of out-of-control tax and spend legislation and wealth re-distribution. Politicians are no longer seen as competent leaders but as self-serving individuals who are completely out of touch with reality and also with that which makes America a shining light in a dark world. I believe that is our Constitution and our foundation on Judeo-Christian principles and values.

    This characterization is going to result in the organized, voting-booth driven, cleaning out of Washington career politicians. The peaceful and legal setting of reasonable term limits for every Congressional seat holder, and then replacing them with statesmen, not career politicians, will be a necessary step in this “revolution”.

  9. Dick Burns Says:

    What is a “revanchist?”

  10. Patsy Says:

    I am not an intellectual. just an American citizen…I have often wondered why health insurance cost more than my groceries for a month, why drug companies need to advertise their drugs…everywhere, why doctors order tests that are not needed, and why I can’t afford to get sick. At least someone had the guts to put this issue on the table.

  11. FactFinder Says:

    And what is a uber liberal?

  12. Dick Burns Says:

    I thought all irredentists were Italian!

  13. Patsy Says:

    No, everyone knows that irredentists are dentists that are constipated….