Saturday, March 19, 2011

The New Nullifiers

Managing Editor of the Journal Inquirer Chris Powell has noticed that liberals in Connecticut quietly have embarked on a course of nullification. The issue of nullification arose nationally when “crazy conservatives,” Mr. Powell noted in a recent column, attempted to enact legislation “to prevent enforcement of the new federal medical insurance law, reviving state's rights in the name of ‘nullification’ of federal statutes.”

Here in Connecticut, the log of nullification begins to weigh heavily in the eyes of some over-excitable liberals who, during an attorney general’s race, accused Mrs. Martha Dean of promoting the antiquated doctrine.

Yours truly wrote about the issue when it was raised at the time:

“And when Mrs. Dean mentioned nullification in a historical context, it was roundly hinted by some commentators that nullification might lead -- gasp! -- to a new civil war. In pre-Civil War New England, the fires of nullification began to smolder over the Fugitive Slave Act. For all practical purposes, the New England states practiced nullification when southern slave owners began to appear in Boston to retrieve slaves that had escaped through the Underground Railroad. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a federal law supported by Supreme Court decisions, required people in New England to assist in the apprehension of slaves. Henry David Thoreau said his "no" very impolitely in an impassioned piece called “Slavery in Massachusetts,” and Thoreau's version of civil disobedience is simply a polite form of personal nullification. Had Mrs. Dean asked any of her critics whether they might have resisted the Fugitive Slave Act had they been writing at the time, it is a good guess that every one of them would have placed themselves on the side of the anti-slavery angels.”
In extending to non-citizens residing illegally in the United States a state residency tuition discount though a legislative bill, Mr. Powell writes persuasively in his column, the promulgators of the legislation are practicing nullification:

“But that's exactly what liberals in Connecticut are trying to do with legislation to extend the state residency tuition discount to illegal aliens attending public colleges. That is, liberals are trying to nullify federal immigration law.

“The first step in liberal nullification has been to try to change the terms of discussion. Illegal aliens can't be called by their right name; now they're merely ‘undocumented,’ as if the dog ate their driver's license. But the illegality at issue isn't just their presence in the country. Advocates of the tuition discount legislation would have the government spend still more money giving higher education to people who [ITALICS ORIGINAL] can't even be legally employed when they get out of college. The tuition discount legislation wouldn't just bump legal residents out of higher education; it would condone an endless series of lawbreaking with employers.”
When Mrs. Dean mentioned nullification during her campaign -- chiefly in an historical context, for Mrs. Dean is a sharp student of American history – pretty much everyone in the usual liberal encampment pounced on her, some of them suggesting darkly that nullification, associated in the pre-civil war era with the slavery issue,  had been decided once and for all by a bloody Civil War. Why should we resurrect those bloody bones concerning an issue that had been decided forever at Gettysburg and Palmito Branch, considered by some to be the last battle of the Civil War? Palmito Branch, as it happens, was decided mostly by the 250 men of the 62nd U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment under the command of Col. David Branson.

Those pounding Mrs. Dean simply forgot – or never knew initially – that the North, not the South, had invoked the principle of nullification in its objection to the much hated Fugitive Slave Law. Had Mrs. Dean turned on the liberals savaging her – one of them had mentioned her “cyborg blue eyes” – and asked her critics who among them, transporting themselves back in time to the pre Civil War period, would have lent their support to the slave catchers in Boston, she would have been met by universal silence.

It will be much more difficult for liberals favoring legislation that nullifies immigration law to tease from their objections an overriding principle justifying their embrace of a state law that violates the principles enshrined in immigration law. Present immigration law does not make invidious distinctions between slaves and freemen, as did the U.S. Supreme Court in the pre-Civil War period. The distinction between a lawful citizen – that is: one who is entitled to the privileges of citizenship – and a non-citizen is practical and necessary for reasons suggested by Mr. Powell. The tuition discount legislation promulgated by liberals in the General Assembly “wouldn't just bump legal residents out of higher education; it would condone an endless series of lawbreaking with employers.”
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