Friday, July 07, 2017

Connecticut, The State Of Nullification

Connecticut’s Democratic Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, has now declared herself a leading member of “The Resistance.”

The plot is thickening. The Constitutional Officers in Connecticut, Democrats all, have been stirring the resistance pot ever since Donald Trump had been elected to the presidency.

Connecticut, for instance, in establishing sanctuary cities, has become a sanctuary state. Governor Dannel Malloy has refused to comply with ICE in assisting in the deportation of non-citizens illegally present in Connecticut. U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal is suing Trump on trumped-up charges because he believes the president is not in compliance with the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution. U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, playing Danton to Blumenthal’s Robespierre, denigrates the president as often as possible when he is on the hustings -- and he is always on the hustings. Incumbent politicians are perpetually running for office. Two years prior the upcoming elections, Murphy has socked away more than $2 million, which is $2 million more than his as yet unannounced Republican opponent has jingling in his or her campaign coffers. 

In refusing to supply voting data to a legitimate presidential commission, Merrill has, along with her fellow Democratic resisters, run up the nullification flag. Merrill frankly admits in a Hartford Courant story that the Trump administration could, if it wished, obtain data requested by a presidential commission through Freedom of Information (FOI) demands, but she will never-the-less deny the requests because the president is who he is. Would Merrill deny a similar request if it had been issued by a constitutionally authorized Congressional investigating committee?

In the Courant story titled “Law May Require Merrill To Turn Over Some Voter Data To Trump Commission,” the reporter does mention that Merrill admits “she may have no choice but to give the Trump commission basic voter registration data, if the panel files a formal request” under Connecticut's Freedom of Information Act “and pays a $300 fee.”

Also, Merrill has demanded in a letter to the Kobach Commission answers to a series of questions that includes, according to the Courant story, “whether members of the commission acknowledge that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election in Trump's favor, as U.S. intelligence officials have said.” Mention of Russia’s attempt – notice the quisling word “attempt” -- to influence the 2016 national election has become a staple within the “never-Trump” resistance. That charge, always heavily freighted with partisan suppositions, has nearly disappeared from headlines across the nation. Even arch-resister Murphy now asserts that pressing the charge is no longer politically useful.

The Merrill resistance is a mild form of nullification.

The Kobach Commission is an administrative body whose authority and mandate is constitutionally legitimate. States ought to comply with information requests the chief executive needs to fulfill its own constitutional mandate. The same holds true of ICE requests for information; and, despite strenuous objections, Connecticut does in fact fulfill such requests without imposing a charge for the data.

While Merrill admits “I will be required to release the information under the right circumstances,” the fly in her soup is that she has received, since accurately defining her own obligations under the law, "hundreds of emails from Connecticut residents saying 'Please don't release my information.'"

Well now, if a presidential commission needs information to assure that non-citizens do not illegally cast ballots in national elections, the hundreds of emails Merrill has received cannot release her from her own constitutional obligations. Sanctuary cities, in which non-citizens illegally present in a state are exempted from universally applicable constitutional laws, and the withholding of necessary data from an administration constitutionally required to insure necessary, congressional approved legitimate laws are instances of nullification.

Nullification has not fared well in the past. John C. Calhoun, once President Andrew Jackson’s Vice President, having withdrawn as Vice President, later became a U.S. Senator from South Carolina. As Senator, Calhoun joined in nullifying tariffs on raw foreign goods necessary for commerce in the South. The taxes favored the North, an industrial behemoth, and heavily impacted the South’s agricultural economy. President Jackson, the father of the modern Democratic Party, sent a clear message to Calhoun through a South Carolina congressman: “… give my compliments to my friends in your State, and say to them, that if a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hand on engaged in such treasonable conduct, upon the first tree I can reach." Jackson did send troops to South Carolina, tariffs were adjusted, largely through Calhoun’s intervention, who remained in the land of the living. Decades later, the South’s penchant for nullification led to a declaration of separation, an extreme form of nullification intolerable to President Abraham Lincoln.

President Trump is no President Jackson, and Connecticut has yet to separate from the union. Indeed, if it decided to do so, the state, for years a Democratic Party hegemon, would resemble other failed states in the Western Hemisphere. However, its politicians should understand that the federal government is not without resources in sanctioning the nullifiers. The federal government is not only a supplier of grants and money to Connecticut from the federal treasury, it is also a supplier of products produced by Connecticut – known since revolutionary time as “the provision state” – such as Electric Boat submarines.

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