Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Know-Nothingism and Nullification

In Wisconsin, failed candidate Scott Walker is making it harder to investigate the alleged corruption of his governor’s office or his election by allegedly illegal means. He is supported in this effort by a state supreme court dominated by justices who allegedly used the same corrupt means to get elected. But if we cannot investigate it, then it must conclude no crime was committed.

This brash arrogance is described brilliantly by Charles Pierce in his Esquire column.

In the lobbyist-ruled halls of our nation's capital, the NRA asserts its role as chief health research officer by blocking all research into the health hazards of being shot with a gun.

Public Radio International reports on efforts to hide, cover up and shut down such research before it can be done.

Meanwhile the leading candidate in the GOP presidential sweepstakes is an odd, twinkly-eyed sociopath named Ben Carson M.D. Here are some of his odder beliefs, notably his bizarre comparisons of healthcare and the institution of slavery and his idea that freedom of thought should be enforced on college campuses by censoring liberal ideas.

ThinkProgress lists Dr. Carson's nuttier ideas. (Don't laugh. He might win the nomination.)

This shutting down of investigations (while your own witch hunts proceed unchecked) and shutting down scientific inquiry that might harm some corporations’ profits and shutting down freedom of speech and freedom of religion and freedoms in general at the Boss’s discretion, all of it flows from the central concept that has energized the radicalism of the white South since the age of Lincoln. The theory of nullification. Lincoln fought and won a war to kill the idea, but it laid eggs. All across the white South and the Right Wing West folks are taught and firmly believe that obeying the law is optional. If you disagree with the law you ignore it. Unless, of course, it’s a law they hold sacred. Then failure to obey it to the letter is treason. Again: if they like the law disobeying it is treason. If they dislike the law obeying it is treason. All authority resides in the gut (specifically in the large intestine) of god-fearing, gun-carrying, white-ancestored, non-scientist folks of the American South and West, with its various extremist outposts in northern backwoods and suburbias.

Nullification is the blunt refusal to respect federal law, especially on the subject of slavery and equal rights for persons of color. The Confederacy was an armed nullification, which followed the legislative nullification practiced by various Southern legislatures in the 19th century. Followed by the violent nullification of the Civil War defeat, a period we know as Jim Crow.

I’d be curious to know if anyone else has encountered nullificationists as I have. I had a disagreement with a lawyer once. To disprove his point I cited a state law on the books. He replied by saying that state law was invalid because it had not been fully litigated up to the Supreme Court of the land. By which logic, most laws are invalid, because very few laws are argued up to the Supreme Court. And if nullificationists disagree with a Supreme Court ruling they still maintain it is illegitimate while they relitigate it.

The reductio ad absurdum of this being that the only valid law is whatever each individual wants to believe. A mixture of narcissism and libertarianism and our beloved Wild West Yahoo Yosemite-Sam-gunfight-free-for-all.

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