Thumbing your nose at the federal government has a long history in American politics, of course. George Wallace ran an entire presidential campaign on it in 1968 – five years after he made a big show of “standing in the schoolhouse door” to block the entry of black students at the University of Alabama. Perhaps he was still peeved about being pushed out of that doorway by President John F. Kennedy and the National Guard.
Even today, a lot of Southern politicians remain upset at the federal government over that little thing called the civil rights movement, though most of them try to cloak their extremism in the rhetoric of “states’ rights.”
But, come on, haven’t we settled this question – after two centuries of jurisprudence, not to mention a bloody civil war that wrecked the South and cost more than 1 million American lives?
Nope. At least Missouri state Sen. Brian Nieves doesn’t think so.
Nieves has proposed an amendment to his state’s constitution that would prohibit all branches of state government in Missouri from recognizing, enforcing or acting on “certain actions” of the federal government. It’s called “nullification” – the idea that states can simply ignore federal laws they don’t like – and it’s all the rage on the radical right, pushed by the likes of the John Birch Society and the Tenth Amendment Center.
What’s astounding is the traction the idea is getting among people who ought to know better. Nieves’ amendment, which would have to be approved by Missouri voters, is still alive in the legislature four months after it was proposed. It’s even been approved by the Senate’s General Laws Committee.
Nieves, a Tea Party favorite who has described himself as a “Patriot candidate” and who has appeared in a film produced by Patriot conspiracy-monger Gary Franchi, is nothing if not extreme. He’s previously shown his disdain for the Constitution as a leading member of State Legislators for Legal Immigration, a group of state lawmakers that is working to end the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to all people born within the United States. Apparently, the 14th amendment, enacted in the wake of the Civil War, really bugs him.