Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

Columns

January 6, 2011

States rights ride again

— The concept of states rights originated in the South when the white majority resented federal meddling with integration. It took a long time for civil rights forces to overcome the mean-spirited, narrow-minded and illegal Jim Crow laws and force states to actually become a united states when it came to equal treatment for all citizens.

States rights are still with us. The tea party has latched onto the concept to try and diminish a strong federal government. This time, however, it’s not so much about political rights as economics, keeping Congress from following its constitutional mandate of controlling commerce and providing for the general welfare.

The new states rights movement is also about cherry picking parts of the Constitution they don’t like for change — such as the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, the 16th Amendment (income tax) and 17th amendment (direct election of senators) — proving that the movement’s adherents are all about promoting the agenda of sucking all the money out of Washington thereby weakening federal governance. In fact, outside the Second Amendment (guns) and 10th Amendment (states rights), the teabaggers have little use for the Constitution.

Last September, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Randy Barnett and William Howell proposed a Repeal Amendment where two thirds of states could vote to repeal any law passed by Congress. The authors also argued that Congress could overrule a states’ repeal with a majority vote. So what’s the point? There are checks in place.

Congressional laws are already subject to presidential veto and judicial review. Teabaggers may act as if members of Congress drop out of the sky to assume their posts, but the ballot box determines who walks the hallowed halls of the Capitol.

A Repeal Amendment would be used to threaten any Democratic initiative. It would also succeed in slowing the legislation process when Congress already moves at a snail’s pace. Most laws in Congress are subject to rigorous democratic debate. During the Bush years, however, the Patriot Act, two wars, a corporate drug giveaway, the Military Commissions Act and No Child Left Behind (all of which, by the way, increased federal power) were rubber-stamped by Congress with little debate, and I don’t remember anyone calling for a Repeal Amendment in those days.

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