The 10th Amendment used to be kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of the Bill of Rights, a little discussed addendum to the big guns like the First and the Fifth. Now, though, it’s getting lots of love from people who have little love for Barack Obama.
In his weekly Center Square essay, Chris Satullo takes a look at this odd turn of events.
Kind of feels like 1861, doesn’t it?
Insane with anger at a new president from Illinois, states are blathering about their rights and about defying the federal government’s authority.
And as it was in the year that the Civil War broke out, Virginia is again a center of the resistance.
This time though, the rebellious states aren’t defending slavery. They’re claiming to be enslaved, by a United States president who – let’s just pause to savor the irony – happens to be black.
The dispute’s focal point is the health care bill that President Obama has struggled to get Congress to approve.
By the way, if Obama is a tyrant, he’s a most peculiar one, who can’t seem to bend even his own party to his will.
The states are in a lather over one aspect of the bill: the mandate to carry health coverage.
Virginia lawmakers have passed a law making it illegal to require Virginians to carry health insurance. The state’s wacky attorney general says he’ll sue the U.S. government to enforce this defiance.
Utah and Oklahoma have passed similar measures. A raft of states now assert they don’t have to pay any mind to federal gun control statutes.
These little rebellions point to the 10th Amendment as justification. That last item in the Bill of Rights says that all powers not specifically given to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states.
On its face, this would seem to buttress states-rights rhetoric. Of course, the notion that we’re really 50 sovereign states is an absurd way to run a nation spanning a continent. If it had been taken seriously, the United States would never have become the world’s superpower. Luckily, in the modern era, the nation’s courts have never supported that view of the amendment.
Remember “state’s rights” was the cry of those who would have preserved slavery and segregation. It is a stance forever soiled by those associations.
Let me close with a few questions.
First, don’t these rebel states all enforce an insurance mandate of their own: on people who drive cars? What’s the difference?
Second, have you noticed that this caterwauling about states rights only arises when a Democrat is in the White House?
Third, why is it that, when people on the right talk of defiance and even secession, they still get away with waving flags and calling themselves patriots?
They strike me as anything but.