In the early 1830s, South Carolina refused to comply with a national tax on imported goods. This attempt by South Carolina to assert a state’s right vs. national law was called “nullification.” Andrew Jackson sent federal troops into the state to enforce the tariff.
In 1861, South Carolina led a movement of Southern states to leave the UNITED States. They called it “secession.” The flash point was the state’s attempt to take over a national fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. Rather than allow a state to assert its power over the national government, Abraham Lincoln resolved to defend Fort Sumter. When the authorities in South Carolina bombed the fort, the Civil War began.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that separate facilities for black vs. white students violates the Constitution (Brown vs. Board of Education). In 1957, when black teenagers tried enrolling at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Governor refused to order protection for the students even though National Guard troops were present. A riot ensued. President Eisenhower took control of the troops and sent in additional forces from the 101st Airborne. Eisenhower was no friend of civil rights. But he understood the undermining of the national government should a state government be permitted to ignore a federal court.
Today after the Supreme Court’s decision upholding same-sex marriage as protected under the Constitution, we are seeing the same clash of wills — between a state vs. the national government. The Governor of Texas and the state’s Attorney General assert that the state will not allow “religious freedom” to be violated by a federal court ordering a marriage license for a same-sex couple.
All the more, far-right Republican candidates for President are undermining the national government by insisting that the justices ruling in favor of same-sex marriage are “unelected” and do not represent the will of the people.
Senators Cruz and Santorum (and the Governor of Texas) and their like got it wrong three times over:
First, they are playing the same old card of defying the national government by way of defying a federal court. How many times does this conflict have to be played out in our nation’s history? Is there any doubt which authority will persevere as supreme?
Secondly, they downplay the very Constitution they claim to uphold. Federal judges are indeed not elected — for good reason! The Founders wanted them to be an independent branch of government, not swayed by demagoguery, secure in their use of reason. They are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate. That’s the process. It’s in the Constitution. The right-wingers who claim to be so protective of the Constitution against the supposed abuses of the President — can’t see the folly of their own inconsistency.
Thirdly, if it came to a vote, as they desire, these Senators would find themselves on the losing side (once again). The sentiment across the nation FAVORS protection for gender minorities.
What it all gets down to is — some of these Republican candidates for President don’t want to antagonize the far-right Biblical literalists who form their base. Understandable. These Senators and ex-Governors ARE politicians. But their base — the people maintaining that hetero marriage is “natural law” and God’s will — is also on the losing side of history. The same arguments about “natural law” and the Bible have been used to subdue women and minorities.
Same old same old.
On the wall of an old grocery store in Pittsburgh, there was a large drawing — of a clock moving like a wheel rolling — with the caption, “Time doesn’t change — it just moves.”
The conflict continues — but in the United State, history has sided clearly.