The Nattering Nabobs of Nullification

by JESSE JACKSON

America just celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s great “I Have a Dream” speech. Everyone says that they “love” Dr. King (now), but the media did notice that no top Republican Party leaders attended any of the main anniversary events.

Maybe it was this line of Dr. King ’s that they don’t like: “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification…”

What is nullification? It’s one of the last-ditch philosophical stands of the slaveholders, the historically disreputable — and thoroughly discredited — concept that a state could “nullify” a federal law by declaring it null and void. The idea of the Slave Power was that the Southern states would “interpose” themselves between the national government and the slaveholders, and prevent our laws from being enforced.

The concept was most famously expounded by South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun almost two centuries ago. It has been struck down repeatedly by the courts and was never accepted outside the Confederacy. Since it was used mainly to protect slavery in the South, it eventually helped lead to a horrible Civil War, and eventually the idea was totally discredited.

But we forgot to drive a stake through its heart. The idea has never completely died away and keeps creeping into our politics in dangerous forms.

Now we see it raising its ugly head in the battle to block Obamacare, risking the economy of the whole country, as Republicans in Washington act at the beck and call of the one-quarter of America that calls itself the Tea Party.

We’re not talking the Boston Tea Party here. We’re talking the Fort Sumter Tea Party. We’re talking about a modern, right-wing movement built on a new Republican South in reaction to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A “Southern Strategy” led by Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms led directly to the elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and eventually to Speaker Newt Gingrich and President George W. Bush.

The Fort Sumter Tea Party has never accepted the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. A huge chunk of the right wing has subjected the first African-American president to massive abuse, name-calling, vicious threats. Unfortunately, due to John Boehner’s lack of leadership in the House, the tea party minority faction now dictates policy and rhetoric to the entire GOP.

This means that the GOP continues to try to delegitimize, defund and delay Obamacare. They have spent the last 5 years trying to keep poor and working Americans from getting health care. This is wrong, it’s immoral, and it’s very undemocratic, since Barack Obama was re-elected by a large margin.

But as I write this, the GOP has taken our nation to the brink of disaster, holding our economy hostage to extort the Senate and the president to defund or delay Obamacare.

The GOP is holding our hospitals hostage. They’re holding our universities hostage. They’re holding the Smithsonian Museum, Grand Canyon National Park, the baby panda cam at the National Zoo hostage — along with our slowly recovering economy, the same one they drove into the ditch with their deregulated free market fantasies five years ago.

Don’t let them get away with it, President Obama, Sen. Reid. Don’t let them nullify Obamacare. Don’t let them shut down our fragile economy.

I can’t end this column without making one more point. During his filibuster, Tea Party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) read from the Dr. Seuss classic “Green Eggs and Ham.”

Now, I know a bit about “Green Eggs and Ham.” Some readers are no doubt old enough to remember the night I read this great story on the air, during a “Saturday Night Live” skit. (Check it out; it’s a funny bit!)

I know the story of “Green Eggs and Ham.” But Sen. Cruz must not. Apparently, he doesn’t understand that the story is about a loud, stubborn character who rejects something based entirely on looks, without even trying it. When he’s finally convinced to taste it, he discovers, much to his surprise, that he likes it.

In the book, the dish on the table is “Green Eggs and Ham.” In America today, the issue on the table is Obamacare. Maybe the Republicans should let people try the new health care law before they hold the economy hostage in an attempt to nullify it.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow PUSH.

Jesse Jackson is the founder of Rainbow/PUSH.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Geoffrey McDonald
Obama’s Overtime Tweak: What is the Fair Price of a Missed Life?
Brian Cloughley
Hypocrisy, Obama-Style
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
A Day of Tears: Report from the “sHell No!” Action in Portland
Tom Clifford
Guns of August: the Gulf War Revisited
Renee Lovelace
I Dream of Ghana
Colin Todhunter
GMOs: Where Does Science Begin and Lobbying End?
Ben Debney
Modern Newspeak Dictionary, pt. II
Christopher Brauchli
Guns Don’t Kill People, Immigrants Do and Other Congressional Words of Wisdom
S. Mubashir Noor
India’s UNSC Endgame
Ellen Taylor
The Voyage of the Golden Rule
Norman Ball
Ten Questions for Lee Drutman: Author of “The Business of America is Lobbying”
Franklin Lamb
Return to Ma’loula, Syria
Masturah Alatas
Six Critics in Search of an Author
Mark Hand
Cinéma Engagé: Filmmaker Chronicles Texas Fracking Wars
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Patrick Hiller
The Icebreaker and #ShellNo: How Activists Determine the Course
Charles Larson
Tango Bends Its Gender: Carolina De Robertis’s “The Gods of Tango”