The Nattering Nabobs of Nullification


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.

December 01, 2015
John Wight
From Iraq to Syria: Repeating a Debacle
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: the Left Takes Charge
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Revenge? The Fight for the Border
Sami Al-Arian
My Ordeal: One of America’s Many Political Trials Since 9/11
Steffen Böhm
Why the Paris Climate Talks Will Fail, Just Like All the Others
Gilbert Mercier
Will Turkey Be Kicked Out of NATO?
Bilal El-Amine
The Hard Truth About Daesh and How to Fight It
Pete Dolack
Solidarity Instead of Hierarchy as “Common Sense”
Dan Glazebrook
Rhodes Must Fall: Decolonizing Education
Colin Todhunter
Big Oil, TTIP and the Scramble for Europe
Eric Draitser
Terror in Mali: An Attack on China and Russia?
Linn Washington Jr.
Torture and Other Abuses Make Turkey as American as Apple Pie
Randy Shaw
Krugman is Wrong on Gentrification
Raouf Halaby
Time to Speak Out Against Censorship
Jesse Jackson
It’s Time for Answers in Laquan McDonald Case
Patrick Walker
Wake Up Zombie, Kick Up a Big Stink!
November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Uri Avnery
There is No Such Thing as International Terrorism
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Patrick Cockburn
Nasty Surprises: the Problem With Bombing ISIS
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Bill Blunden
Glenn Greenwald Stands by the Official Narrative
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Karen Lee Wald
Inside the Colombia Peace Deal
Geoff Dutton
War in Our Time
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism