“...[D]own in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
I was 14 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. hurled those world-changing words back through America's checkered historical legacy, across a then still gaping racial divide, and into a hoped for and promised future. Alone together, my father and I sat in our living room, transfixed before our just-bought "combination" Motorola black and white TV and "Hi-Fi" stereo record player, watching Dr. King deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington...
Herbert Dyer, Senior was "functionally illiterate." His ability to write extended only to signing his weekly paycheck from the iron foundry where he'd labored (at that point) for 15 years. "Big Herbert" had a third grade education, having been born in 1922 and raised just north of the Louisiana Bayou in the outskirts of Homer, Louisiana. His (mine) was a family of sharecroppers who every couple of years was "sold" to the next plantation owner if the current one agreed. As Dr. King held forth that hot August day in '63, I asked my Dad, “What does interposition and nullification mean?”
Without the slightest hesitation, he said, “Those are some big words, son.” Just a tiny grimace, and then a knowing grin crossed his face. Then, “But they boil down to just one thing: the state not doing what the federal government tells it to do.”
Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota have called on all 29 Republican-controlled states to “interpose” against and “nullify” the Supreme Court's ruling that the Affordable Care Act is Constitutional after all. The long-anticipated and, frankly, surprising decision, must be immediately implemented by each and every state. Bachmann, without using these words, of course, has gone so far as to commit to writing a plea to Republican governors beseeching them to disobey (to interpose and nullify) the Supreme Court's ruling, the now settled law of the land – “at least until after the election in November.”
“Interposition and nullification” became reality immediately following the South's loss of the Civil War in 1865. (There had been efforts in the 1820s and '30s, and going all the way back to the Articles of Confederation which had first promulgated and actually implemented this concept). In 1865 and especially after Reconstruction ended just 11 years later, most southern states simply refused to recognize and implement the new dispensation as handed down by the federal government. The U.S. Army had to come in and make them understand that: Black people are no longer slaves. You must pay them for the work they do for you. They have the right to vote. They have the right to run for office. They may sit on juries. They may own property. They have the right to live wherever than can afford. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Dr. King's observation, made 98 years after the Civil War's end, was recognition that the South in 1963 still had not fully accepted the federal government's jurisdiction, or its supreme power over it. DeMint's and Bachmann's response to President Obama's health care victory in the Supreme Court indicates that they, like their predecessors, do not recognize this president's or the Supreme Court's authority, legitimacy or power except, and only except, when they agree with their decisions. They openly state that any federal action with which they disagree encroaches upon “state's rights” to do whatever the states deem proper and without federal government “interference.” Further, they consider themselves therefore free to not recognize, to nullify, to interpose, to refuse to enforce any federal law that does not square with their preconceived notions, divinations, and interpretations of just exactly what the Constitution says, and more importantly, what it means.
Nine years before Dr. King's speech, in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in public schools violated the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Again, racial desegregation was opposed on “interposition and nullification” grounds. State legislatures in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia actually adopted resolutions and passed laws calling for "interposition and nullification." They used the words. They oficially opposed and refused to enforce racial desegregation of public schools.
And so we come now to “Obamacare.” Within less than 24 hours of the Supreme Court's decision, Republican Congressmanscheduled a vote in the House on July 11 to “repeal and replace” the now Supreme Court-sanctioned law. His bill will pass in the House, but likely die in the Senate, where the Democrats hold a slim majority. And in the remote chance that Cantor's bill makes it to Obama's desk, he will surely veto it.
Yet, the president's jobs bill; his transportation bill, his infrastructure bill, among countless other initiatives, somehow cannot get a hearing in that selfsame Republican-controlled House of Representatives? However, they have all the time in the world, and unbounded energy to do anything and everything else that they can think of or hope will make the president look bad, including holding "in contempt" Attorney General Eric Holder for refusing to hand over documents which by federal law he is prohibited from doing. Because these are bills that would put people to work immediately and at good to high wages, thus boosting the economy, and, of course, reducing the ranks (and statistics) of the unemployed, these measures are left for dead or on life support in House Republican-controlled subcommittees.
As Senator Mitch McConnell and the real leader of the Republican Party, talk show host, have proclaimed from Day One, and over and over again, to anyone who will listen, their “number one” goal in life is the defeat, the failure, of the president. Putting people back to work is not on their agenda and will not be on their agenda unless and until they achieve their stated goal. And even then, should Obama lose in November, the Republican idea of a "jobs" bill will amount to little more than shoveling huge piles of cash through tax cuts and write-offs to already obscenely wealthy so-called "job creators."
What McConnell, DeMint, Bachman, Limbaugh, and the "Tea Party" adherents are doing in the health care imbroglio, resurrects a deep and ugly history -- a history based at its most fundamental level in racial animus, indeed racist feelings and actions. All of the other "issues" around which they rally grow out of their forefathers' and foremothers' unshakeable belief that black people are not quite human...or at least not as human as they are. As they rail against "big government," for instance, or runaway debt and deficits, they are using "coded" language to conceal their real objections to food stamps, subsidized housing, welfare. They object to the federal government telling them how to treat Jesus' "least of these." And with the single exception of the First Americans, can you guess who has been and remains the traditional least of the least?
These folks' greatest fear is that through the unchallengeable power of the national government, black people will finally get their just deserts, which in their zero-sum mentality, means at their expense, that they must lose or give up some of their vaunted "freedom" for the sake of crimes, sins, and outrages that they themselves had no personal hand in -- but from which crimes, they still benefit to this day.
This truth is demonstrated by the fact that these now pressing issues never seem to matter very much when Republicans hold the presidency. Former Vice President Dick Cheney once asserted that, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter." He, George Bush and their Republican Congress proceeded to promptly turn President Clinton's budget surplus into a roaring deficit, and then ran up the largest debt/deficit in Amerian history, which in 2008 finally crashed the economy -- with nary a contrary peep from that same Congress. Now, suddenly, Obama's inherited economic woes are the most crucial issues ever to face America?
Now that a Democrat, a black Democrat at that, is in their heretofore "White" House...well, just like clock work, and for the same old tired reason, it's "interposition and nullification" time again.
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“I Have A Dream,” Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963, March on Washington