Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

Currently: 55° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account


A states’ rights ruse

Tea Party-supported ‘repeal amendment’ is divisive and unnecessary

Encouraged by last month’s election, Tea Party supporters are pushing a constitutional amendment that would give states the right to overturn federal laws. Under the “repeal amendment,” it would take two-thirds of the state legislatures to nullify a law.

As The New York Times reported last week, the push for this proposed amendment, born out of right-wing anger over the health care law, is being sold under the banner of protecting “states’ rights,” even though it is a crass political power play. It has, however, started gaining support in conservative circles. Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, the incoming House majority leader, gave it his approval when the measure was introduced in Congress.

To be added to the Constitution, the amendment will have to be approved by both chambers of Congress and 38 state legislatures. That will be a difficult task, but the Tea Party has been whipping up considerable anger toward the government — often disingenuously.

A central Tea Party theme is that it is rooted in the principles of the Founding Fathers, including their purported belief in a weak federal government. But that’s not necessarily true. There are Founding Fathers who wouldn’t be welcome at a modern Tea Party rally, and the country’s early leaders had many divergent opinions and significant disagreements. There was debate over whether states could nullify the federal government’s actions, and it’s notable that the Founding Fathers didn’t give states that right.

The revisionist history is troubling, particularly when it comes to the issue of states’ rights. For example, last Monday a group in Charleston, S.C., held a “Secession Ball” to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the state’s secession from the United States. The ball featured a historic re-enactment and a chance for attendees to see the actual “Ordinance of Secession.”

It is stunning that anyone would celebrate secession, particularly given that South Carolina tried to leave the union to protect legalized slavery.

The Civil War should have ended much of the debate on states’ rights, but the issue has persisted, including an attempt by several Southern states in the 1950s to find a way to override the Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation ruling Brown v. Board of Education. Throughout the history of the country, states’ rights have been asserted on many divisive issues.

Although it is certainly anyone’s right to pursue a constitutional amendment, there’s no need for this one. There are restraints on the federal government, and if people don’t like the way things are going, they have plenty of options under the Constitution. They can take up their concerns with Congress directly and argue for a change in a law or a repeal; they can take their complaints to the courts, or they can go to the ballot box and elect people who agree with them.

Opponents of the health care law are pursuing action in the courts and members of Congress have vowed to try to repeal the law. So why amend the Constitution when it’s working, as intended?

Supporters of the repeal amendment have trumped up a phony issue to continue their fight against health care and their political opponents. Under the Constitution, they have the right to do that, but it doesn’t lessen the fact that it’s divisive — and wrong.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 22 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. You go TeaBaggers! Let's turn the United States of America into the 50 United Third World Countries! Yeaa!

  2. Hmmm I'm just wondering if the author could name a few of those founding fathers, or just one, to add a scintilla of legitimacy to this piece of garbage.

  3. Hey Chandler you probably don't know it but it's the environmental whacko Dems that want us to give up our cars, televisions and radios. Tea Party members want you to have more. Look at my thumb, gee you're dumb.

  4. Didn't take the Democrat Party operatives that write for the LVSun long to get back to their tired themes.

  5. Our Founding Fathers were not sainted wise men. Many were slave owners. The original Constitution permitted the importation of slaves into the United States for 20 years. It also left the qualifications to vote to the States. In some states, only white males who owned property could vote. Women could not vote in any State. . To this day, when we vote for President we are really voting for the 538 electors to the Electoral College who really elect the President. I'm sure when they proposed the second amendment regarding the right to bear arms, they had a musket and perhaps a pair of dueling pistols, not AK-47s, in mind. They dealt with an agrarian society of 3 million people, not an industrial society of 300 million people.

    We need to deal with the realities of today's society, not yearn for "the good old days" of the 18th century.

  6. Hm, how about that 10th Amendment?

    Amendment 10 - Powers of the States and People. Ratified 12/15/1791. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    Of course, the leftists pretend it does not exist!

  7. I would think it's time for people to ignore this Tea Party phenomenom.

    And it's going to die soon. It has to. Mainly because a majority of people in the U.S. want level headed decisions.

    Because this Tea Party thing has run its course already. People are not blinded by this talk that it's supposedly some kind of "grassroots" movement.

    It has been revealed to be a movement that was clearly taken over by the Republican Party to incite passion against the Democratic Party and fund raise for them when their brand failed due the incompetence and idiocy of the Bush the Lesser legacy.

    Also, shown to be a movement that relies more on whipped up frenzy passions and knuckleheaded knee jerk reaction decisions rather than sound logic and democratic principles.

    And lastly, and even more telling, it's a movement that seems to have learned Constitutional law by watching Fox Noise propaganda and old Godzilla movies on TCM.

    Time for this craziness to go away. We got other things to worry about than pining for the old days and re-interpreting the Founding Fathers intentions to meet their own horse-with-blinders ideas of America. People need to wake up and realize that government isn't as simple as a dude with a fife and another one beating on a drum marching down the street and playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

    We can't go backwards. We gotta go forwards. Our Founding Fathers would even agree with that.

    And the Founding Fathers would indeed smile at the very idea of a national health care system bearing fruition. And wholeheartedly agree it's about time. And it's the right thing to do.

    If anyone listens to Tea Party dolts, then they deserve everything they get in return. Especially stupid lame brained nonsense ideas made into law. Because that's all they offer.

  8. So the Tea Party would turn us back to the Original Constitution -- The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union? Some people read history but never absorb its lessons. The state of that union where the states were all powerful and the central government was weak led to a Constitutional Convention which brought forth the Constitution just so we could have a strong central national government.

    What, exactly, are the reasons for doing away with success?

  9. Turn over any teabag and you'll see the Confederate Flag. Halley Barbour for President.

  10. The states rights issues is a legitimate discussion that needs to be had. There are likely not a lot of tea party people that want to go all way back to the original constitution sans the 14th and 19th amendments despite what some folks like to try to say. But the country was built as a nation of states with a federal government crated by those states. This is part of the reason why originally the members of the Senate were elected by the state legislatures. This was to help insure that they represented the state as a unit and respected the rights of the state. One would assume that if a Senator were to start to diminish the power of the states, that they legislature would not send them back. We have to ask the question if perhaps we have gone too far toward granting power to the federal government and states exist just to service it. States have, in many cases, become so addicted to money from Washington that they cannot say no to things pushed from there even if they do not agree. And it is even worse when Washington creates costs for the state which it does not provide funding to support.

    The country is indeed very different than it was 220 years ago. If you look at the time it took for information to travel, it was clear that it made sense for control to be more widely dispersed. At the same time, one of the things that helped to make this nation great was that states could try different solutions to problems to see what does and does not work. But in the last 100 years, we have moved to having more and more control of things from Washington. One could argue that growing centralized management of education has not been a good thing. At the same time some hardcore states rights advocates would argue that the creation of the interstate highway system was an overreach. In there somewhere is probably the sweet spot where we should live. The 10th Amendment was there for a reason and that reason has changed some over time but it doesn't hurt to discuss where the line should be. There are people that want far greater state sovereignty and others that like having that control in Washington as much as possible and an open discussion can help clarify the issue.

  11. I certainly don't agree with this form of action. It's not what the folks want. This is exalting form over substance. There is no chance this amendment will pass and it would have no bearing on the financial and social issues which need to be addressed in our country. That being said this editorial shows the galactic ignorance the hypocrite progressive left has concerning the motivation of the grass roots element of the Tea Party. It is nice to see that the Sun can throw some red meat to Colin and Frank. Only Colin and Frank would advocate the theory that the government knows better what to do with my money than I do.

  12. Why didn't Florida have "states rights" in Bush v. Gore?? The Supremes ruled in favor of the FEDS.

  13. As a moderate supporter of a small and less intrusive federal government and of moderate states rights even preferring most controls be more local than the state level this proposal interests me.

    I don't think it can will but I don't have to get nasty about it nor do I see a need for childish name calling and hate speech some of you offer up.

    It does raise an interesting discussion that hopefully will rise beyond the true believers on both sides and reach the middle mainstream where real action and fair moderation take place. All ideas are worthy of exploration, some to discuss and dismiss, others to test and prove.

    Name calling and stereotypical rhetoric gets nothing done, convinces no one, provides no solutions, and angers many. I welcome mew ideas and open debate, that is where true ethical Americans and honest people should find themselves not these bitter one-sided trash talking most of you do on these comments.

  14. Let's take a look at Democratic performers birdie:

    Richard "Cold Cash" Jefferson.
    Dan "the man" Rostenkowski.
    Jim "the wig" Trafficant.

    And then there's that crazy Democratic Representative that said if we put any more people on Guam it would tip over. That's a classic.

    Hmmm...seems like there's plenty of rats on the ship no matter what the political persuasion.

  15. I just want to thank all the teabaggers the the comdey entertainment they have provided in the past 6 months or so. Nothing like watching a bunch of hillbillies with more truck than brain racing around.

  16. States' Rights is a legitimate topic for discussion. Though I do in fact disagree with this proposal, it can be seen as a natural reaction to how the commerce clause has been used as a 10lb sledge when the target isn't even a nail.

  17. This editorial really rambles on, but it certainly does not depict a complete picture of issues related to state's rights.

    Yes, there is a debate about states' rights (as there should be). What I am troubled with is that this editorial paints the question of state's rights as a question of racism.

    The Civil War was not the start nor was it the end of the question of states rights. (I don't see what those misguided people in South Carolina last week with the ball and other stuff have to do with this discussion (except that free speech is protected even for stupid bigots).

    State's rights are a legitimate topic for discussion and debate as is the Health Care reform. The papers views are about State's rights are as narrow as the those who attended last weeks ball in Charleston.

    I seem to remember some 30 years ago Reagan floated this idea of the new federalism, where greater authority for spending would be returned to states via block grants.

  18. The only problems with michaelmm's statements are that:

    1. They make way too much sense.

    2. They call for reason and critical thinking ability.

    3. They challenge hidebound, outmoded and anachronistic beliefs, and are therefore unacceptable.

  19. Does anyone else see the irony in saying that the founders did not have modern weapons in mind when contemplating the Secod Amendment, then applying 21st century ethics and morality to the issue of slavery, completely outside the historical context of the times?

  20. "Best of the best of the best, sir!"

    "You are everything we have come to expect of years of government training."

  21. Thanks for explaining what it's called, Cognastics. Astroturfing. I always just describe the shenanigans and don't know the slang for it. Thanks.

    I have read that the Tea Party "grassroots" thing was actually a noble effort from the beginning. And people did try to act sane and be legitimate.

    But then the creepy Republicans got ahold of it and used it for their purposes.

    And it very, very transparent. To show people how plastic it was, answer this question: What portion of the Tea Party aligns with the Democratic Party?

    Answer: Can't happen. The Republicans propelled it and whipped people up into frenzies to go after Democrats left and right. It suited their purposes.

    But what came out of it proved to be unpredictable for them. And STILL is. They ended up with inferior candidates running for office before November 10th. A lot of them were un-electable. And the problems will continue for them. Because the ones that did get elected are all being prodded on by "Captain Crazy" (Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN)). They will prove to be a divisive force for the Republican Party after the beginning of the year. Because the Tea Party faction types will DEMAND ultra-mega-way-the-hell-out-there-in-the-moronosphere neo-conservative beliefs and will smack others to produce crazy unbelieveable action. The moderate portion of the Republican Party is gone, baby, gone. If even a Republican in Congress were to agree on a takeout pizza order with a Democrat, they will disappear under a dogpile of other Republicans proclaiming them to be Islamo Nazi teleprompter reading socialists or some stupid buzzwords and catch phrases.

    Well, whatever happens, this next two years will be interesting. What I think is going to be apparent is the Democrats have shown their hand and what they are going to do. They have shown they have an agenda to the American people. The Republicans? STILL nothing. The only thing they want to do is react to what the Democrats did and try to obstruct, defund and derail, while at the same time, try to set up their people to be elected into office in 2012. Party first with the Republicans. THAT'S their only goal. To hell with everyone else.

  22. A great legislative vehicle for bringing Slavery back. Tea Pots are talking 'States Rights' which was simply rhetoric for justification of Slavery and child labor. Joe Miller, Alaska Tea Pot candidate didn't like child labor laws either -

    The Free Market Economy means leaving the future of people's lives to businessmen who rate the value of life based upon it's contribution to their wealth.

    This is not a new theme. "A gun in every window, sandbags on every porch". Get ready for the Free Market Economy.