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As it turns out Goldilocks is a Republican. You know the story: young girl with little regard for personal property, breaks into a wilderness cabin, steals and vandalizes. Granted, young and female are not terms often associated with the modern Republican Party, but the attitude? That's just perfect. Anything you don't like? Tear it up.

It's exactly the attitude the a Republican Party has adopted when it comes to the application of laws.  You see, some federal laws are too big.

The Missouri Senate on Thursday passed two bills: one outlining federal gun law nullification ...

The federal gun law nullification bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, passed on a vote of 23 to 10.

The bill would declare all federal gun laws null and void, and law enforcement agents enforcing those bills would be subject to up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

That takes care of that. All federal gun laws, including the Federal Firearms Act of 1934, which prohibited most folks from owning fully automatic machine guns, grenades, and poison gas, to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which created the Federal Firearms License system for gun manufacturers and dealers, gone just like that. Why drive an Escalade that merely looks like a tank, when you can drive a tank?

Some local laws are too small.

[Wisconsin] Assembly Republicans are poised to pass bills later Thursday that would overturn local government decisions in Milwaukee in what Democrats are calling another GOP assault on local control.

One of the bills would undercut the living wage ordinance just passed by the Milwaukee County board. The ordinance would require private contractors that win county work to pay workers at least $11.32 an hour. The GOP plan would let that ordinance stand, but counties would be banned from using state or federal dollars to pay these wages. State Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), says that’s because Republicans think wage ordinances like these are harmful. ...

Another bill on today’s calendar would override a decision by the Milwaukee Public School System. It would force MPS to sell vacant school buildings, the idea being that this would save taxpayers money and open up valuable real estate to voucher schools that are asking for it. The school district says that because of the way the bill is worded, it could potentially evict thousands of public school students.

You see, local wage laws need to be squashed for the very good reason that Republicans don't like them. And kids in public schools need to be hurt, well, because Republicans don't like them either. If they were good kids, they'd be making someone a profit in a private school.

So, federal laws are too big. Local ordinances are too small.  Does that mean that state laws are just right?

Sometimes.  Come inside for more...

Sure that middle chair can be comfy, but only so long as it's occupied a Republican dominated legislature. If not, then... well.

Colorado’s package of gun laws, enacted this year after mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., has been hailed as a victory by advocates of gun control. But if Sheriff Cooke and a majority of the other county sheriffs in Colorado offer any indication, the new laws — which mandate background checks for private gun transfers and outlaw magazines over 15 rounds — may prove nearly irrelevant across much of the state’s rural regions.

Some sheriffs, like Sheriff Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws, saying that they are too vague and violate Second Amendment rights. Many more say that enforcement will be “a very low priority,” as several sheriffs put it. All but seven of the 62 elected sheriffs in Colorado signed on in May to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the statutes.

Republican Cooke is now running for the state Senate. Where you can bet he will make laws that are just right.

The idea that the states can "nullify" federal law is an old idea that's come back in a pretty new bright red package, sold by the GOP as the only solution to "government overreach."  

The term nullification is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson--as is every other idea in politics. In this case (unlike Jefferson's supposed quote defending the second amendment, or Jefferson's quote against big government or Jefferson's quote against democracy) there actually is a bit of history behind that assertion.  

In 1798 and 1799, both Jefferson and James Madison were involved in the writing of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. These were statements issued by state legislatures in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The intention of these statements was to declare the the federal government could not enforce laws that were unconstitutional, which is a position still held today. The difference was in how constitutionality was to be decided. Jefferson and Madison argued in these writings that it was up to "the states" to determine when the federal government had crossed over the line.  

That would seem to run squarely into this bit of the Constitution.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
And in fact, the state by state review suggested by Jefferson and Madison was immediately controversial.  Both statements appealed to other states for agreement... they didn't get it. Instead, ten other state legislatures wrote statements against these statements, under the very real concern that allowing each state to determine which federal laws it would enforce, was tantamount to having no federal laws at all. It was instead a "recipe for disunion." As New Hampshire's reply put it:
"...the state legislatures are not the proper tribunals to determine the constitutionality of the laws of the general government; that the duty of such decision is properly and exclusively confided to the judicial department.
Madison made another stab at it in 1800, arguing for a rather complex system in which one state could declare that it found a law unconsitutional, then appeal to other states for their opinion. That version also gained little support. Instead, the New Hampshire argument was soon taken up with some force. Four years later, in the case of Marbury v. Madison the Supreme Court endorsed the idea of judicial review.

The big M v. M didn't immediately end the idea of nullification. States attempted to nullify federal court decisions, opposed federal legislation on both sides of the slavery debate, and attempted to impose their own taxes on federal institutions. From 1809 to 1859 the court revisited the idea of nullification over, and over, and over. And shot it down every time. As Daniel Webster had stated in 1830-- the Constitution places all responsibility for determining constitutionality with the federal government, and exactly none with the states. Judicial review provided a means for not just states, but organizations and individuals to challenge the constitutionality of a law. Nullification was not just unneeded, but unconstitutional itself.

It was almost a hundred years before the constitutional n-word was resurrected in opposition to school desegregation. Again, the courts ruled against it, but it shouldn't be surprising that the same team that pulled out this term in fighting the decision on Brown v. Board of Education should still be tossing it around today. After all, if you've decided that you can ignore the federal government, you might as well ignore it right back to the beginning.

The truth on nullification is...

  • Nullification has less than no standing under the constitution. Those still harping on passages from 1798 are arguing points that lost then, lost throughout the 19th century, and are still losing today.
  • It may have been suggested by Madison and Jefferson, but Madison and Jefferson were simply wrong (and not for the first time) a fact with which their contemporaries immediately recognized. Nullification was a recipe for disaster that was avoided through institution of judicial review.
  • Making things legal under state law, such as the use of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, is not the same as nullification. Marijuana use is still illegal under federal law, and neither state has suggested that their law overrides federal legislation.

But then, Republicans are not really arguing over the legality of this long dead, buried, and rotten idea. Nullification is just a shorthand for "we win, even when we lose." Their position is simply one that says if they don't like it, it shouldn't be legal, no matter who passed it. Forget letting the Supreme Court determine constitutionality. Forget passing that duty to the states. It's a power that goes only to Goldilock's Old Party, no matter how small or large the chair in which they sit.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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