State Of The Nullification Movement

Fist and placard, Protest concept

Here’s something that shouldn’t be news to you: Congress is actually much worse than a lost cause. But while things may appear bleak for the Constitution and liberty, there is a State-level line of resistance building that provides hope for the future and a blueprint for success.

Even though the establishment media never report on it this way, the modern nullification movement has grown into a political force — one that is revolutionary. It is comprised of various State-level actions that bring about what one can define as nullification today: “Any act or set of acts which has as its result a particular law being rendered legally null and void, or unenforceable in practice.”

Of course, when referring to this movement as a revolution, or revolutionary, this doesn’t mean one characterized by a physical upheaval against the established order. Instead, it is a deeper, more philosophical revolution developing — a revolution in thought.

As John Adams once put it, this is how he viewed the American Revolution as well:

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

The motives behind the various actors in the modern nullification movement vary as much as any group of people when it comes to their political goals. Some issues draw people from the right, others from the left. Political philosopher Murray Rothbard considered this “dynamism” one of the “major characteristics” of a revolution, as it creates an “unfreezing of the political and social order” for people, whatever their motivations may be.

Today’s nullification movement offers hope of smashing the established political order — one of “voting the bums out” only to see new “bums” violate the Constitution in more costly and dangerous ways each year, or relying on Federal courts to limit Federal power, or simply begging Federal officials to give us back our freedom.

This past legislative session saw some type of nullification bill introduced in nearly every State, addressing issues from National Security Agency spying to preserving the 2nd Amendment. To highlight just how far the movement has come, the Tenth Amendment Center’s 30-page report is the first-ever comprehensive look into the State of the nullification movement.

The following covers some of the highlights.

NSA Spying

Next week in Missouri, the people will have the opportunity to support the #YesOn9 campaign and vote to approve Amendment 9. This small, but important, change to the State constitution would give “electronic data and communications” the same State constitutional protections as “persons, houses, papers and effects.” This would eliminate any constitutional ambiguity surrounding electronic data and specifically bar State agencies from accessing it without a warrant in most cases.

In New Hampshire, Governor Maggie Hassan signed a bill this month that bans State and local law enforcement from searching an electronic device without a warrant and also prohibits a small, but important, category of what the NSA has been doing with the warrantless data it collects.

In California, a bill that would create a mechanism to turn off material support and resources (like water and electricity) to Federal agencies engaged in unConstitutional warrantless surveillance programs is just steps from the Governor’s desk.

As bills are filed for the 2015 session, similar legislation is expected in States like Utah, Texas and Washington.

2nd Amendment

Also next week in Missouri, voters have an opportunity to approve Amendment 5, a State constitutional amendment that would “obligate” the State to defend the right to keep and bear arms against all infringements — not some; all.

In Idaho, Governor Butch Otter signed a bill that would effectively nullify future Federal gun laws by prohibiting State enforcement of any future Federal act relating to personal firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition.

S1332 passed unanimously in both houses.

Erich Pratt, director of communications for Gun Owners of America, cheered the governor’s action. “By signing this nullification bill into law, Idaho has joined an elite class of states that are telling the feds to ‘get lost’ — especially when it comes to unconstitutional gun control infringements.”

And in a sign that these efforts are seen as a threat to the gun control lobby, the Brady Center filed suit to block implementation of a 2013 gun control nullification law in Kansas.

The fact is if they weren’t concerned about the results, they wouldn’t spend their time or resources to try stopping them. This should be seen as a big green light to push harder than ever to protect the 2nd Amendment through State level resistance to Federal gun control measures.


New York just became the 23rd State in the country to legalize marijuana for medical purposes. By authorizing what the Federal government unConstitutionally attempts to prohibit, these States are creating a practical and effective nullification of Federal acts.

This fall, voters in Alaska and Oregon have the opportunity to approve full legalization measures similar to what are already active in Colorado and Washington State. These act as an even broader and stronger nullification of Federal prohibition.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley both signed new laws that authorize the growing and production of industrial hemp within their States, effectively nullifying the unConstitutional Federal ban on the same.

While supporters of Federal power like to claim that this is happening only because the current Administration is simply turning a blind eye to the issue, this couldn’t be further from the truth. No one in modern history has tried harder, spent more, or attempted more raids to stop State marijuana markets than the Barack Obama Administration.

The fact is the Feds are just flat out losing to the States.

Other Issues

The nullification movement is not limited to spying, guns and weed. Across the country, more people are learning that the way to accomplish one’s political goals is to stop wasting time on Federal politicians and instead focus their time, energy and resources more locally.

In Missouri, a bill to withdraw from Common Core was signed into law this month. In Arizona, voters have an opportunity to approve a Right to Try measure that would effectively nullify some Food and Drug Administration restrictions. Oklahoma became the second State (following Utah) to take the first step toward following the tender requirements of the Constitution and nullifying the Federal Reserve’s near-monopoly on money. In Georgia, a new law went into effect this month that blocks implementation of some important parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The Message

While voting the bums out of Congress rarely happens and the Federal government grows in size and power every single year, people still pour billions of dollars into campaigns that aren’t giving results.

In a business scenario, anyone spending that kind of money and losing repeatedly would be fired quickly. The smart and successful business manager doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket. But at the same time, he quickly recognizes where concrete results are actually happening.

So if you are also feeling that there’s little to no hope in Congress, the State of the Nullification Movement Report shows that positive things are happening even in what might feel like the worst of times.

The message should loud and clear.

When enough people say “No!” to the Federal government and when enough States pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the politicians in Washington, D.C., can do to force their so-called “laws” or mandates down our throats.

Personal Liberty

Michael Boldin

is the founder and executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center. Michael has a full schedule working as senior editor of the Center's website, writes a regular column, fields media interviews, and travels the country (when invited, of course) to speak to crowds about sticking to the Constitution — every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses.[send him email]

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