A writer in the conservative weekly Human Events, founded in 1944, scolds us for talking about nullification and secession, about which he proceeds to repeat every misconception under the sun.
In my latest column, I reply. I begin:
These days there has been a lot of talk of nullification – the refusal of a state to allow the enforcement within its borders of an unconstitutional federal law – and even secession. This is not allowed in the United States. We are supposed to let the New York Times dictate the terms of the national debate, and the Times has not indicated that these topics are on the table for discussion.
What kind of national health program we ought to have, how much the political class should expropriate us, or whether that foreign country ought to be bombed right away or starved to death first – this is how the Times prefers it. The debate is framed from the establishment’s point of view, and no matter how it comes out, the vested interests and the status quo prevail.
Then there are the conservatives and libertarians who likewise take their lead from the Times. Why, that issue you are raising must be “crazy” – after all, I don’t see Newsweek or the New York Times talking about it. Not even Rush Limbaugh, that bold ideological risk-taker, discusses your ideas, citizen! Are you sure you still want to advance them?
And so there you have the glorious American political spectrum – all 3.7 inches. What we laughingly call the “limited government” side of the American political debate plays by the rules of the pro-government party, so much so that when the chips are down one can hardly tell them apart. When it comes to people who want to raise truly fundamental questions, the two official sides can’t kiss and make up fast enough.
Secession is especially unthinkable. You might think the size of the political unit called the United States would be a practical question, not a matter of religious mysticism. But mention secession, or the possibility that the existing apparatus may be so big as to be dysfunctional even by government standards – propositions that are obviously within the realm of possibility – and you are treated like a heretic, if not a lunatic. Why, 3.79 million square feet is the heaven-sent size of the United States, and not one square inch less! And anyway, they assure us, secession wouldn’t solve anything.
Wouldn’t it? Here’s just one thing. If the United States devolved into several smaller units, would they all have a Jacobin foreign policy in the Middle East? Would they all have made the disastrous decision to enter World War I? These are interesting possibilities, yet we are not even allowed to consider them. Stick to the 3.7 inches, citizen.
So the same kind of article you might read criticizing (for example) nullification or secession in Human Events or WorldNetDaily might just as easily be found in the New Republic. The two sides can’t kiss and make up fast enough.