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Tilting at Windmills

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August 21, 2009

NULLIFICATION TALK FROM CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS.... Right-wing lawmakers like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) make interesting comments all the time. Yesterday, though, was extra special.

Some of the nuttiness was fairly routine. Bachmann told Sean Hannity, for example, that she will never "give the government control over my body." For the staunch opponent of abortion rights, it seemed like an odd thing to say. Likewise, DeMint explained that he's against health care reform that would give government control of the "most personal" aspect of Americans' lives. For the staunch supporter of anti-gay constitutional amendments, this, too, seemed like an odd thing to say.

But the two wacky Republicans actually teamed up last night to participate in a tele-town-hall event (a meeting over the phone) organized by Americans for Prosperity, a far-right lobbying group opposed to health care reform.

During the call, DeMint and Bachmann didn't use the word "nullification," but they seemed to offer some support for the idea.

A caller asked DeMint what the states could do in order to stop unconstitutional action by the federal government on health care. DeMint replied, "I think the key to pushing back against the federal government is some governors and state legislators who champion individual freedom."

DeMint said he would love to see states go to court to invoke the Tenth Amendment: "If we had some states come together and say the only way to save this country is to push back." He also added: "I think you'll see some states say no more, we're not going down with the federal government."

Bachmann added that governors should take collective action. "We'd have to see some fairly revolutionary action taken by the these states, and it's question of whether these governors would do that," she said.

Given her track record, when Bachmann starts talking about "revolutionary action," it's unclear if she means "revolutionary" in the ground-breaking sense or the overthrow-the-U.S.-government sense.

Also note, this truly insane talk is already percolating among right-wing GOP officials at the state level, most notably in Florida and Texas.

If you're new to this argument, Josh Marshall explained today, "Nullification, the constitutional theory that states can block enforcement of federal laws they find objectionable, was crackpot from the start and hasn't been seriously entertained anywhere in the county since the Civil War (with the exception of feigned attempts in the South during the Civil Right Era)."

It's why it's all the more unnerving to hear two sitting members of Congress talking like this in public -- in the 21st century.

Nevertheless, it's something to keep an eye on, since a) the fight with conservatives can continue long after reform passes (if it passes); and b) these efforts are a reminder of just how far off the ideological cliff some contingents of the GOP have gone.

Steve Benen 2:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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I am so fucking tired of these fucking whack jobs and their screechy fucking insistence on ensuring that the public dialogue constantly surfs in the fucking dirt.



Posted by: shortstop on August 21, 2009 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Those who hate America and wish to see us collapse have friends in the GOP.

I'm sure any terrorist with an ounce of brain matter has realized that donating to Republican candidates is the easiest way to accomplish jihad against The Great Satan! After all, the enemy of their enemy is their friend!

Posted by: Moxo on August 21, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Where were these principled patriots during the Federal power-grab years of Bush/Cheney?

Posted by: Speed on August 21, 2009 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, here's what nullification will look like after the health care bill passes, courtesy of the Weekly Standard: http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/wwrd.asp

The Republicuns will simply criticize the legislation in 2010 and 2012 on the theory that it won't really go into effect until 2013, so they can say what ever they want about it. They can demagog freely all the way to 2014.

Posted by: CT on August 21, 2009 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad my Yankee ancestors didn't burn South Carolina to the ground and then salt the soil, like what the Romans did to Carthage.

South Carolina, the fountainhead of Southern treason and insanity since 1715. Nothing ever changes there, does it?

Posted by: TCinLA on August 21, 2009 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bachman is talking about 'treason or other high crimes and misdemeanors'. She took the oath of office. Any federal officer having taken the oath who promotes 'nullification' - defiance of the authority of the Federal government to act pursuant to the Constitution and laws of the federal government- has committed an offense subject to impeachment.

Posted by: robert on August 21, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

It's Bachmann-Demented Overdrive.

Posted by: cld on August 21, 2009 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

Would anyone actually WANT control over Michelle Bachman's body???

Posted by: dcsusie on August 21, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Nullification Now!

-Seccession later.

-Don't let the door hit you on the way out. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 21, 2009 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

Did you ever notice that it is the states that pay the least to and get the most from the federal treasury that love the 10th amendment so much.

The hypocrisy of these clowns just makes me want to let them go on and try to make it on their own.
if it wouldn't create a tidal wave of emigrants seeking refuge in the border states, it would be so much fun!

Posted by: sue on August 21, 2009 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Freedom to make their own choices, eh ? All of us have been bombarded by the Repiglican/ Corporate Media propaganda and lies in an effort to make us 'believe' what they want us to believe as in all the 'falling' support of Obama, and the Public Option. Of course this is entirely made up: it's a fucking fiction in an effort to make people believe thier fucking lies. There is one utterly non-partisan/ non-corporate poll in the USA. It's called survey USA. And, gee, guess what ? They just took a non-partisan survey of the American people to find out, after this onslaught of lies by the Corporate Media, how many Americans 'still' support the Public Option. And the results:

And a new poll shows 77% percent of Americans still support the public option.

Yet, while the issue continues to be hotly debated in the halls of Congress, a new poll by Survey USA finds that the idea is as popular as ever amongst the American public:

More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a “choice” between a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.

A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

The SurveyUSA poll finds similar results to several other polls that also show that the public option is very popular, a fact that some members of Congress consider to be a detriment.

Yes, I'm a 77%er...

Jane adds:

The House Dems have 77% of the country behind them. Conrad and Bayh have WellPoint and Blue Cross behind them, and messy financial ties to boot. Will they join with the Republicans to filibuster a Democratic health care bill? Because as Kagro X says, that is very much what they are saying they will do.

Freedom of Choice, eh ?

Posted by: stormskies on August 21, 2009 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

As I've noted before, these are elected officials. They very likely faithfully represent the majority of those who choose to vote for mthem in their respective elections. And this mind set has been around for a very long time (both voters and elected). What is different now is the very large indeed much larger megaphone provided to them by organized rightwing media. When they were limited to the occaisional bill boards along some minor road in the backwaters and passing out leaflets on street corners they were consider irrelevant. Now that they have 24/7 access to all forms of the dominant media that gives them more than equal time to demonstrate their amazing ignorance it becomes impossible to dismiss them as cranks even tho that's what they are.

Posted by: mickster on August 21, 2009 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

yeah, dcsusie...
we love michelle for her mind, not her bod!

Posted by: mellowjohn on August 21, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Article I, Section 8, Para 1. Cripe.

Posted by: R'chard on August 21, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, please, let 'em go. I could use the tax cut. And cld, I'm partial to Bachmann-Palin Overdrive, not that there's any substantive difference from your formula.

Posted by: les on August 21, 2009 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Stimulus Funds Part II. I direct your attention to Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry who were on the verge of secession several months ago over the stimulus bill. They weren't taking any of that filthy money. The healthcare bill will pass and they will blather about the constitution and freedom and then rewrite their own history when they are up for re-election.

Posted by: diave on August 21, 2009 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's disgusting to me that conservatives try to turn down federal money for programs that would benefit their financially and morally bankrupt states. If DeMint wants to let his John Calhoun ghosts out, I say let him.

Posted by: Tobias on August 21, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Please please please please DO IT.
Employers (and smart employees) will FLOCK to blue states, where the employee/employer relationship becomes FREE of the burdens of the health-insurance-mafia.

And the red states can just continue on their merry way to third-world banana-republic status.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on August 21, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Obama missed the chance to legalize pot, health care reform would have passed with a whimper and nobody would be watching political news channels, they'd be eating Doritos and watching Beowulf saying "Whoa" for the umpteeth time.

Posted by: GTrollop on August 21, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

That's "umpteenth".. Where's the button?

Posted by: GT on August 21, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Where were these principled patriots during the Federal power-grab years of Bush/Cheney?
Posted by: Speed on August 21, 2009

I dunno, they sure didn't mind when Bush kept denying California its rightful ability to set its own emissions standards.

Posted by: about time on August 21, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Americans for Properity except for those bankrupted by medical bills.

Posted by: bob h on August 21, 2009 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

You know I've been to Minnesota many times and I'd bet my first born child that the overwhelming majority of people from that state would not want anything to do with the treason that Bachmann is preaching. I can't really speak for S Carolina.

Posted by: Gandalf on August 21, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

We should graciously allow and even encourage these states to sever their bonds with the Union. Having done so, they'll be looking up to Somalia and Bangla Desh in less than a year.

Posted by: Dennis-SGMM on August 21, 2009 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, this nullification idea sounds pretty good.

There's lots of stuff I'd like to nullify. The bailout, for example. And corporate bonuses - let's nullify them. And medical insurers. Don't regulate them - just nullify them.

There's lots of things we could nullify - really.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on August 21, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

When there was still a USSR an entire discipline of Sovietology developed to help us figure out just what the Russians meant when they used certain words, since the vagaries of communist ideology gave its own particular meaning to language that wasn't immediately apparent to the uninitiated.

I think something similar is needed to figure out exactly what the radical right really hears when it uses certain words as well. Harold Meyerson has a great column in the Washington Post on the "separatism" at the heart of the conservative movement. I think Meyerson is exactly right -- the right wing really does want no part of a country that does not conform to its narrow views and which the right no longer controls. That's part of the reason the GOP continues to be strong only in the South, the part of the country that is most distinctive and least assimilated.

And it is this overriding sense of separatism by the Right that has to be taken into account whenever we hear conservatives bashing "the government," or "big" government, or the federal government. Government doesn't mean the same thing to the hard core right that it means to the rest of us. To conservatives, the government is not the people, programs and buildings of the modern democratic state that We the People control with our votes and pay for with our taxes.

For conservatives of a particular stripe "government" is a strange and alien force presided over by foreigners called "liberal elitists" who share nothing in common with "traditional God-fearing Americans." That is why conservatives believe that those who run the government are determined to persecute conservatives by making them do things they'd rather not -- like respect gay people and other nonconformists, or play nice with minorities, or treat everyone the same, or live and let live. "Government", in other words, carries powerful cultural overtones and is much more connected to the fact that conservatives have always felt like strangers in a strange land, even as they brag about being super-patriots. For people who recognize that the rest of the nation does not share their views and traditionalist culture, the government is not the instrumentality of a democratic state that protects individual rights, its an oppressive and tyrannical force that threatens those rights instead. And so whenever government expands -- even to provided concrete benefits like education and health care -- what conservatives hear when someone says "government" is almost always "tyranny."

That is why conservative leaders and those who want to manipulate conservative followers for their own ends can so reliably and automatically count on such powerfully negative responses whenever they shout "government-control" or "government-takeover" or virtually government anything.

Posted by: Ted Frier on August 21, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

Have these people given any thought to what would happen to Medicare and the VA if this ridiculous nullification thing were actually to go through? I'd love to see them explain that to their consituents who rely on these government-run insurance plans.

Posted by: Freddie on August 21, 2009 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Bring it on, I would be happy to get 20lbs off my fat ass to get back in uniform and fight these guys anytime they want a rematch of 1861

Posted by: Tommy on August 21, 2009 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, wouldn't this be incredibly great? I mean, sure, it would suck for the people who know better but were financially unable to get out of the Nullification Zone but we could set up some kind of charity/government program to help with the evacuation.

I'd predict that in five years, the NZ would basically be like a real-life version of Mad Max. But since the population would consist of insane rightwing morons, they'll probably be well-armed which will come in handy when they start hunting each other for food. A la cuisine!

Posted by: Anon on August 21, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

What's most hysterical about all this is that the morons who elected Bachmann will in all likelihood send her right back to Washington next year. She'll never have to live with the consequences of her positions because she comes from a state that would never participate in a nullification movement. She can keep on spouting the most inane horseshit and the only people who can reign her in will refuse to do it. God Bless the U.S.A.

Posted by: Singularity on August 21, 2009 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

So, Michele will never give the government control of her body by submitting to a government-run healthcare plan. Has she opted out of her coverage as a Member of Congress?

Posted by: Aaron on August 21, 2009 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

For me, the scariest thing is seeing "Michele Bachmann" and "lawmaker" linked. It doesn't sound like she could be trusted to make dinner.

Posted by: Mark on August 21, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...got to court to invoke the 10th Amendment..." Sen. Demint (R-SC) as quoted by Steve Benen.
And pray tell, just how does the Federal Government's legislating on Health Care Insurance Reform, prevent any state from also so doing? Or is the esteemed Senator from the state of Treasonous Rebelli,...I mean, South Carolina, actually suggesting that, in view of Medicare, etc, the Federal Government doesn't have the Constitutional authority to pass such legislation?

Posted by: Doug on August 21, 2009 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

If they keep on talking nullification, do we get to hang them, as Jackson would have, "as high as Haman"?

One expects this sort of talk from SC and TX--the former pretty much invented it, after all. Is there some odd blood tie beteen Bachmann and South Carolina, though?

Posted by: docdave on August 21, 2009 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

Ha, what a joke! If good health care reform is passed and these clowns get serious about impeding any states ability to implement HCR at the state level, you're going to see mobs of pissed off constituents. They'd get DUMPED in 2010 if they did that.

Seeing the wingnuts discussing ways to block reform at the state level gives me real hope that the tide is turning in DC towards REAL HCR rather than a huge handout to the insurance industry.

Posted by: Glen on August 21, 2009 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK



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