When the Founders sat down in Philadelphia in 1787 to improve the ways in which the collective federal government could function more efficiently for the young nation, the oppressiveness of the Crown was still fresh in their minds. Laws and regulations coming from thousands of miles away with no thought to the interests and sensibilities of the folks being required to follow them. Sound familiar?
Thus, they created enumerated powers, that is, things that the federal government alonecould do. They repeated endlessly that these powers were limited and specific. That’s how they wrote the document. And they meant it.
But just in case that future government had a mind to drift outside those specific and limited powers, they crafted the 10th Amendment to remind the central government that the individual states responsible for forming this central government reserved everything else to themselves and the people. Don’t miss that nuance! The 10th Amendment not only stated that an individual state could resist an overreach, but the people themselves could resist an overreach if their state government refused to resist. The power to resist is implied in this Amendment. If not, then why the strong language?
Come forward 150 years and we find a liberal, Progressive FDR being able to use a crisis, The Great Depression, to expand those powers and take more control of the economy, private property and the futures of average Americans. He overstepped the 10th Amendment in the name of “helping” people, even threatening to appoint additional Justices to the Supreme Court if the current Court refused to go along with his mischief. What he really helped was the move to a bigger government. (For this, see Amity Schlaes, The Forgotten Man. Yes, stop what you’re doing right now, order this book and read it.)
FDR, and LBJ sixty years later, went on the biggest “smash-the-10th-Amendment” binges in history. They made government into a weapon now being used by future Presidents to shape culture via the power of the dollar and the hammer. Not to be outdone by these 10th Amendment crushers, the Supreme Court has gotten into the act by starting to create law and read intent into laws passed by Congress where no intent existed. They made ObamaCare into a tax when the people pushing it for years said it wasn’t a tax. Now, what was that about intent?
Just recently, this newly emboldened Court discovered they knew exactly what Congress was trying to do with the latest and greatest 10th Amendment overreach. And to top it off, they pulled into the central government the ability to define marriage. Check your Constitution and see where that enumerated, limited power is given to them.
During these last seven years, your duly elected Representatives and Senators have abandoned their Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities to check an out-of-control Executive and Judicial branch. Note how easily they caved to the Judicial and Executive branch “checking” them on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Pathetic.
Luckily for the American republic, the States and people remain. You see, that 10thAmendment works both ways.
Attorney General Eric Holder, by his refusal to enforce DOMA, effectively “nullified” the law. Colorado recently “nullified” federal drug laws by allowing recreational use of marijuana. Tens of U.S. cities are in the process of “nullifying” federal immigration law by declaring themselves as “Sanctuary Cities”. And yet, minutes after the SCOTUS overreach on marriage, Tennessee’s Governor acquiesced, offering, “Well, it’s the law.” Based upon what constitutional principle, sir?
Yet, all is not lost. We have two more cracks at restoring the republic. First, State Legislatures across the nation must grow a spine, reread their own Constitutions, reread the U.S. Constitution, and begin the process of extracting themselves from federal overreach. Someone has to lead. But once some state begins the process of explaining anew that Washington, D.C. is playing outside its designated sandbox, others will follow.
And don’t think the federal government will give up its overreach without a fight. Remember, that King George III and Parliament thing. The refusal of the people of Boston to comply with the new taxation requirements pushed the British General to order the seizure of Colonial arms and powder at Lexington and Concord. (“Those who refuse to study history are doomed to repeat it.”) I hope you see the similarities.
When the British blockaded Boston, they could have crushed the rebellion immediately without the engagement of other colonies. Once Massachusetts fired back, literally, Virginia joined in. We see instant courage in Virginia’s Favorite Son agreeing to lead the Continental Army at his own expense.
That’s right. There is personal sacrifice required for liberty. In the words of a popular proverb, “You cannot have bread, and loaf.”
If your existence is tied to your job, your position in society, the Chamber of Commerce, your stock portfolio, you are only minutes away from being a “Tory”, loyal to the “powers that be” for your wine and meats. Just look at how these business interests are punishing Donald Trump for speaking out against illegal immigration.
However, if you truly understand the treasure of liberty, and you are committed to God, to your fellow man, and to generations yet unborn, you will take a very different view of our circumstances.
Short of the States drawing a line in the sand and making good on it, America is left with the bulwark of its people. Keep in mind. It will not be all its people. In 1775, a third of the colonists were loyal to the Crown for their sustenance, a third just wanted to be left alone, and a third felt the boot of oppression so onerous that there was but one choice…
The people can currently have their say at the ballot box. They can speak out at meetings, in the media or in activist groups. They can let their checkbooks speak volumes about how fed up they are with the current situation. In the end, it is their constitutionally guaranteed right to replace lawmakers who sit idly by while their freedoms are being stripped away from them. It is their 1st Amendment right to redress grievances and to speak out against them. It is their 4th Amendment right to be secure in their homes and communications. It is their 10th Amendment right to keep the central government “Bound by the chains of the Constitution” (Thomas Jefferson).
Please, America. Take possession of these three protections so we don’t have to resort to the last available…the 2nd Amendment. For if the States comply and if the people acquiesce, we will assuredly see this come to pass.
Executive Director, TN Spotlight