Nullification. The word evokes images of white-haired men with tri-fold hats, holding up signs about the "evils" of Obamacare and socialism.
States around the country are considering laws to reject federal laws on health care, guns, the Environmental Protection Agency regulations and more. The pundits scream "racism," the legal experts cite the "supremacy clause," and the entire country - left to right - just might be missing the point.
As executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, the organization which created the "Health Care Nullification Act" introduced in more than 10 states, I see many people who fit this stereotypical "tenther" image, too.
Whenever I speak at "Nullify Now!" events around the country, the crowd is predominantly these folks. While a few progressives occasionally join the protesters, one doesn't find too many 20-somethings with Che T-shirts attending such events.
While the rhetoric coming from many on the right these days includes words like "nullification," and "state sovereignty," it has been the left, not the right, which has been successful in putting these ideas into practice. And, California has been at the forefront since the beginning.
When Californians voted to approve Proposition 215 to allow medical marijuana, the word "nullification" was not part of the argument, but it most certainly was the result.
Opponents often cited the Constitution's "supremacy clause," saying the state had no authority to violate federal marijuana laws. But, Californians voted to violate those laws by the millions. And, when the Supreme Court ruled in the 2005 Gonzales v. Raich case that state-level medical marijuana laws were, in essence, illegal, dispensaries around the state didn't start closing shop.
In fact, by 2005, there were nine other states that had joined California in passing medical marijuana laws. After the supremes told the country that such laws were a big no-no, how many were repealed? Zero. And since then, another five states - most recently, Arizona - have joined up.
Think about that. There are now 15 states actively defying Congress and the Supreme Court - and they're getting away with it. This, more than anything else, is what nullification is: any action which results in federal law(s) being rendered nearly unenforceable.