"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

A locus of cowardice, and courage

The Associated Press reports that after the Senate State Affairs Committee voted down the nullification (which is what it was) bill on Friday, pro-nullification activist Lori Shewmaker, of the group Idahoans for Liberty, took verbal shots at the senators on their way out. One by one, she called out to them, “Coward.”

Which was ironic in the deepest sense: It was a demonstration of what some of those senators’ votes were much closer to true profiles in courage.

The point here isn’t so much about the virtues in the measure, which are altogether lacking – even if you want to see the 2010 federal health care law overturned (as we, here, do not), the effective way to attack it, as Idaho already is, is through the courts. The Supreme Court will have its say on that eventually. The idea that states can independently decide which federal laws they will obey and which not is so old and so regularly discredited over so many years that, like clothes fashions, it’s new again. At least in Idaho. But put aside whether the bill was a good one.

The most active core of the right in Idaho is plenty enthusiastic about it. Idahoans for Liberty, which began as a Ron Paul support group, slogans “U.S. Constitution (every issue, every time)” – except, apparently, when it comes to providing health care. On their 2010 endorsement page, atop the list of endorsed candidates, you’ll find this note: “I personally agree with the idea that some of the candidates running under the Independent or Constitution parties would, in some cases, be better choices, but they have little chance of winning. That, in turn, would take votes away from the Republican candidates. The better option is to change the Republican party from within.”

Brought around to 2012, that will mean running candidates against any Republicans who go crosswise with them, and based on the 2010 Tea Party track record, there seems little doubt such primaries will be ferociously prosecuted.

So while the State Affairs Democrats’ (Edgar Malepeai, Michelle Stennett) no votes on the bill made sense, they were not career-threateners – no one would have expected the Democrats to vote otherwise. The vote by the Republicans – Brent Hill, Bart Davis, Curt McKenzie, John McGee and Patti Anne Lodge (who was surrounded by the outraged as the meeting adjourned), was another matter. (Two others, Russ Fulcher, a bill sponsor, and Chuck Winder, voted for the bill.) They looked directly into the fury- not too strong a word, the audience overall was very much angrily in favor of the bill – and voted to its contrary. And even though probably none were in favor of the health care bill.

One man told Hill, just before angrily walking off, “You know we’re left with no alternative but to defend ourselves.” Now that has an ominous sound to it.

Which may be just politically ominous, and certainly does suggest the shape of Republican primaries in Idaho this next cycle. So: Which Republicans on State Affairs showed some guts, those who ran with the angry crowd or those who stood up to it?

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  1. paineite said:

    Thanks once again for blogging on this important and sensitive issue.

    February 27, 2011
  2. sharpdressedman said:

    “The idea that states can independently decide which federal laws they will obey and which not is so old and so regularly discredited over so many years that, like clothes fashions, it’s new again.”

    I direct you to your own website sir:


    Every one of these articles is in favor of a State passing laws that abrogate Federal law. Why aren’t you writing about the mental capacity of those nullification laws?

    February 27, 2011
  3. Sharpdressedman – Thanks for bringing up a point and a distinction that quite a few people may miss. The post link in your comment concerns a Seattle Times editorial on legalization of marijuana, specifically supporting a bill in the state legislature to legalize it under state law, which presently makes it illegal. There is also a federal law against possession and sale of marijuana. Here’s the point: Reversing the Washington state law on the subject would not reverse, or nullify, the federal law on the subject. At all. It is not intended to. The undisputed fact that it would not has been part of the discussion about whether to pass it or not. In the case of the Idaho bill, the idea behind the legislation is to stop the effect of a federal law upon Idaho. If the Idaho Legislature chose to repeal some state health program (which would be the structural counterpart to the Washington bill), that might be wise or unwise, but it would be within the legislature’s jurisdiction. To repeal a law passed by Congress, as this bill is attempting to do, is something state legislatures simply aren’t empowered to do.

    February 27, 2011

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