December 15th, 2009


Debra Medina Will Not Be Our Next Governor

Last week I went to a meeting of the local Republican Club to hear a talk by a candidate for governor I was curious about, Debra Medina. They held it at a country club--way to live the stereotype, guys. We began the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. When I was a teenage Democrat the club meetings also started with the pledge, and I noticed there was always a big dip in the volume during the words "under God." I listened carefully but the volume here was constant, even during "indivisible." We then made a hash out of the state pledge. Doesn't come up too often apparently.

Several local candidates were invited to introduce themselves at the start. This included Mike Brasovan, who's running to replace the free-spending Kay Granger. I did a day of volunteering for him last month. We've also got yet another primary challenge to my state rep, Charlie Geren, who has to be feeling a bit picked-on at this point.

I've heard Rick Perry talk. Medina isn't as smooth as he is but I liked what she had to say a lot better. Perry's paean to the 10th Amendment wouldn't survive his election to Federal office. Medina's fighting for principles. Ones I'm pretty happy with--reduce the size of government, increase individual freedom. Cracking down on corruption in the state government (molestation in TYC, financial screw-ups in TxDoT) I'm all for. I like restricting illegal immigration with state resources instead of waiting for the feds to do it. The proposal to replace the property tax with additional sales taxes I'm not sure about but it wouldn't be a deal breaker.

Where it got complicated was the discussion of Obama's health care proposals. I don't see anywhere in the Constitution that allows Congress to order me to buy an insurance policy from a set list . . . but the Federal government is doing all sorts of things that I don't see Constitutional authorization for. Medina's opposed to it and vowed to resist its implementation with "nullification and interposition." That I had to look up when I got home.

The theory goes back to the Founding--if a law is unconstitutional a state can declare it as such (nullify) and prevent its enforcement within the state (interposing). The most famous application was an attempt by South Carolina to set off the Civil War thirty years early. More recent uses of the concept are the attempts by several Southern states to block school desegregation in the 1960s. This is why googling on "nullification and interposition" mostly gets you transcripts of MLKjr's "I Have a Dream" speech.

And here I've gone and wasted the "live the stereotype" line on the country club.

I'm not accusing Medina of being a racist or segregationist. I saw no signs of anything like that and she was in front of a very friendly crowd, not needing to hide things. But I think she's oblivious to how some of her pet theories would sound to moderates, let alone how they'd work in practice.

Medina mentioned Utah's resistance to the No Child Left Behind Act as an example of nullification. But refusing federal subsidy dollars because of the attached strings is a very, very different thing from telling the IRS that they can't collect the portion of income taxes going to health care from Texans. One is declining a bribe--the way any one of us can decline the bribe in the tax code to get health insurance from our employers--the other is a direct challenge to one of the chief powers of the federal government. That can not end well.

So I'm not going to be using this bumper sticker I picked up, or doing any campaigning for Medina. Pity. I was hoping to have another race where I could vote for a candidate instead of just against.
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Abundantly clear

Defining Nullification

Anthony wrote in a comment on my last post, "I think the apparent connotation of racism with nullification and interposition is very weak at best . . . a new definition of nullification is growing in the minds of Americans!" Sure, there's people who care enough about political theory to find the original meanings of obscure terms. For most they'll go with the definition taught to them. Let's look at how a Democratic TV commericial would go about teaching people the meaning of "nullification and interposition."

EXT SHOT - video of MLKjr giving speech, intercut with most iconic still photographs of the protest:

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

STILL PHOTOS IN SEQUENCE with clip from speech repeated over each one:

George Wallace
"its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification"

Orval Faubus
"its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification"

Bull Connor (with dogs)
"its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification"

INT SHOT - Debra Medina at speech or press conference.

"The State of Texas should refuse to comply through nullification and interposition."*


"Debra Medina
Bringing Texas back to 1959.

Vote for Mickey Mouse"**

*From here. Or something close to that depending on available footage, anything with the key three words will do.

**Actual Democratic candidate TBD. But they probably could run Mickey Mouse and win.

"Martin Luther King jr. didn't like it" is a sufficient definition of nullification to get swing voters to turn against it. Fair? What's that got to do with politics? Harsh? It's arguably nicer than the James Byrd commercial run against Dubya.

The problem with nullification is that a concept or symbol can be ruined for centuries if it's used by an evil enough group. Putting angled extensions on a cross is a simple elaboration, with lots of artistic and religious precedent, but the Nazis have made it unusable. I work on a plane called the Lightning II. I'm sure some bright young artist wanted to make a logo with the lines of the roman numeral replaced with lightning bolts . . . but that's another symbol the Nazis have ruined. The catchphrases of the segregationists are going to be toxic in US politics until someone comes along who's even more wrong and defeated as thoroughly and we have a new set of off-limits terms.

Anthony included links to state governments resisting overbearing Federal laws. They show noncooperation with unfunded mandates and assertions of 10th Amendment rights. But there's nothing on the level of trying to prevent income tax collections. Most notably I haven't seen any statements by a governor using the word nullification . . . because they know it's toxic.
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