Wednesday, January 6, 2016

‘States Rights’: An Un-American Doctrine

In a smear piece (Why racists donate to Republicans), the New Jersey Star-Ledger in effect labeled the Republican Party as racist, guilty by association because a single “white supremacist leader—Earl Holt III—has contributed to a slew of Republican candidates.”

Never mind that the Democratic Party is the party of slavery, Jim Crow, the Ku Klux Klan, or that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican who was once jailed by Democrats. Today, the Democrats, not the Republicans, are the ones that collectivistically divide us by race.

Incredibly, The Star-Ledger—stretching beyond credulity for more evidence—raises the specter of state opposition to ObamaCare as proof of Republican racism.

Think about the historical use of the dog-whistle of "state's rights" to oppose federal civil rights protections, and its current use to rally opposition to a black president and his Affordable Care Act.

Consider this for a moment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were passed with significantly more Republican support than Democrat support. The main opposition came from the Southern Democrats.

About the only thing the Star-Ledger got right, sort of, was its rejection of states rights. I left these comments, focussing on that:

I reject the hysterical charges of racism that the Star-Ledger levels against Republicans. The Left sees racism wherever anyone disagrees with them, for their own political purposes.

But the Star-Ledger is right to reject “States Rights.”   

States Rights doctrine was concocted by defenders of slavery as a counterpoint to the Abolitionists. The Abolitionists based their movement on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, America’s original Founding document and the philosophic blueprint for the U.S. Constitution. The Declaration stands for the principle that all individuals, including Southern slaves, possess rights that no government can infringe.

States Rights doctrine essentially holds that rights are not inalienable, but are the property of the state governments, which can grant or withhold rights from its citizens by majority vote. Thus, States Rights holds, state governments can override the federal guarantees of rights and liberties for the purpose of protecting slavery.

But this is absurd. If valid, States Rights doctrine would render the U.S. Constitution a hollow, meaningless document. It’s a repudiation of the Declaration of Independence, and essentially a resurrection of the Divine Right of Kings in democratic form. States Rights advocates are essentially saying: The Federal Government cannot violate individual rights, but state governments can violate rights at will! This would mean that the purpose of the Revolutionary War was to throw off British tyranny in order to establish a free nation made up of state tyrannies—an absurd contradiction. Did the Founders really shed blood and treasure in order to create only a limited national government, while granting the states a blank check to trample rights at will?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The U.S. Constitution, created by “We the People,” not “We the States,” grants states enumerated powers, not rights. As the Declaration states, rights belong only to individuals. “That to secure these rights, Governments [plural] are instituted among Men.” The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution as a redundant means to solidify the principle that protecting individual rights is the government’s role. There are no “states rights” mentioned. The first eight amendments enumerate certain individual rights, and the Ninth Amendment makes clear that unenumerated rights are “retained by the people.” No mention of the states. Only the Tenth Amendment mentions the states, and only in regard to delegated powers not prohibited to the states by the U. S. Constitution. Again, no mention of states rights. Clearly, this can only be understood as meaning that state governments are subordinate to the protections of individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitutional—rights that are understood to be inalienable.

States Rights doctrine was concocted to protect slavery by repudiating the Revolutionary War—which was fought to secure inalienable individual rights under limited rights-protecting government—and to create a rationalization for the Southern States to go so far as to rip America apart to protect its slavery. States Rights is the antipode of the Declaration of Independence, and modern States Rights advocates are unwittingly repudiating individual liberty. The fact that the Federal government itself has become a huge rights-violator under the rise of the regulatory welfare state doesn’t mitigate the fact that rights belong to individuals, not governments at any level, or that the doctrine of States Rights is a threat to all of our rights and is patently un-American.

Related Reading:

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence


Burr Deming said...

Two aspects of your excellent piece are noteworthy. One is your accurate assessment of the Democratic Party as the onetime comfortable home of overt racists and your historically accurate portrayal of the Republican Party as the party of civil rights. The other is your judgment that one racist donor should not be held as representative.

The thrust of your comparison of the two parties is somewhat undermined by your omission of some significant history. A slow migration of black people and fair minded whites away from the Republican Party toward the Democrats sped up a bit after the famed Humphrey "Sunshine" speech of 1948 and turned into a tsunami after 1964. The reverse also happened as "racial conservatives" migrated to the GOP. Trent Lott was correct when he boasted that the Party of Lincoln had transformed into a party in which Jefferson Davis would be comfortable.

I have to agree that it is unfair to judge all donors by one wayward example. You may, however, want to consider that the same harsh judgment has been applied by the Republican Party itself a while back in a document that leadership did not expect to become public. I think that internal judgment by the GOP is way too extreme but, in all fairness, the evidence against my feeling, and yours, is stronger than one donor and guilt by association.

Michael A. LaFerrara said...

It’s true that some overtly Democrat racists gravitated to the GOP during the middle of the 20th Century which, along with the Party’s so-called “southern strategy,” undermined the party’s honorable record on civil and individual rights. But it’s also true, I believe, that institutional racism is still strong in the Democrat Party. But it has morphed from overt segregationist racism to a “soft” paternalistic racism—an implicit premise that blacks are inherently incapable of competing and prospering in a free market, thus needing government favors. E.G.; ObamaCare, which is seen as disproportionately aiding blacks and thus justification for the tarring of opponents as racist.

My main point, though, is with states rights, which unfortunately is alive and well in the Republican Party. As long as the GOP clings to that doctrine, even if for otherwise good reasons (like balance of powers), they’ll be open to the kinds of charges leveled against it by the Star-Ledger above.

Thanks for visiting.