Former Rep. Ron Paul became the latest high-profile Republican to stump for trailing gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli, echoing the Virginia state attorney general’s anti-Obamacare campaign messaging by suggesting that some states may want to consider nullification.
“I’ve been working on the assumption that nullification is going to come. It’s going to be a de facto nullification if it’s not legalized. Because pretty soon things are going to get so bad that we’re just going to ignore the feds and live our own lives in our own states,” Paul said Monday to cheers from the election-eve campaign rally crowd in Richmond.
“Why should we grant this authority to a few thugs who want to take over the government to make all our decisions for us?” he added later.
Paul pegged his “nullification” talk to the famous Virginian who’s credited with coining the concept: Thomas Jefferson. But the term has a particular controversial history in the South, having been used by segregationists rejecting federally mandated desegregation during the civil rights movement.
The term was so fraught with meaning that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt the need to bring it up during his famous “I have a dream…” speech.
“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,” he said in 1963.
Paul may be one of the most prominent politicians to consider the nullification track, but he’s certainly not the first. A group of South Carolina Republicans have proposed a bill to make it illegal to enforce parts of the Affordable Care Act in their state.
State Sen. Tom Davis told the Charleston City Paper he’s looking to “thwart implementation of this socialist insurance scheme in our state.” Lawmakers are set to hold public hearings on the legislation this week, although at least one of the Democrat finds the exercise pointless.
“I’m scratching my head as to why we’re having public hearings on this,” State Sen. Thomas McElveen said. “When I got elected I did not go to Columbia with the idea that I was going to be picking and choosing federal legislation that the state doesn’t want to follow.”
Gun-rights supporters have also looked to nullification this year to push back against federal gun laws in states like Alabama and Kansas.
Those bristling at the thought of nullification can console themselves with the reality that Paul’s powers of prediction seem relatively weak at this point. He opened up his stump speech Monday evening insisting that it “sounds like we’re going to have a victory” on Election Day, but the reality seems far darker for Cuccinelli, who is polling behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe and fight[ing] off “unmistakable stench of impending doom,” according to the common political wisdom. Both candidates suffer from relatively high unfavorable ratings in polls, but Cuccinelli has been dogged by his “extremist” label as well, which is why touting the extremist position of nullification wreaks of a last ditch effort to turnout his extreme base.