Recently, the state of California has done, or threatened to do, some very “radical” things in defiance of the federal government. Pro-Trump Republicans and independent conservatives have predictably wagged a finger at the Golden State of Liberalism, but they ought to reconsider the dynamic that is being played out. What we are witnessing is the liberal left blundering into states rights and federalism, something they will never like to admit. It could, however, portend well for other states that might have the gumption to reawaken devotion to true Constitutionalism.
Consider first California’s new state law on the selling of federal lands to be first offered to the state, rather than to another party. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pontificates from a quote in the Washington Post: “The Constitution empowers the federal government — not state legislatures — to decide when and how federal lands are sold. California was admitted to the Union upon the express condition that it would never interfere with the disposal of federal law. And yet, once again, the California legislature has enacted an extreme state law attempting to frustrate federal policy.”
This is selective reading of the Constitution, something which everyone except a few people, like Ron Paul, falls into. California was also admitted into the union on the premise that the federal government would obey the Constitution. What are we to do when this is violated? What kind of a deal is a contract where only one party must abide by the terms but not the other?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 specifically lists the things that the federal government is entitled to own in regards to land: The District of Columbia, forts, arsenals, magazines, dock-yards and other needful buildings. The existence of national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, battlefields, even cemeteries, ought to have required a Constitutional amendment. Instead, Yellowstone was created in 1872, when states rights were at a nadir in the era of Reconstruction. True, Yellowstone was in federal property at the time, but such designations still would have required an amendment.
The fact that national parks and the like have proven popular should not be confused with “constitutional”. Once a contract is violated, and accepted by both parties, the sky is the limit. Yet, why haven’t the amendments been passed? Because it would demonstrate that the “supreme law of the land” has been held in wanton disregard, and there would be other things that are not quite so popular which would be called into question.
Now, hold on, because I hear a voice that says, “But the Constitution doesn’t say you CAN’T have national parks!” Oh, yes it does, in the 10th Amendment. It fully informs us that the Founding Fathers fully anticipated such arguments and sought to answer them through the misnamed “Bill of Rights”, which, if one reads its preamble, makes it abundantly clear that many states would never have joined the union without first adding additional clarifications and restrictions to federal power. James Madison’s Federalist #45 also confirms this interpretation: that federal powers were “few and defined”, and all other powers were left to the states.
Let us now visit California’s other threat, and that is to defend illegal immigrants in its “sanctuary cities”. This is clearly a violation of federal prerogatives in controlling our borders and sovereignty.
Ah, but it also bespeaks something that few conservatives want to revisit, and that is secession. It clearly has been legal all along. Read the Declaration of Independence in its first breath. The American colonies were seceding from the British Empire, and creating thirteen separate nations, cooperating in self-defense. They had no legal mechanism within British imperial laws. However, they did cite Natural Law, an aspect of humanity that seldom gets any study except in seminaries and theology classes.
I publicly debated the right to secession not too long ago and pointed out that if the Constitution had specifically written a clause that fully confirmed what happened in our War Between the States, not a single state would have joined. It might have read, “No state may voluntarily or unilaterally leave the union without threat of invasion from the general government and the states”. There is no such clause, of course, yet it is precisely what Lincoln did.
In fact, New York, Virginia and Rhode Island laid out a conditional proviso that they could and would leave the union if the promises made in the Constitution were violated. This shocks many people, especially those who worship at the Cult of Lincoln. A supposed genius, Abe was more of the typical political hack than most historians care to admit. He was a “more government” member of the Whig Party for decades, which is what the Republican Party was at in its inception. Like most lawyers, he knew little of Constitutional law, and certainly was selective in citing history.
So, what does this have to do with California’s “sanctuary cities”? Clearly, the federal government is being defied, and in this case, in a legitimate power. If Governor Brown, his
attorney general and the California liberal legislators were honest with themselves, they would admit that they, in fact, don’t like being in the union. When they awake to this fact, the term “Erring Sisters, depart in peace” might have new meaning.
They brag about their state having one of the world’s strongest economies. Before political independence, the economic independence of a state is necessary. And this might explain a lot as to why Alaska’s statehood act has kept us in dwarf status and prevented us from largely making our own economic decisions.
I might not like California’s liberal use of states rights, but I certainly am encouraged by it, because once this cat gets out of the bag, abused western states such as Alaska will call in its chips and demand a proper relationship between the states and the federal tyrants in Washington, a tyranny that exists no matter what party currently controls the federal power.