Friday, December 3, 2010

States' Wrongs and Potted Federalism

Found this on the eschaton board this morning:

The Sons of Confederate Veterans plan to hold a $100-per-person "Secession Ball" on Dec. 20 in Charleston's Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. It will feature a play highlighting key moments from the signing of South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession 150 years ago, an act that severed the state's ties to the Union and put the nation on the path to the Civil War.

Jeff Antley, who is organizing the event, said the Secession Ball honors the men who stood up for their rights. "To say that we are commemorating and celebrating the signers of the ordinance and the act of South Carolina going that route is an accurate statement," Antley said. "The secession movement in South Carolina was a demonstration of freedom."

---First, any definition of freedom centering on the freedom to own slaves is despicable and should be instantly dismissed. Now, consider 'states' rights'.

Roger Taney's opinion in Dred Scott v Sandford, in the name of states' rights, denied even the possibility of citizenship to freed slaves, denied the ability of states to ban slavery and refuse to cooperate in it, and allowed roving bands to enter free states and, contrary to those states' laws, forcibly kidnap escaped slaves and return them to bondage. Hardly, seems to me, a straightforward application of federalism. And so, throughout history, 'states' rights' arguments have consistently been in the service of racism. When Reagan endorsed 'states' rights' in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were murdered, everyone understood exactly what he was saying. Today, libertarians such as Rand Paul view acquiescence in denial of civil rights as potentially in the service of freedom. Some even call for repeal of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Meanwhile, folk on the right oft call for Congress to pass 'tort reform', preempting long-standing state authority. They call for federal preemption of states' rights to limit and regulate insurance companies. They violate, and applaud violations of, the clear constitutional authority of states to regulate elections. Medical marijuana, assisted suicide, gay marriage, other social issues. it's almost as if, were one seeking consistency in their positions, one would have to look elsewhere than in high-minded application of what they think the Federalist Papers have to say on the subject.


Ruth said...

In southern politics, code words are they key, and as you note; "states' rights" means the right to refuse equality, or rights, to those you don't want in your world. Now, "constitutional" also refers to depriving other folks of their rights. Growing right wing media dominance insures that there will be no responsibility suffered for their crimes by the wingnuts, sad to say. No need to hide their intent.

ProfWombat said...

'Constitutional' is a matter of interpretation, whether or not the fact's conceded. Just as Ayn Rand's 'objectivism' fails before the incommensurability of human needs, desires, rights and perceptions, so, too, does the right's dogmatic assertion to sole ownership of legitimate constitutional interpretation fail.

Code words are all over national as well as southern politics, of course: 'law and order', 'election fraud' and others. And, just as 'class warfare' can only be used in American political discourse to describe the exactions of the undeserving poor on the downtrodden rich, so, too, 'racism' and 'sexism' are mostly confined to blacks and women as actors rather than as victims, and gay folk are looking for 'special rights'. Tough being a rich white guy these days, ain't it? And Reagan, damn his black heart, was about nothing if not about confirming people in their greed, bigotry, and dehumanizing others.