Weekly Obsession: Mae Beavers vs. 'Marbury v. Madison'

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 10:05pm

As the Republicans in the Tennessee legislature continued their refresher course in failed political theories of the 19th century, it was only a matter of time before they got around to trying nullification.

Sen. Mae Beavers played the part of John C. Calhoun, sponsoring a bill that would make it a felony for federal agents to enforce federal gun law in Tennessee.

In support of the idea that Tennessee could negate federal laws it deems unconstitutional, Beavers brought in an expert on this arcane legal theory. Identifying this expert is impossible, as she refused to give her real name, instead using her “nom de guerre” (her words) of Publius-Huldah. “Publius” was the pseudonym of the authors of The Federalist Papers, itself a reference to Roman consul Publius Valerius Publicola, who was instrumental in setting up the Roman Republic. Huldah was a prophetess who told the people of Jerusalem that God would bring evil upon them for not following the law.

Heavy stuff.

In any case, Publius-Huldah’s nullification theory is based on a reading of the 10th Amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Publius-Huldah argues that because nullification isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, then it follows, in fact, that it is one of these powers the states have.

Unfortunately for her, dozens of legal precedents disagree with this reading, though that probably doesn’t concern her, or Beavers, as the senator recently declared the Supreme Court a dictatorship built on a series of legal opinions stretching back to the original sin of Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review. This is the American equivalent to the clutch of traditionalist Catholics who argue there hasn’t been a legitimate pope since the Second Vatican Council because, in their view, Vatican II was illegitimate.

Let’s all accept for a moment that this theory actually holds water. It would logically extend that some of these powers of nullification extend beyond the scope of the states and to the hands of the people, right? In that case, what’s to stop a half-dozen people getting together to nullify the nullification? And then another four or five to get together and nullify the nullification of the nullification?

Pretty soon it’s pure chaos, with urban chickens allowed in some council districts but not in others. What lunacy!

It’s surprising, with the fetishism of the individual of the Republican Party, that this a la carte approach to law hasn’t caught on as the GOP continues its gross mutation of conservatism from a philosophy trumpeting stable society into one that instead delights in individual triumph at society’s expense and to its eventual demise.

Fortunately, the nullification bill withered in committee, death by deadlock, killed in a 4-4 vote as Beavers and her witnesses were treated with barely contained disdain by Judiciary Committee chairman (and attorney) Brian Kelsey, who capped off the hearing by saying to Publius-Huldah, “You’re very interesting,” much as one would comment upon seeing a man wearing a three-piece suit made entirely of Kraft Singles wrappers.

Having waded through secession and nullification, with bated breath a state wonders which 150-year-old misadventure the GOP will take us on next.

10 Comments on this post:

By: yogiman on 3/6/13 at 6:31

If the federal government has the power to rule over the state governments, why do we need state Governments?

By: yogiman on 3/6/13 at 7:21

If the federal government believes the common citizens should have their backgrounds checked before they can buy or sell a gun, they should set a prime example.

So, Mr. President, let's start with you. You set a prime example of how you think we common citizens should be checked. OK?

P.S. We've been waiting over four years. Don't make us wait too long.

By: courier37027 on 3/6/13 at 8:07

Yogiman, a third level of government allows federal, state and local entities to collect more taxes. Taxpayers are told a program won't cost anything to the state since federal tax dollars are used--which same funds originated from taxpayers. Blame game, shell game, thining we get something for nothing: where this makes sense only in a bureaucracy.

By: i.am.a.taxpayer on 3/6/13 at 8:19

Even though she is not an attorney, she should know the basics of civics and government. This is not only a waste of time but also an embarassment by showing the ignorance of some of the elected officials.

Is there some kind of list of the laws passed by the Tennessee General Assembly that were later held invalid or unconstitutional? That would be hilarious reading.

There should be some kind of required basic knowledge before serving in elected office. A legitimate difference of opinion is one thing, but to suggest something so blatantly unconstitutional is just stupid.

By: yogiman on 3/6/13 at 9:31

Then, i.am.a.taxpayer,

That would mean all of our legislators would be lawyers. Is that what you want, or wouldn't someone with more common sense be better to represent us?

When they are all required to be a lawyer, we become their servants to do as they say, not as we want.

Consider: For over 2 centuries, how many laws have been presented in the federal, state, county and local branches of government. How many of them have been presented by someone who wasn't a lawyer?

For 'legal' wording, the common citizen in their branch of government can get a lawyer to write it for them to make it "look pretty".

And let's face it, not all laws are passed when presented by a lawyer. All laws are "supposed" to be passed only for the benefit of all the people.

By: pswindle on 3/6/13 at 1:03

Mae has gone over the edge. A little power is a dangerous thing. How does this type of person keep getting elected? Remember, when we had sane people running our government.

By: yogiman on 3/6/13 at 3:43

Yeah, pswindle, we used to have sane people running our country. That was before Barry took over our government. We now have insane people supporting Barry.

Why do I say insane? Because they are so willing to support someone when they don't even know who in the hell he is.

By: Ingleweird on 3/6/13 at 4:33

Insane? Takes one to know one. I know I'm feeding a troll, but:

Why in hell shouldn't lawyers become lawmakers? Lawyers, while perhaps not the most charming or affable individuals, are probably the best qualified to pursue lawmaking. That is to say, a good lawyer possesses a strong sense of detail and understanding of legal history. If a law is worded poorly, or contradicts an established precedent, that law will be nullified by a court. Ultimately, the result is lost time and money, while perhaps ironically, much of that lost money enriches lawyers! Religious whackos and the civically-ignorant have zero business in drafting legislation, if they are too damn stupid to realize this.

By: yogiman on 3/6/13 at 5:46

Do a little "checkback", Ingleweird. I believe you'll find the common citizens in our legislature come up with the ideas and a lawyer writes it out for them.

That's kind of like a 'shoeshine' boy shinning your shoes. But its hell when they don't like your idea and only shine one shoe.

By: makesense on 3/15/13 at 6:32

"P.S. We've been waiting over four years. Don't make us wait too long."

So you must be a birther....figures...

Also, our representatives are not coming up with these ideas. Most of them are coming from the fringe groups like ALEC and they just cut and paste for our state...
Beavers, Carr, Campfield, Curry, Holt...we have a bunch of loonies in office. Hopefully not for long.