And old political concept is experiencing a rebirth of sorts. That is the idea of state sovereignty. The final paragraph of the United States’ Declaration of Independence claims sovereignty for the several states, not for the states as a single union: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America — solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states — and as free and independent states they have the full power — to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to protect the rights of the states. The federal government was intended to be a tool of the states for them to use for coordinated actions, especially the common defense.
We fought and lost one major military war in an effort to preserve the concept of state sovereignty. Now we are in a social and political battle to preserve what few rights the states and the people have left. The battle lines are gradually being drawn around the nation.
Most of the efforts are centered around the tenth amendment which clearly states that the federal government is limited to those powers assigned it by the Constitution and all other powers are reserved for the states or the people.
Numerous states have legislation in progress to declare state sovereignty, although none have passed at this time. Most of these proposed bills have to do with unfunded federal mandates that would require states to spend money for federal governments. A bill currently moving through the Arizona legislature says “That this resolution serves as notice and demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.”
A bill has been introduced into the Georgia House of Representatives (House Resolution 280) that lists a series of causes for state action and concludes: “Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Georgia General Assembly: that the State of Georgia hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.”
Ray McBerry, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, makes this concept the centerpiece of his campaign. He has named his campaign “Georgia First.”
The Libertarian Party of Georgia, which claims to be the third largest of the state’s political parties, has included this in their platform: “We recognize that the federal government often blackmails states with the threat to withhold federal funds when states refuse to enact many types of laws under discussion. We applaud all cases in which the State of Georgia refuses to be so coerced. Further, we urge the State of Georgia to resist such federal blackmail in any and all cases where the result of complicity in such programs would be the undermining of individual rights in Georgia.”
Several new groups centered around the 10th amendment have emerged in Georgia and around the nation. The “Tea Party” movement that drew thousands of protesters on April 15th has had the largest impact so far.
The people of this nation are becoming more and more concerned by efforts to expand the power of the federal government at the expense of state and local authority. It will be interesting to see how this effort impacts the 2010 elections.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is email@example.com. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com/