Feb 07, 2017

The Legacy of the Left

Adapted from Speeches on the House Floor

February 7 and February 15, 2017


Our nation has come to a crossroads between two competing visions of the future – freedom and socialism -- that don’t easily reconcile.  At such times as these, emotions run high.

The good news is that our institutions are the best ever designed to resolve such political disputes, and it comes down to the notion of sovereignty.  In other countries, the government is the sovereign and rights and powers flow from it to the people.  In America, the people are sovereign.  Their rights come from the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” and they loan certain powers to their government to preserve these rights.

In America, the sovereign doesn’t govern.  It hires help to govern during an election.  In-between elections, the sovereign people debate how the hired help is doing.  That’s the real debate: the one that goes on every day wherever Americans gather.   After that family discussion, we decide whether to fire the hired help or keep it for another cycle.

As long as we are TALKING WITH each other and not SHOUTING AT each other, our system works well.   

Once in our history, we stopped talking with each other.  That was the election of 1860. 

That election was marked not by reconciliation, but by rioting in those regions where the opposition dominated.  The opposition party refused to accept the legitimacy of the election itself.  Political leaders pledged resistance to the new administration by any means necessary.  

Even before the 2016 election, we saw violent mobs carrying foreign flags, physically attack Americans for the sole reason that they wanted to attend a political rally for the candidate of their choice.  The violence in Berkeley last week warns us that this behavior is rising. 

We know where that leads.

In fact, one of the most troubling aspects of California’s lurch to the left are the rise of two doctrines unknown in this country since the last gasp of the Southern Confederacy. 

The first is the doctrine of nullification – the notion that states may defy federal laws that their leaders don’t agree with.  The most outspoken advocate of this doctrine was John C. Calhoun, who, in referencing our nation’s most revered document – the Declaration of Independence – said that our nation had been founded on “self-evident lies.” 

The doctrine of nullification has been revived in the sanctuary cities movement, and has now reared its head as state legislation.  Our Constitution clearly gives Congress the sole prerogative to make immigration law and commands the President to faithfully execute those laws.   Our President is now doing so.  The supremacy clause binds the states to those laws.  Yet California’s legislature is actively considering a bill that would assert an independent power to defy them.     

States ought to be jealous guardians of their organic powers and prerogatives against unwarranted encroachments by the federal government.  If a state, in rightfully guarding its powers, believes that a federal law unconstitutionally infringes on those powers, the Constitution provides that the courts shall resolve such disputes.  But asserting the power to nullify a federal law that is clearly within enumerated powers of the Congress and under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, crosses a bright line that no state has breached since the first state seceded in 1861.

This brings us to the second, even more disturbing development in California’s march to the extreme left.

There is no single act which more ultimately and categorically rejects our Constitution, our Country, and all they stand for, than a proposal to secede from the Union that has preserved our liberties for nearly two and a half centuries.  It is logically impossible to support secession and yet maintain loyalty to the Union from which you propose to secede.  Secession is the ultimate act of disloyalty, today no less than during the days of the Confederacy.

And yet in California, a formal secession movement is now circulating petitions for signature to place exactly such a proposal on the ballot.  It should come as no surprise that one of its leading proponents is an American expatriate now living in Russia who declared he “could no longer live under an American flag.”  It should not even come as a surprise that the movement is cheered on by California’s increasingly radical left.

But what came as a stunning surprise is that 32 percent of Californians support this measure according to a recent poll.  Let me repeat that: one in three Californians, according to this poll, want to repudiate our federal union. 

We can only hope that the polling is wrong, or that the disaffected Californians who answered the poll in this fashion did so with reckless abandon that calm reflection will cure.  But it is impossible to avoid the implication that so many people in my afflicted state hold so little loyalty to our country that they would support a measure that willfully rends it asunder.  

In these turbulent times, our greatest strengths are our rule of law, our constitutional institutions, and the loyalty of Americans to their priceless legacy of freedom and justice and the constitutional Union that preserves them. 

In the last four elections, our country has turned dramatically away from the left.  That happened in large part because those who opposed their policies talked with their neighbors about the future of our country and its founding principles.

Instead of pursuing that successful example, the radical left seeks not to persuade their fellow citizens by reason, but rather to impose its views by bullying, insulting, intimidating -- and, as in Berkeley, by physically attacking -- their fellow citizens, and by asserting the poisonous doctrines of nullification and succession.

Our nation’s strength as always been the good judgment and good sense of the American people, and their commitment to peaceful democracy and the rule of law.  What we are seeing from the Left is the extreme opposite, and it must not and will not prevail.

Tom McClintock
McClintock's Blog