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You can’t make this stuff up. And if you did, no one would believe it. But it’s true – South Carolina legislators are once again talking about nullification.
It’s no wonder, I guess, given how well that worked out for us last time.
When this nullification stuff first happened in 1850s and 1860s, Charleston Unionist James L. Petigru uttered his famous description of the Palmetto state: “Poor South Carolina, too small for a republic, too large for an insane asylum.”
Where is the James L. Petigru of today, a politician that has the simple courage to stand up and say that what these nullification guys are doing is nuts?
Here’s what has happened to date in our most recent “nullification crisis.” The fact that lots of South Carolina Republicans don’t like President Barack Obama is not exactly news to anyone. What is news is that one of their own, Rep. Kris Crawford of Florence, recently committed the unpardonable political sin of telling the truth in public when he said that his fellow Republicans were trying to nullify Obamacare not because they think it would be bad for our state, but because “it is good politics to oppose the black guy in the White House right now, especially for the Republican Party.”
The black guy in the White House? In 2013? Seriously?
The impetus for Crawford’s comments was a bill introduced by one of Crawford’s Republican colleagues, Rep Bill Chumley. Crumley’s bill and related legislation would nullify the Affordable Care Act and mandate that any federal employee in South Carolina that acted to carry it out would be in felony violation of South Carolina state law.
Yes, you read that right – they want to make doing your job as a federal employee here in South Carolina a felony offense, with legal penalties of a $5,000 fine and five years in prison, or both. That’s nuts.
Not to be outdone in their zeal for “nullifyin’ against the gub’ment,” recently the state Senate actually passed another bill, Senate Bill 92, by a vote of 25 to 15 – a bill to nullify parts of the National Defense Authorization Act.
That’s right; the S.C. Senate is actually challenging the U.S. government on national defense issues. That’s nuts.
And to make a crazy situation even more bizarre, the supposedly “taxpayer-friendly” Republicans recently used one of our state-funded King Air airplanes to fly an out-of-state economics professor to Columbia to testify in support of their crazy legislation.
You’ve really got to wonder whether anyone thought to ask the professor what kind of an ROI the taxpayers of South Carolina could expect on that particular investment.
In the spirit of full disclosure, let me be clear: I understand all about the theory and practice of nullification. John C. Calhoun, the original father of nullification, is part of my family. The Calhouns and Nobles came over to the new world together from Ireland and another relative, South Carolina Gov. Patrick Noble, was Calhoun’s law partner during the original nullification crisis.
Now, some may say that Calhoun and company were nuts when they started all this nullification and secession stuff the first time. I’ll leave it to others to characterize their mental condition. But this I do know: that they did put in motion a chain of events that led to the death of more than 650,000 of their fellow Americans, and untold suffering for the people of our state – suffering that we haven’t fully overcome yet.
Which is why we should all take this nullification talk seriously.
Do I think we’ll have some sort of secession and a second civil war? No. But it has already led to some official votes and, more importantly, no one is calling them out on it.
No one is saying it’s nuts.
Such crazy thinking has led to great suffering in the past. This crazy talk needs to stop, before something bad happens again – something worse than South Carolina again becoming the subject of late night television comedians.
Where is James L. Petigru when we need him now?
Phil Noble is president of the S.C. New Democrats.