Like most people. I usually spend some time over the New Years holiday reflecting back and looking ahead. I’ve been doing that this morning and I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.
First I just want to wish you a happy New Year! I hope 2018 is good to you.
I also want to say thank you for being here! Our members are the lifeblood of TAC, and you are appreciated far more than you realize. Your support keeps us going – not just through your financial contribution, but by your encouragement, sharing our work and generally being awesome people!
Last week, I got a chance to spend some time with Dave Benner. You’ve probably read some of his work on the website. Dave has an amazing grasp of American history and has been an important part of the TAC team over the last few years. Anyway, we were talking about how nullification has become much more mainstream. When I first started working for the TAC seven years ago, we were generally either maligned or ignored. Nullification was derided as unconstitutional, unworkable, “extreme,” and probably racist. Today, the mainstream generally accepts the validity of our nullification efforts, even if they disagree with how we apply them to various issues.
I think two shifts in our approach have really helped us push our work into the mainstream.
First, we focused on the anti-commandeering doctrine. Instead of pushing a strategy that relies on direct confrontation of federal power, we’ve used James Madison’s blueprint and advocated for a refusal to cooperate with officers of the union. By simply withdrawing state, local and individual support, we can take on most federal programs and laws. Why? Because the feds depend on state, local and individual support to do pretty much everything they do. They don’t have the resources or personnel to do it themselves. Not only is non-cooperation effective, it’s Supreme Court approved. That means we can sidestep arguments about the legality of the approach and simply focus on the issues.
And that leads to the second shift. Instead of trying to get the mainstream to buy in on a total program of constitutional fidelity, we target various issues and build coalitions. Sadly, it’s hard to find principled people who want to follow the Constitution every issue, every time, no exceptions, no excuses in modern American. But we can find plenty of people who want to limit surveillance, stop federal gun control, end Obamacare or legalize hemp. So we work with those people, taking a constitutional approach to nullify in practice federal actions in those spheres.
The beauty of this approach is two-fold.
One – it’s effective because we can mobilize a large group of people around each issue.
Two – it exposes these people more generally to constitutional originalism. Over time, we’ve seen a lot of people who started off working with us as single-issue activists evolve into principled constitutionalists. The issues serve as a kind of “foot-in-the-door.”
So, as Dave and I were talking about the other day, the TAC really has come a long long way in our reach and effectiveness over the last several years. And we’re looking forward to taking things another big step forward in 2018!
Happy New Year!