First, consider Hendrik Hertzberg's piece in The New Yorker on a "Kompletely Krazy Kocktail of militia-minded moonshine and wacko white lightning" passed by the Georgia legislature. The measure expresses this heavily-Republican body's desire to nullify certain pesky provisions of the US Constitution. "Really," wows Hertzberg, "you can’t make this stuff up."
You have to read it in full to believe it. Even then you can’t believe it. You thought that “nullification” had been rendered inoperative by the Civil War? Well, think again. You considered secession a pre-Appomattox kind of thing? Well, reconsider. You assumed that John C. Calhoun was a dead parrot? Well, turns out he was only resting.
The resolution is written in a mock eighteenth-century style, ornate and pompous. Just two of its twenty sentences account for more than 1,200 of its 2,200 words. But the substance is even nuttier than the style. ...
Now of course what the Georgia GOPers are actually fussing about is our new only-half-Caucasian President and his effectiveness at fulfilling his campaign promises. He makes them Krazy.
Well, the next news was that one of my favorite bloggers, Washington Monthly's hilzoy -- a naturally-studious sort, given that she's (a) a philosophy professor, (b) daughter of former Harvard president Derek Bok, and (c) granddaughter of Nobelists Gunnar and Alva Myrdal -- found Hertzberg's article on the loony legislation worthy of further investigation.
And she discovered that the resolution's eighteenth-century style isn't "mock" at all: it's a rip-off of Thomas Jefferson's Resolutions Related To The Alien And Sedition Acts:
This matters for the following reason. Jefferson wrote his Resolutions in 1798. At that time, it was still an open question how the Constitution was to be enforced, and, in particular, how the federal government was to be kept within its limits. In 1803, the Supreme Court decided Marbury v. Madison, which answered that question by holding that federal courts had the power to determine whether or not federal laws were constitutional. ...
It matters when you write something. The Articles of Confederation were not ideal, but when they were written, they were a real solution to a real problem. Proposing them now would be idiotic. Likewise, what makes the Georgia resolution a Kompletely Krazy Kocktail is that it parrots Jefferson's words as though we had not arrived at a solution to that problem nearly two centuries ago. But we have, and acting as though that solution does not exist, or as though it does not make state nullification both superfluous and a recipe for lawlessness, is absurd.
Please, those of you who sometimes suspect that Sir Oswald Mosley might fit comfortably into the contemporary USofA, read these two pieces (as well as the comment thread on hilzoy's post). Certain states' legislatures or governors notwithstanding, we're not all barking mad. Honest.