One of the most radical offshoots of modern conservatism in the United States is called “tentherism,” which invokes the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment to claim that a whole host of federal government powers are illegitimate, from the operations of the Social Security program to the national highway system, and that states are supreme.
During a speech at the Oceanside Tea Party rally in recent months, Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce (R) took this philosophy to a new extreme. In the speech, where he denounced the federal government’s efforts to stop the implementation of the state’s radical anti-immigrant law, Pearce claimed that Americans aren’t even citizens of the United States, that they are rather citizens of “sovereign states,” meaning that we should be loyal to the laws of individual states rather than the federal government:
PEARCE: U.S. history, most of us weren’t around when the Constitution was written. But you remember we kind of existed before Congress, the states. We created the Congress, we created the federal government, by compact. Do you know what existed before the Congress, the states? Do you know, you’re not a citizen of the United States. You’re a citizen of a sovereign state. The fifty sovereign states makes up United States of America, we’re citizens of those sovereign states. It is not a delegated authority. It’s an inherent authority that states have over the federal government. [applause] It’s about time somebody gets it right!
It’s ironic that Pearce says that it’s “time somebody gets its right” with respect to the Constitution — because he doesn’t. While it may not need to be said that Americans are, of course, citizens of the United States, if the Arizona state senator is confused about this issue he could always reference the very document he cites. The 14th Amendment of the constitution lays out very plainly that all people born in the United States are citizens of the United States:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
And if Pearce actually read the Constitution, he would also see that it clearly trumps state law and “shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby.” This isn’t the first time Pearce has flirted with secessionist tendencies. Earlier this year, he sponsored a measure that would essentially nullify federal laws that Arizona state lawmakers disagreed with, amounting to a radical assault on our rule of law.