Rep. Ron Paul Argues States Can Ignore Constitution By Nullifying Federal Laws

ThinkProgress filed this report from the NICHE Homeschool Day in Des Moines, IA.

One of the most powerful lines in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech was his call for racial unity even in Alabama, a state with “its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification.” Indeed, following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, nearly every southern congressman signed the “Southern Manifesto,” which asserted that states were free to ignore federal laws and directives. Now, 48 years later, the unconstitutional idea that states can invalidate federal laws which they don’t like is making a comeback in conservative circles.

This week, the nullification camp, led by right-wing historian Thomas Woods, got a boost from a sitting congressman: Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Speaking at an Iowa homeschool event, Paul told the crowd that “in principle, nullification is proper and moral and constitutional.” “That is why,” Paul declared, “I am a strong endorser of the nullification movement, that states like this should just nullify these laws”:

PAUL: The chances of us getting things changed around soon through the legislative process is not all the good. And that is why I am a strong endorser of the nullification movement, that states like this should just nullify these laws. And in principle, nullification is proper and moral and constitutional, which I believe it is, there is no reason in the world why this country can’t look at the process of, say, not only should we not belong to the United Nations, the United Nations comes down hard on us, telling us what we should do to our families and family values, education and medical care and gun rights and environmentalism. Let’s nullify what the UN tries to tell us to do as well.

Watch it:

Despite Paul’s insistence that nullification is proper and constitutional, Article 6 of the Constitution clearly states that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land…anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” That’s why one of our founding fathers, James Madison, argued that nullification would “speedily put an end to the Union itself” by allowing federal laws to be freely ignored by states.


ThinkProgress legal expert Ian Millhiser noted that nullification isn’t just blatantly unconstitutional, it’s “nothing less than a plan to remove the word ‘United’ from the United States of America.”