Government of the People

The doctrine of states' rights has returned to the American political scene. Leftist and liberal governors have been dusting off the arguments of John C. Calhoun and echoing the speeches of Strom Thurmond in preparation for their defiance of the national government. The battle is being fought on several grounds. In Massachusetts, the fight is over whether a governor can refuse to send his National Guard units to take part in exercises in Central America; in South Carolina and Nevada it is the shipment of hazardous wastes from other states that is at issue.

Conservatives are quick to point out the bad motives of liberal Democrats who can put up with the Sandinistas but are opposed to economic growth and nuclear energy. However, constitutional questions cannot be settled by the argumentum ad hominem, and if we really believe in the arrangements devised by our ancestors in 1787, then we should be willing to swallow hard and allow the peoples of the several states to make their own decisions.

Of course, any discussion of states' rights is bound to be colored by the graphic film images of George Wallace standing in front of the University of Alabama to block the entrance of a black student. The Kennedy brothers very adroitly managed "little George" by calling out his own National Guard units against him. For some reason, Ross Barnet's stand at Ole Miss is forgotten, even though the student there...

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