Twice in our country’s history, a collection of states, mostly from the South, have felt so strongly about an issue, that they have fought against its citizens, other states, and even the federal government itself.
The first time was in 1860 when, after the election of Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina felt so strongly about the federal government’s inability to rein in the northern states and the laws of those states proclaiming that a slave who made it to their borders would be considered free. South Carolina felt so enraged by this defiance of the U.S. Constitution, that they declared their intent to secede from the Union. Because of their twin beliefs of slavery and that the U.S. Constitution trumps state sovereignty, South Carolina and ten other states broke away from the United States to form the Confederate States of America.
For this, the U.S. Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 resulting in the death of over 779,000 Americans (number taken from page 141 of The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2010).
The second occurrence happened in the 1950s and 1960s when Southern states felt so strongly about state sovereignty when it came to the issue of racially integrating schools, that they defied the federal government.
In 1956, members of Congress published the “Southern Manifesto” from Southern states calling for massive resistance against Brown v Board the Education, the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that called for the integration of schools.
In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the National Guard to block nine African-American students from attending Central High School in Little Rock. It took President Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to send in federal troops and to federalize the Arkansas National Guard before the students could attend the school.
In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace defied federal authorities in not allowing the desegregation of the University of Alabama. When President John Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard, Wallace stepped aside and two African-American students were allowed to attend.
One rebellion by Southern states caused the U.S. Civil War and the other rebellion helped pass the sweeping civil rights legislation of its era by showing the horrible conditions African-Americans had to endure.
The time is again coming when a collection of states is throwing its weight behind an issue that will put itself in direct confrontation with the federal government.
The issue this third go-around is over health care and pending legislation in Congress that would require all individuals to purchase health insurance. The Virginia Senate passed a bill by a margin of 23 to 17 that would make it illegal to require people to buy health insurance..
According to the Associated Press, lawmakers in 35 states are considering legislation or amendments to their state constitutions that would reject the individual mandate.
If Congress passes legislation with an individual mandate and states pass laws in direct defiance, only time will tell if the coming civil war will result in bloodshed, sweeping court rulings and legislation, both, or neither.
The irony in this dust-up is that while the conservative blogosphere is manning the ramparts with the idea that the individual mandate is unconstitutional (like here and here and here and here), National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” aired a story on February 15 showing that the concept of the individual mandate was invented by a conservative health economist, Mark Pauly.