Dan Itse, the state representative sponsoring the resolution in New Hampshire, explained to the Phoenix how he imagines this would work in practice — using as his example, unsurprisingly, the possibility of Congress enacting a national firearm-licensing system. (This obscure proposal, which is the idea of a single congressman and has no possibility of becoming law, is perhaps the most often cited sovereignty threat among Tenth Amendment Movement supporters.)
If the law was passed, says Itse, the New Hampshire legislature could declare the law unconstitutional, and its enforcement illegal within the state's borders. The Department of Justice would "start sending people into New Hampshire to enforce it," which the state would challenge — perhaps even by arresting federal agents. A federal judge would then likely "issue arrest warrants on the state legislature," says Itse.
"Would that constitute a nullification [of the Constitution]?" asks Itse. "I would say so."
STATES OR THE UNION: Elected officials across the country, including (clockwise from top left) Iowa’s Paul McKinley, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Michael Pitts, and New Hampshire’s Dan Itse, have come out in support of state-sovereignty resolutions denouncing the federal government.
Itse's House Concurrent Resolution 106 is one of the most aggressive of its kind — "walks right up to the door of secession," as one admiring South Carolina state senator put it in a televised interview.
It declares that any act of the US Congress, president, or federal courts "which assumes a power not delegated" to the federal government "shall constitute a nullification of the Constitution." In such an event, it goes on, all powers revert to the individual states, until and unless a brand new federal government is formed, and the states choose to join it.
Itse and his co-sponsors even included several particular examples of acts that would cause nullification. It is an odd and seemingly random list — until one reads, in a press release issued by him and three other state legislators, some of their specific fears.
For example, "involuntary servitude or governmental service of persons under the age of 18," other than a military draft or criminal punishment, refers to Obama's campaign endorsement of mandatory community service for high-school students — "slavery," according to the press release. "Further limitations on freedom of political speech" refers to the supposed re-institution of the Fairness Doctrine.
Remarkably, nearly 90 percent of New Hampshire House Republicans voted in favor of this resolution, calling for dissolution of the United States government in the event that it imposes a community-service requirement on teens.
Democrats, who gained the majority in 2006, were able to defeat the resolution. But Itse intends to try again, with some of the more controversial language removed. He has learned, as Tenth Amendment Movement supporters did back in the early '90s, that they must use vague language to couch their intent.
Thin veneer of respectability
And yet that relatively benign language barely covers a strong, often paranoid anti-government fervor.
This Tenth Amendment Movement is being coordinated by libertarian organizations, such as the Republican Liberty Caucus, Campaign for Liberty, and the Populist Party of America. Also instrumental is the aforementioned John Birch Society, a long controversial conservative group that is now a leading promulgator of one-world-government fear mongering.