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The American Left Discovers Its Inner George Wallace

Irwin M. Stelzer

Who would have imagined that it would come to this? Leftish activists are campaigning to have the Confederate flag removed from statehouses, statutes of southern statesmen removed from campuses and public spaces, and the names of campus buildings changed to remove any they deem racist. These very same campaigners, or at least their leaders, are finding time to demand that their cities and states interpose their authority between the federal government and the people of their city or state.

The word hypocrisy fails to do their work the dishonor it deserves. The doctrine of interposition, born in 1798, was the work of none other than James Madison, author of the Virginia Resolution. For obvious reasons, the theory appealed to Southern states eager to preserve the institution of slavery. The Supreme Court ruled against attempts at interposition in a series of cases in the early 19th century, and again in the 1950s when Southerners attempted to rely on it to support continued school segregation. And yet again in 2012 when the state of Arizona attempted to rely on a modern variant to assert its authority over immigration policy.

The left is attempting to breathe life into the slave-owning and segregationist groups’ interposition doctrine. Shades of Little Rock, where President Eisenhower nationalized the entire 10,000-man National Guard to prevent Gov. Orval Faubus from using it to interpose his will between the federal government’s mandate to desegregate its schools and his state. And of Gov. George Wallace, another Democrat, who planted himself in a schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama in a show of preventing enforcement of federal writ, only to have President Kennedy do to him what Eisenhower had done to Faubus, and prove that federal law trumps “states’ rights”.

Our liberal governors and mayors are in the tradition of their Democratic predecessors in Arkansas and Alabama. They have interposed themselves between the federal government and their sanctuary states and cities, ordering their police to refuse to allow federal agents do fulfill a federal mandate to remove illegal aliens, especially felons, from the country. If statues could smile, those being removed from public places would be grinning from marble ear to marble ear at the resurrection of their legal theory. Ike was famous for his grin, Jack for his cool. But both understood a challenge to federal authority when they saw it, and didn’t hesitate to use the threat of force to face down challenges to that authority. Your move, Donald.

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