Sunday, January 26, 2014

Brad DeLong on the ACA and Massive Resistance

Brad DeLong makes an interesting analogy between state level resistance to the ACA and Massive Resistance here. It's interesting to see this (a couple days old, but I've got a backlog), considering I just started reading Harry Byrd and the Changing Face of Virginia Politics: 1945-1966 today. Of course the same issues of nullification or its equivalent are in play. Nullification is a funny thing. It's an extra-constitutional attempt to arbitrate constitutional questions that is usually invoked against another extra-constitutional attempt to arbitrate constitutional questions (i.e., judicial review). The only difference (and it's the critical difference), of course being that the people consider the latter entirely legitimate and the former illegitimate.

And the people here are quite relevant to how these things often play out.

Why did Massive Resistance end? What was it that kicked gravel in the gears of the Byrd machine?

The people, of course. Thousands of Virginians did not like having their schools held hostage to the ideology of these oligarchs (and perhaps "oligarchs" is not always appropriate today, but it certainly was in the 50s). People - regular Virginians - lost authority over their government when the General Assembly revoked the Arlington County School Board's status as a body of elected officials when it tried to integrate. in accordance with the Court's ruling.

Pretty soon people realized that their leaders were fighting for their own ideology and the people were losing their education and their votes in the process.

And I think it's likely that that is how this will end.

Federalism allows a diversity in how big a role government plays in our lives, and that's fine. People genuinely disagree on that and they try out different things. But what the people usually don't like is being held hostage so that politicians can have a talking point, particularly after multiple branches of government have spoken on the issue.

I could be wrong. Perhaps that's not how the people will view it in this case. But nullification is often an ideological last-ditch effort, and people generally don't like to get a raw deal for the sake of a last-ditch ideological effort.

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