NOREEN: Tea party's rebel spirit has storied past

July 20, 2010

There is a recession and it’s election season, so there is rebellion in the air.

Economic downturns always encourage radical politics. It’s our history.

In 1932, Republican Herbert Hoover paid the price for the Great Depression, getting his doors blown off by Democrat Franklin Roosevelt. But did you know that Socialist Party candidate Norman Thomas received 884,000 votes that year? That amounted to more than 2 percent.

This year the Tea party is claiming philosophical bloodlines that can be traced directly to the Founding Fathers. Yet with their loud talk about “nullification” — the idea that states can pick and choose which federal laws they’ll obey — the tea partiers have a lot more in common with John C. Calhoun, (see my blog) the raving South Carolinian who came close to tearing the nation apart over unpopular tariffs in 1832.

Calhoun openly discussed secession and although he died years before the Civil War, his ideas and his support for slavery inspired those from his state and others who ultimately seceded from the Union.

Tea partiers are saying states can nullify the health care reform bill, simply ignoring federal law. Led by Jon Caldara of the Golden-based right-wing Independence Institute, they want a statewide ballot measure that would nullify federal health care reform.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers has joined counterparts from other states in a court challenge of the health care bill, and if a court rules it’s unconstitutional, so be it.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, is a favorite with the tea party and said that while he “would love to be one of the governors using nullification,” pursuing the lawsuit is the best course.

“We’re entering a new era of what states’ rights means,” Maes said. “Until we push the envelope we won’t know. We’ll probably win a few and lose some.”

David Kelly of Colorado Springs writes for The Constitutionalist Today, sort of the tea party’s Pravda. Kelly said “the vast majority of tea partiers are nullification supporters.” Kelly said “Colorado is a sovereign nation” that has a right to secede, although he added that secession would only be a “last resort.”

Ya think?

Paraphrasing author Thomas Woods, a tea party hero, Kelly said “the states have the right to nullify anything that is not enumerated in the Constitution.”

By that logic, the southern states were within their rights to secede because slavery was not addressed in the Constitution in 1861. Just last year, Texas Gov. Rick Perry used a tea party rally to recklessly suggest that secession could be an option if the federal government doesn’t shape up.

Ah, yes, rebellion is in the air.

It’s time to bury it in the ground.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio at 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:36 a.m. Fridays and read his blog updates at

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