Can political arrangements be dissolved peacefully? Legally? At the ballot box? By referendum? Or by any other mechanism short of outright violence and civil war?
According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the answer to these questions is no. Speaking in California yesterday on the subject of immigration and sanctuary cities, he issued this remarkable statement that manages to upend the entire concept of federalism in just a few short sentences:
There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the supreme law of the land. I would invite any doubters to go to Gettysburg, or to the tombstones of John C. Calhoun and Abraham Lincoln. This matter has been settled.
In Sessions’s mind, polities are forever. They’re set in stone. The US Constitution established a permanent and supreme federal state — a view totally at odds with that much better document, the Declaration of Independence. The 50 states exist as nothing more than glorified federal counties, able to exert jurisdiction only in those areas not preempted by superior federal law.
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