Less than a year after erasing the impact of Thomas Jefferson’s political ideas from the state’s textbooks, Texas conservatives suddenly have a hard on for Thomas Jefferson.
Last March, the Texas Board of Education decided to toss out and demphasize pesky references to The Enlightenment and the revolutionary ideas it spawned. They decided to promote thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin over the Founding Father and third President. The board had chosen to embrace religious teachings over those of Jefferson, the man who coined the phrase “separation between church and state.”
According to USA Today, the board also voted to strike the word “democratic” from references to the U.S. form of government, replacing it with the term “constitutional republic.” Texas textbooks will contain references to “laws of nature and nature’s God” in passages that discuss major political ideas.
While conservatives were so busy trying to water down the separation between church and state, they apparently overlooked some of Jefferson’s writings arguing against the expansion of federal power. In 1799, Jefferson wrote in the Kentucky Resolutions that “nullification … is the rightful remedy.” Jefferson created the doctrine to express his disgust with the Alien and Sedition Acts that were enacted by then-President John Adams during the war with France. Jefferson theorized that states have the ultimate say in constitutional matters.
His beliefs on nullification were nothing more than his opinions — there’s no such mention in the Constitution, said David Gray Adler, a constitutional scholar who directs the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research. “There’s nothing in the Constitution to suggest that the states are superior to the federal government.” Plus there’s over 180 years of Supreme Court decisions that make the nullification theory a moot point.
But that’s not stopping GOP lawmakers in Texas, Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Idaho and Wyoming who are trying to make hay with nullification. They believe it can stop health care reform and other laws they don’t agree with that come out of Washington D.C. Their efforts are completely unconstitutional in the eyes of most legal scholars because the U.S. Constitution deems federal laws “the supreme law of the land.”