Tag Archives: 10th Amendment

Pandemic turns traditional political dogma upside down

Do you want another goofy example of how political norms can be twisted beyond all recognition?

Consider this: Conservatives for decades have been fond of relying on the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as an argument against ham-handed federal intervention. The amendment reads: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Got that? Good!

These days, though, we hear progressives/liberals holding up the 10th Amendment against what they determine to be Donald Trump’s ham-handedness in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

You see, Trump declared that as president he has “sole authority” to order state governors to relax restrictions they have placed on residents of their states. I should point out that Trump has reneged a bit on that bodacious assertion. Still, it’s out there.

The reality, though, is quite different as explained in the10th Amendment. The president has no authority over health issues per se. That authority rests in state capitols. Trump, though, believes he can just tell the governors what to do and that they are obligated to do what he says.

Oh, no.

Governors, mostly Democrats among them, are quick to remind Trump that he was elected “president” and not anointed “king” in 2016. Therefore, he is restricted by the Constitution’s clearly written limits on executive power.

Yes, the Donald Trump Era has changed many once-staid political norms. It’s how he fashioned the presidency once he took office. He’s fine with ruffling it all up, or so he implies.

Except that the U.S. Constitution is a document that shouldn’t be trifled with. The founders got it mostly right when they drafted it in the late 18th century. Yes, they’ve done some tinkering with it over the many years since the nation’s founding.

The 10th Amendment, though, is written with as much clarity as any of those amendments that spell out our Bill of Rights. The only difference these days is the change in those who support and those who oppose its message.

Gov. Abbott needs to defend Texas

I know what I am about to ask will be tantamount to waiting for hell to freeze over, but it’s worth asking anyway.

When are you going to challenge Donald Trump’s profound ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and defend for your own executive authority as governor of one of our 50 United States?

There the president was on Monday, proclaiming that he has “absolute authority” to order states to relax their own governor’s executive orders issued in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump declared that he makes the call as president of the United States, that he can dictate when the country can get back to business as usual.

Meanwhile, some governors — almost all of them Democrats — have begun to push back on that. Chief among them is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has emerged as the real political superstar in this drama while he deals with the death and illness brought to his state by the pandemic. Cuomo reminded Trump that he is an “elected president” and is not a king.

Oh, and where is Abbott? The Republican governor is silent … so far. Good grief. He knows better than to accept Donald Trump’s ridiculous assertion of “absolute authority.” Abbott took an oath to defend the Constitution when he became governor in 2015. Indeed, he is lawyer, a former trial judge in Houston, a former Texas Supreme Court justice and a former Texas attorney general. He knows the law.

Federal law — along with the 10th Amendment to the Constitution — do not allow the president to intercede in such a ham-handed fashion.

Abbott is planning to release his own directive later this week on how he intends to proceed with possible relaxation of stay at home guidelines for Texans. Trump in effect has declared that Abbott’s pending announcement is irrelevant, that the president can exert whatever authority he deems fit to force states to follow his bidding.

He does not have that authority.

Gov. Abbott needs to make that fact abundantly clear to the ignoramus who is posing as president of the United States.

10th vs. 14th amendments in gay marriage hearing

The U.S. Supreme Court is going to decide the fate of same-sex marriage in the United States.

Good luck, justices.

At issue are two questions: Whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry and whether states must recognize same-sex marriages that take place out-of-state. The case will decide the fates of same-sex marriage bans in Tennessee, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio.


Here is where I believe the case should turn: Which amendment to the U.S. Constitution has more sway in deciding this matter, the 10th or the 14th?

The 10th is the final amendment outlining the Bill of Rights. It says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserves to the states respectively, or to the people.”

That’s pretty clear, yes? It means the states have power not reserved by the Constitution for the federal government.

OK, then came the 14th Amendment, ratified not long after the Civil War. It’s much lengthier and covers a lot of issues relating to rights of citizenship. But at the end of Section 1, it states that no state “shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Granted, the nine men and women of the nation’s highest court know a lot more about the law and the Constitution than I do, but my reading of the issue at hand is pretty clear. I believe the 14th Amendment trumps the 10th.

The issue as I see it is whether gay couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples. The Constitution, as federal judges have been ruling already, says they do. The Constitution lays out clearly that citizens shall not be deprived of “equal protection.” If that language in the 14th Amendment didn’t exist, I suppose you could argue that states — such as Texas — have the legal standing to ban same-sex marriage.

I do believe, though, that the language contained within the 14th Amendment makes it impossible for states to enact laws that override the Constitution.

There well may be some nuance that I’m missing. If it’s buried deep inside the language of the nation’s founding document, I’m sure the justices will find it.

I just don’t see how they can look past the clear and explicit language contained in the equal protection clause.


What about the 'Three Rs' in South Carolina?

South Carolina legislators want to teach public school students there a lesson about the Constitution. They want also to require teachers spend three weeks each school year teaching students about the Second Amendment, the one that deals with gun ownership.

Three weeks on one amendment to the nation’s founding document?

And it’s the one dealing with guns?

What kind of craziness is occurring over yonder in the Palmetto State?


Take a look at this: “As Ian Millhiser at Think Progress points out, that’s an enormous chunk of the school year, especially given that some South Carolina schools devote just two weeks to slavery and a week and a half to World War II.”

OK, that comes from Mother Jones, a publication not exactly friendly to the issues favored by the National Rifle Association. But Millhiser makes a good point about educational priorities.

Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has an A+ NRA rating. Both legislative chambers are controlled by Republicans. Of course, the Second Amendment is arguably the favorite amendment among the GOP, right along with the 10th, which lays out powers that states can assume when they aren’t covered by the federal government.

South Carolina’s public school students don’t need to be required to study one amendment — even if it’s the one that allows Americans to “keep and bear arms.”

That’s more important than the that guarantees free speech and freedom of religion? Or the one that guarantees all citizens “equal protection” under federal law?

As Mother Jones reports: “‘Even amongst a conservative constituency in South Carolina, I think they can rate that they have more abiding problems than this,’ says Dave Woodard, a political science professor at Clemson University who’s long served as a political consultant to Republican candidates in South Carolina.

“‘Most people are more concerned with math and science, and the fact that historically, South Carolina’s rankings in education have been abysmal. Nobody, I think, would say ‘The best way to improve education is to have a three-week segment on the Second Amendment. Boy, that’ll move us up in the national rankings!'”

The idea is nutty.


AG picks fight with Texas

Well, that’s a big surprise. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government is suing Texas to make sure the state follows federal civil-rights law – and Texas Republicans go ballistic, saying the feds are picking on the Lone Star State.

Someone has to be singled out, yes? If not Texas, then which state feels the heat? Mississippi? Alabama? Georgia?


Holder has asked a court to require Texas to obtain “pre-clearance” before enacting any state laws governing Texans’ voting rights. It seems Texas is one of those states with some history of denying certain folks full access to voting rights based on their race or ethnicity. The U.S. Supreme Court decided earlier this year that the federal requirement is no longer necessary and has left these decisions up to the states.

The AG says that’s not good enough.

Thus, the Justice Department is taking action to ensure that Texas complies right off the top.

I applaud the attorney general for seeking to guarantee that the rights of full citizenship for all Americans – even those who live in Texas – are protected under federal law.

The Hill said this in reporting the story:

“White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the move, saying ‘the goal of the administration… is to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans.’  

‘“That includes protecting the voting rights of all Americans who are eligible to vote – that’s the goal here,’ Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One. ‘I would assume that that would be a goal that would also be supported by congressional Republicans. We’ll see.’”

Members of the state’s congressional delegation, dominated of course by Republicans, see it differently.

“My belief is (the) Voting Rights Act and those laws ought to be applied equally across states, and not played for political games, which is exactly what I see happening here,” U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady said. “Eric Holder (is) just singling us out – just skipped through the alphabet and happened to land on Texas.”

Something tells me the Justice Department doesn’t really care what Texas Republicans – given their intense antipathy toward the president and his administration – think of its voting-rights policy.