According to Chris Matthews, the fact that racists have during the history of the nation invoked the rights of the states to perpetuate slavery or segregation immediately renders all proponents of states' rights -- a pillar of federalism and the American Constitution -- racist.
While Matthews and his Hardball guests on Tuesday cited names like Jim Crow and John Calhoun and compared them to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Deborah Medina, Perry's libertarian-leaning opponent in the upcoming GOP primary, the names of the nation's founders -- who were ardent advocates of states' rights -- were conspicuously absent.
Matthews claimed to give his viewers a lesson in the meanings of "interposition" and "nullification" as they relate to the rights of the states and the Constitution. But he didn't say what they meant.
He just read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. mentioning those terms as they related to the civil rights movement (video below the fold - h/t Liz Blaine of NewsReal).
These are fighting words before civil rights. Here it is, from his “I Have a Dream” speech. Oh, there it is—quote—I know we have rights to read—here it is: “Down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words interposition and nullification. One day down"—so, there he is talking about it.
I‘m not going to read the whole thing. But there he is. Wait. Oh, I have to read the whole thing. “We will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls.”
This whole thing—and that‘s a “I Have a Dream” today. I‘m reading the whole thing.
OK. The point, though, was the interposition and nullification, are the words of Jim Crow.
Matthews was so busy equating racism and federalism, he neglected to mention that "interposition" and "nullification" were also the words of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The two terms refer to the abilities of the states to ignore or nullify, respectively, laws passed by the federal government if they are deemed unconstitutional.
The use of a quote from King rather than from, say, one of the two monumental figures who devised the two concepts and issued their initial justifications was plainly an attempt to tie Perry, Medina, and conservative Texas Republicans to racists rather than the nations Founders.
Matthews's guests picked up where he left off, and continued to characterize the entire notion of states' rights as tantamount to bigotry. Dallas Morning News writer Wayne Slater added, with a notable touch of restraint,
I think you—you have to watch—when I watch Rick Perry on the stump talk about the 10th Amendment and say states‘ rights, states‘ rights, states‘ rights, and the crowd cheers, it kind of gives you a shiver, because that phrase is obviously freighted from the civil rights movement with some rather negative aspects…
Look, these people who cheer this are not all racists. I think this is not—but to suggest—to ignore the racial aspect of this, the nativist, racial aspect of this, I think, is to ignore the reality of the success and appeal of this pitch to a conservative Republican primary voting constituency.
Could it be, perhaps, that it's the words of the Founders that appeal to this constituency? Of course Matthews and his guests did not even mention Madison or Jefferson, their advocacy of these two terms, or the notion that Texans -- Perry and Medina among them -- are advocating First Principles, not racism.
Perhaps Virginia's move to counteract ObamaCare's individual mandate has Matthews spooked. For whatever reason, he and his guests certainly seemed bent on telling his viewers one side of the story: states' rights advocates are racists. Ask Martin Luther King, just don't the nation's Founders.