(Bill Saracino, California Political Review) – Somewhere, George Wallace is smiling. George Corley Wallace, four-time governor of Alabama and three-time presidential candidate was an early proponent of the logic that powers today’s “sanctuary” movement on behalf of criminals hiding in our cities.
First elected governor in 1963, Wallace shared the belief of today’s “sanctuary” supporters that states, counties and cities ought to be able to pick and choose which federal laws they would obey. Like many prominent Democrats at the time, he was also an abject racist, so his objection was not to immigration laws but civil rights laws. The principle, however, is exactly the same.
For his first swearing in as governor, Wallace took the oath of office standing on the gold star marking the spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America. In his inaugural speech, Wallace said: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Millions of Democrats stood up and cheered, just as they do today when Wallace’s intellectual heirs proclaim “illegal immigration now, illegal immigration tomorrow, illegal immigration forever.”
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy ordered the U.S. Army’s 2nd Infantry Division from Ft. Benning, Georgia to help enforce the racial integration of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In a vain attempt to halt the enrollment of two black students Wallace stood in front of the main entrance doors at the University on June 11, 1963 to block their access. Millions of Democrats supported Wallace’s actions, just as they do today when his philosophical progeny stand in the entrance doors of jails across the country to prevent violent criminal illegal aliens from being turned over to ICE.
Wallace was following in the footsteps of another prominent racist Democrat, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. In September 1957 Faubus became the symbol of Democrat racism when he used Arkansas National Guardsmen to block the enrollment of nine black students who had been ordered by a federal judge to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower finally ordered federal troops to Little Rock to ensure the judge’s order was obeyed and to protect the students. Millions of Democrats were thrilled by Faubus’ actions, just as they are today when Faubus’ ideological scions seek to use local police and sheriffs to block enforcement of immigration law.
Both Faubus and Wallace were following in the footsteps of yet another racist Democrat, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who founded the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was founded largely as a means of fighting Republicans – specifically President Andrew Johnson’s attempt to have all federal laws, including the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution uniformly enforced throughout the country. Like today’s “sanctuary” proponents, the Klan wanted to be able to decide for themselves which laws to obey.
The point here isn’t that most Democrats are racists, though throughout our history most prominent racists have been Democrats. The point is that these racist Democrats used as justification exactly, precisely, sometimes word for word the same logic that their spiritual heirs use today in justifying “sanctuary” cities.
At its heart, the “sanctuary” credo says that if there is a Federal law we don’t like, we ought to be able to ignore it with impunity, with no threat of punishment from the Federal government. This anarchistic idea has appeared before in American politics and is known as the “nullification doctrine”, the ability to nullify laws not to our pleasing.
It surfaced in 1832 when South Carolina decided it could nullify trade tariffs enacted by Congress. It threatened to use its state militia to stop federal agents from collecting tariffs at its ports. In defense of the rule of law President Andrew Jackson stood his ground, threatening to send Federal troops to South Carolina and go there “to personally hang for treason” anyone guilty of armed resistance. The South Carolinians may not have seen the light but they did feel the heat. The crisis was resolved when Congress passed a slightly modified tariff with Jackson’s support.
Old Hickory’s official proclamation in reaction to South Carolina’s threat is remarkably relevant today. He said that South Carolina’s stance “is founded on the strange position that any one State may not only declare an act of Congress void, but prohibit its execution – that they may do this consistently with the Constitution – that the true construction of that instrument permits a State to retain its place in the Union, and yet be bound by no other of its laws than those it may choose to consider as constitutional … to give the right of resisting laws of that description, coupled with the uncontrolled right to decide what laws deserve that character, is to give the power of resisting all laws.” (emphasis added).
If “sanctuary” proponents can pick and choose laws to disobey, ipso facto every other citizen has the same right. What do the liberals recommend the federal government do when Topeka declares itself a sanctuary city for the unborn and bans abortion? Or Bakersfield declares itself a sanctuary city for bazookas and rocket-propelled grenades while refusing to enforce federal firearms law? Or Minot declares itself a sanctuary city for traditional marriage and refuses to recognize or allow any other marriages? Our liberals can’t have it both ways (sauce for the goose and all that), so their answer has to be “nothing.”
As much as I’d enjoy having a couple of rocket propelled grenades in my basement, “nothing” is not an answer that makes any sense. But if you enjoy watching heads explode ask a liberal the above questions regarding Topeka, Bakersfield and Minot. Ask them if they realize the vile, racist history of their philosophical position. Best do it quickly though. I am confident the Supreme Court will agree with Presidents Jackson and Trump that the position of our “sanctuary” proponents is indeed “strange.”
In the meantime, somewhere George Wallace is smiling.
Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of California Political Review.
Column originally published at California Political Review.