On Monday, Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for President at Liberty University. In the wake of that address in which Cruz used the term “imagine” over 40 times, Ezra Klein of Vox asked readers to “imagine Ted Cruz as President.”
Back in July 2013, I did just that. Here, then, is a look back at “The Great Nullification Crisis of 2017.”
For most Americans now living, those long-ago events were as unthinkable as they were forgotten. In Little Rock, Arkansas (1957), Oxford, Mississippi (1962), and Tuscaloosa, Alabama (1963), Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy dispatched federal troops to enforce the law of the land in the face of local segregationist officials proclaiming "states' rights" as their rallying cry.
And yet, little more than two generations later, a new, even more shocking nullification crisis exploded across the United States. In places like Burlington, Vermont, and Boulder, Colorado, in Concord, Massachusetts, and Concord, California, and in Portland, Oregon, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, American troops were deployed to stamp out the nascent rebellion of American citizens and renegade state politicians protesting Washington's violations of their most basic notions of reproductive rights, personal privacy and tax fairness. This is the story of the failed civil uprising and taxpayer revolt that constituted the Great Nullification Crisis of 2017.
Brief but bloody, the simmering federal-state conflict that boiled over that hot summer began with the previous fall's election of Republican President Ted Cruz and Vice President Susana Martinez. But its real roots lay in 18 states' passage of the Vote Integrity for Legitimate Elections (VILE) Act by the spring of 2016. As the New York Times described the legislation which swept Republican (and mostly southern) state houses between 2013 and 2015:
Made possible by the Roberts' Court 2013 Shelby County ruling, VILE bills have rapidly proliferated in the states formerly subject to Department of Justice pre-clearance. The most draconian voting legislation since the era of Jim Crow, VILE requires voters to present photo identification cards, cards which can often only be obtained in limited locations statewide and with the presentation of a driver's license or birth certificate.
Other provisions of the Vote Integrity for Legitimate Elections Acts limit early voting and ban weekend voting altogether. Absentee ballots must be delivered in person by each voter him or herself. And while outlawing same-day registration, VILE also imposes a $10,000 fine and jail time on civic groups and partisan organizations for each voter registered in error.
Experts like Rosanne Parks of the League of Women Voters worry that voter registration and turnout "will plummet" as a result, especially among minorities and the poor. For them, Parks warned, "Legal remedies in federal courts will come too late. The damage will already be done."
Which is exactly what happened. Despite losing the popular vote by over 1.5 million ballots to Democrats Martin O'Malley and Brian Schweitzer, the Republican ticket of freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and two-term New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez captured the Electoral College by a 291 to 247 margin. Gaining 11 points among Hispanics compared to Mitt Romney's dismal 2012 performance certainly helped. But it was the dramatically reduced turnout by African-American, Latino and lower income voters that enabled Cruz to carry Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. An estimated two million Americans were kept from the polls in those states alone. (Democrats called their absence "vote suppression"; Republicans called it "disinterest.")
More about President Cruz and the spring of 2017 below the fold.