We’re all trying to make sense of the wreck in Congress that cost $22 billion and achieved nothing. We tend to think of the destructive Tea Party as an aberration–a minority within a minority. But Frank Rich this week reminded me of one of the most important Creative Competencies in Creative Intelligence–the power of Framing and Reframing.
Nullifying The Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress, the Supreme Court and the reelection of President Obama by a strong majority of the popular vote, was the first and most important reason for the Tea Party shutting down the government and threatening international debt default. But this policy of nullifying laws started with the Nullifier Party in South Carolina in the 1830’s, The Nullifier Party said that federal laws should not be enforced inside South Carolina–a forerunner of State Rights laws that proclaimed the same thing. In the 1830’s, the South tried to stop a tariff that protected Northern industries and raised the price of imports into the south. Today, it is the South and West that objects to extending Medicaid to the poor and mandating people buy health insurance.
Nuffliers put into place Jim Crow voting laws at the end of the Civil War that nullified the right to vote for ex-slaves. Today, Nullifiers are doing the same with new Voter ID laws in the South and West.
Nullifiers are also nullifying the law that gives women the right to have an abortion. It may be the law of the land but it is being gradually eroded in conservative states everywhere.
During the last government shutdown in 1994, Nullifiers tried to nullify the election of Bill Clinton. These past two weeks, Nullifiers tried to nullify the election of Barack Obama.
Not accepting the will of the majority goes deep in American politics. It runs along ancient social, cultural and political fault lines that cleaved in the Civil War and have never been repaired.
Reframing the Tea Party as the Nullifier Party gives us the context and meaning to understand just what happen in Washington over the past two weeks. It shows us that negotiation and compromise is impossible. Like the Civil War, nullifiers have to defeated.