Playing the Long Game

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When talking with people about executing a state-based strategy to devolve power away from the federal government, I often run into immediate and vigorous protests.

“Our state legislators are spineless. They will never pass any of your legislation.”

“The state will never risk its federal funding. We can’t stand up to the feds.”

“The party establishments are too entrenched; we can’t get anything done at the state level.”

These, and many other barriers, do indeed stand in the way of effectively utilizing nullification at the state level. But most people take too short of a view and get discouraged. They focus on what cannot be done today and miss the bigger picture – what we can do today to set the stage for what we will do tomorrow.

We have a long war ahead of us, and we won’t win it through one decisive battle or a quickly executed short-game.

The tide in the Pacific during World War II turned in favor of the Allies after the Battle of Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. But the United States still faced a determined Japanese military entrenched across a vast expanse of the Pacific. After its costly victory in the Battle of Midway, the American Pacific command didn’t try to win the war by immediately attacking Japan or its Pacific strongholds, but instead executed an island hopping strategy that bypassed the most heavily fortified Japanese positions. The leapfrogging strategy focused Allied resources on less strongly defended positions that could support a further drive toward the Japanese mainland. The strategy effectively cut off Japanese strongholds like Rabaul, leaving them to “wither on the vine.”

Operation Cartwheel kicked off in the summer of 1943, but the Allies weren’t in a position to actually invade Japan until the fall of Okinawa in June of 1945.

The U.S. and Allied forces used a long-range strategy executed over a two-year period to win the War in the Pacific.

It will take an equally long-range strategy to rein in an out of control federal government.

Americans tend to want instant results. But the U.S. didn’t reach this point in just a few presidential administrations. It took more than 75 years of usurpation to amass $16 trillion in debt, and strip virtually all power and authority away from the states and the people.

State nullification may well be our last hope. But we simply can’t expect every state to immediately stand up and begin pushing back against the federal government.

Some states do currently have a climate conducive to nullification efforts on certain issues. Sources close to the Tenth Amendment Center indicate at least 10 states will seek to nullify the detention provisions written into the National Defense Authorization Act. Currently, at least 17 states will refuse to implement state-run health insurance exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and several states will push legislation to more aggressively block implementation of the national health care program. Eighteen states have legalized medical marijuana, and at least seven other states will consider bills to create medicinal cannabis programs in the upcoming legislative season.

But many state legislatures won’t consider any kind move that could potentially upset the apple cart. They can’t afford to. For example, my home state of Kentucky receives more than $1.50 in federal funding for every dollar collected in federal taxes. We are a welfare state, and Kentucky lawmakers know it.

So, should people in states like Kentucky simply give up and live with the fact that bureaucrats in D.C. will run their lives forevermore?

Of course not!

Like Allied forces in the Pacific during WWII, folks in these states will have to play a long-game, focusing on winning small victories, consolidating positions, then moving on to the next battle.

Start by networking various groups in the state and educating others in the principles of nullification, founding history and state sovereignty.

This can begin to change the general climate in the state and make it more favorable for future activism. Most Americans don’t know what nullification is, much less its rich history. This has to change before we can expect our lawmakers to actively push nullifying legislation.

Target specific unfriendly representatives and senators, and actively campaign to remove them from office.

You say your lawmakers simply won’t consider nullification or state sovereignty related legislation? Your governor kowtows to the feds?

Then replace them.

Support a governor who will stand up for the sovereignty of the state. Start a PAC and raise money for nullification friendly candidates. Again considering Kentucky as an example – a huge number of representatives won new terms without any opposition in the last election. How can we expect lawmakers to consider the will of their constituents when they have no fear of losing their jobs? If you live in a district with an unopposed representative, challenge him or her. Even if you lose, you will inject state sovereignty issues into the debate. At least there will BE a debate.

Build single-issue coalitions.

Not every state features a political climate conducive to nullifying the health care act. But people in those states might just buy into legalization of medical marijuana or nullification of NDAA detention. Some states won’t have the spine to stand up to the TSA, but with economic interests at stake, they might just push back against the EPA. In every state, federal intervention in certain areas raises the ire of the people. Find one or two of those issues and focus on them. Build a coalition and try to get a bill passed in that one area. Working with others on a single issue can build bridges and provide the opportunity to “sell” you principles to people who now consider you an ally.

Finally, don’t be afraid to settle for half a loaf.

Many activists will throw up their hands and quit when they see legislation moving forward that they consider watered down. Obviously, you would love to have a whole loaf of fresh-baked bread. But a few slices of warm, buttered bread taste better than none at all. While a non-binding resolution with no teeth may not seem like a real win, it takes a small piece of ground, it changes the environment and it sets the stage for stronger legislation down the road.

Get the new book today!

You might like to have those criminal penalties for federal agents in your TSA bill. But what have you accomplished if you insist on holding out for that in a political climate that will not allow passage? Perhaps you will find yourself better served getting a non-compliance bill passed. Again, you’ve taken a little ground, changed the political climate and set the stage for a stronger bill.

The battle will prove long and difficult. We have many minds to change. Many barriers to overcome. Many enemies to subdue. But we cannot allow ourselves to become discouraged by the apparent strength of the opposition. We cannot become disheartened when we don’t see immediate results. And we cannot grow weary of doing good.

The Allies won the War in the Pacific one small, insignificant island at a time. It’s up to those of us who love liberty to develop strategies and implement the tactics that will lead to victory in each state. It won’t happen in a day. It won’t happen in a year. It may not even happen in two years. But if we commit to the long game, we can island hop our way to victory.

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu

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