The following post is excerpted from the script for Nullify: Season 1. Watch all the videos from this series at this link – and Become a member here to support the TAC.
Defeating federal acts with state-level resistance is like a chess match. An aggressive attack might be exciting, but slow, steady, and strategic usually wins the game.
Some people say all states need to do to stop the feds is “arrest the federal criminals.” They want to see states pass nullification laws declaring a particular federal act unconstitutional, and imposing felony charges on any federal agent that violates the state law.
Precedent does exist for states arresting federal agents who break state law in the course of enforcing federal acts. We know of at least three cases involving the arrest of federal marshals trying to round up fugitive slaves in northern states during the mid-1800s. Vermont even passed a law making fugitive slave rendition a kidnapping offense. But despite these bold actions, we’ve never found a record of any state successfully prosecuting a federal agent for simply enforcing a federal act.
Expecting states to successfully arrest and prosecute federal agents is just like a full-frontal attack in a game of chess. But anybody who knows the game recognizes that the most aggressive moves are often the most reckless ones, especially if the opponent has more firepower than you do.
On top of that, in the current political climate, there’s no indication that any state legislature in the country is willing to pass such a bill, no indication that any governor would sign such a bill, and no indication that state and local law enforcement would actually put such a bill into effect.
Sometimes, it’s better strategy to lure your opponent into a trap. When they overextend, it’s far easier to bring them down.
The federal government has overextended in many areas, and states can pull the rug out from under it without an ok corral-style standoff.