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Texas — a constitutional crisis, or a recipe against tyranny and invasion?

Keep your eyes on Texas. What we are seeing is a constitutional crisis of the highest order play out in the fight to defend our southern border. It is also the recipe by which our Founders sought to protect against tyranny and invasion.

The Founding Fathers knew their business. They were operating on an inspired level when they drafted the U.S. Constitution and its first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights. Not without some fuss mind you. Debate over the final drafts was heated at times, but in the end, certain inalienable rights were adopted, duly passed, ratified by the Colonies, and enshrined as examples of what can and should be for people to live free.

I should stress here that we are talking about “rights,” Not permissions, not opportunities, not allowances, but rights! Rights are imperatives. They are deemed absolute in nature. Rights are defensible, designed as barriers to tyranny.

Discussion centers most often on the First, Second, and Fourth Amendments – freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, bearing arms, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

But this past week Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave us a heaping helping of the 10th Amendment, the sovereign right of an individual state to preserve the interests of its own citizenry. Abbott has taken a constitutional stand unlike anything we’ve seen in living memory by telling the federal government that if it will not defend the Texas border, then he will do so himself under the authority given to him by the U.S. Constitution.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Why would the Founders spend so much blood and treasure seceding from a monarchial form of government only to pass an amendment designed to give away part of their new powers of governance? It’s a worthy question.

It comes down to the fact that we are a republic, founded upon the concept of federalism. We are a nation in which the people have their say through elected representation, yet we’re also designed not to be one central form of government that holds all power and authority. Power is decentralized and shared with the states. The 10th Amendment is one of our walls against tyranny. In the case of Texas, it is a defense against the tyranny of inactivity that has resulted in invasion. 

Relying upon his sovereign right under the 10th Amendment, Abbott has demanded that the federal government first exercise its own duty under Article IV of the Constitution to defend the borders. In the absence of meaningful action by the Biden administration, Abbott had no choice

but to look to see what options “were not prohibited by it to the states.” In doing so he found Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the Constitution that specifically empowers states to take action when “actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.”

Abbott officially declared a state of emergency based on this invasion at the Texas border. Ensuing now is the largest and most consequential constitutional crisis our nation has faced in living memory.

When the American colonies declared their independence from the British crown, they declared their desire to live freely. Prior to the American Revolution, the colonies had lived at the discretion of the King. When all power and decision-making authority is vested in one place, one branch, one office, the temptation to do all that comes to that person’s mind can prove to be alarmingly overwhelming and create horrific consequences.

A centralized government with no fetters or restraints is the base ingredient for tyranny which the Founding Fathers well knew when they built the framework for the United States. The checks and balances they created were designed so that ultimate power would not wind up vesting itself so deeply in one single form of governance.  

But the Founders also saw a need to make sure that the federal government, sitting from afar in our nation’s capital, could not act, or omit to act, in a way that harmed the outlying states. We cannot have an unrestrained federal government that focuses all its power in one direction to the detriment of all else and all others.

Every state has its own governance and its own sovereign right to make determinations as to what constitutes the necessary protections, health, well-being, and legal standards by which their respective state shall abide. States also have a sovereign duty to protect and defend the interests of their citizens against encroachments.

When you hear that one state’s legislature is passing laws that differ from other states, or a state attorney general is taking legal action against the federal government, or that the governor of Texas is pushing back on federal inability to defend his border, that stance is predicated upon the fact that the 10th Amendment gives those state officials the actual right to do so.

The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing. They had lived through the results of an unchecked imbalance of power, and they knew that devolving power outside of central government was key. A republic, coupled with federalism, mixed with the 10th Amendment and clothed in constitutional authority – that is the recipe for building a wall against tyranny and invasion.

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