While there were many lively moments during Monday night’s Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, there was one that resonated with the residents of South Carolina more than others. With Republican Governor Nikki Haley applauding and nodding in agreement, Texas Governor Rick Perry declared that “South Carolina is at war with this federal government and with this administration.” Three issues have roiled many residents, all of which center around the idea that the federal government has over-stepped its bounds: a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against aerospace manufacturer Boeing; a federal judge’s ruling blocking part of a new law to combat illegal immigration; and the Justice Department blocking a law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification in order to vote.
First, the NLRB lawsuit. Last June, Boeing opened a $750 million plant in Northern Charleston, South Carolina. It was the largest industrial development in the history of the state. South Carolina is a “right to work” state, meaning employers are prohibited from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. Right to work states are anathema to union leaders and their Democratic enablers. Enter the NLRB. They sued Boeing, claiming its effort to move some of its 787 Dreamliner production from Everett, Washington, a union stronghold of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), represented “unfair labor practices.” The NLRB claimed Boeing’s move was a “retaliation” for a series of IAMAW strikes between 1989 and 2008.
The Board cited internal documents demonstrating those intentions, and as well as several news interviews, specifically one by Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, who told the Seattle Times that while Washington State is his “preferred location” for building future airplanes, “we can’t afford to have a work stoppage every three years.” The last strike in 2008 lasted 58 days and cost Boeing $1.8 billion in lost revenue. This was the fourth IAM strike since 1989, and Boeing began to believe that orders for the 787 Dreamliner were being endangered. Remarkably, Boeing noted that “IAM[AW] employment in Puget Sound had increased by approximately 2,000 workers since the decision to expand in South Carolina was made in October 2009.”
On December 11th, the political motivations behind the litigation became clear. The NLRB announced it was dropping the suit at the request of the machinists union in Washington, which had originally asked for the case to be filed. The union “changed its mind”–after they ratified a four-year contract with Boeing complete with hefty raises, additional job security provisions, and a commitment to expand production in that state. A tweet by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) put the case in the proper perspective. “Real damage to U.S. competitiveness already done. Precedent set that NLRB will attack workers and businesses in right-to-work states,” he wrote. Though not directly related to the Boeing case, it should be noted that the president recently made three “recess” appointments to the NLRB despite the fact that the Senate was technically still in session. The National Federation of Independent Business is suing to have the appointments declared unconstitutional.
Eleven days later, responding to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department in October, Judge Richard M. Gergel of Federal District Court in Charleston, S.C. struck down parts of a new immigration law passed by the State Legislature last June. Four sections of the 20 section law were blocked: ”harboring and transporting of unlawfully present persons,” “failure to carry alien registration materials,” “the creation of fraudulent identification documents,” and a directive to state and local law enforcement officials to “determine the immigration status of certain persons encountered in routine traffic stops and other contacts in which there is a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person may be in the United States unlawfully.” Judge Gergel asserted federal supremacy with regard to immigration law. “No credible national sovereign can allow an individual state to embark on an independent immigration policy.”
Perhaps not. But as the people of South Carolina and other states are well aware, the federal government’s efforts to prevent “independent immigration policy” is highly selective. The DOJ has never filed a single lawsuit against any of the numerous “sanctuary cities” around the nation that violate federal immigration law. In fact, after filing a 2010 suit against Arizona for its enactment of an immigration statute similar to South Carolina’s, the Obama administration announced they would not pursue those particular kinds of cases at all. “There is a big difference between a state or locality saying they are not going to use their resources to enforce a federal law, as so-called sanctuary cities have done, and a state passing its own immigration policy that actively interferes with federal law,” said DOJ spokeswoman Tracey Schmaler, at the time.
A development in San Francisco is even more egregious. Beginning June 1, 2012 Sheriff Michael Hennessey will start releasing illegal immigrants arrested for low-level crimes–even if federal officials request that they be held for a deportation hearing. San Francisco’s “sanctuary ordinance” prohibits local officials from assisting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), unless it involves a felony. “It’s an astonishing abuse of his office,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based legal advocacy group currently suing San Francisco over a similar immigration issue. Unfortunately, the same DOJ that has struck down portions of state immigration laws in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Utah is nowhere to be found.
Almost nowhere to be found. Once again in South Carolina, the DOJ blocked that state’s new voter identification law, claiming it discriminates against minority voters. “Although the state has a legitimate interest in preventing voter fraud and safeguarding voter confidence … the state’s submission did not include any evidence or instance of either in-person voter impersonation or any other type of fraud that is not already addressed by the state’s existing voter identification requirement,“ wrote Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez. Mr. Perez further contended the law requiring voters to present one of five forms of photo ID at the polls violated Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act because 8.4 percent of the state’s registered white voters lack photo ID, compared to 10 percent of nonwhite voters.
The Voting Rights act was passed to combat systemic disenfranchisement of minority voters, but applying it here is a dubious exercise at best. In 2005, the DOJ itself approved a Georgia law with the same provisions and protections, and in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that an Indiana law requiring photo ID did not present an undue burden on voters. Furthermore, South Carolina’s law explicitly addresses potential disenfranchisement by offering state-issued IDs free of charge, and free transportation to anyone who needs a ride to a location where a picture ID can be obtained. And if a potential voter lacks a birth certificate, the state will provide a certified copy for $12, either in person, by mail, or by phone for an additional fee of $12.95.
Governor Haley has promised she “will absolutely sue” the DOJ, and on January 10th, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson announced his office will file suit within the next 10 days in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. Suing in DC is aimed at making it easier to get the case before the Supreme Court of the United States, which would then have to consider whether or not it would strike down a law identical to the one it approved for Indiana in 2008.
Buttressing South Carolina’s argument, and undermining progressive claims that voter fraud is virtually non-existent (thus negating the need for picture IDs), was an extensive data review conducted by Department of Motor Vehicles Director Kevin Shwedo into possible voter fraud. “Director Shwedo’s research has revealed evidence that over nine hundred deceased people appear to have ‘voted’ in recent elections in South Carolina,” said Attorney General Wilson who asked for the review. “This is an alarming number, and clearly necessitates an investigation into potential criminal activity. I have asked SLED [State Law Enforcement Division] Chief Keel to review Director Shwedo’s research.”
Unsurprisingly, Attorney General Eric Holder remains determined to stay the course, reiterating the progressive meme that voter ID laws are meant to suppress black turnout. “The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our governance, it is the lifeblood of our democracy. And no force has proved more powerful, or more integral to the success of the great American experiment, than efforts to expand the franchise,” Holder said during a keynote speech in South Carolina on Martin Luther King Day. ”Let me be very, very clear–the arc of American history has bent toward the inclusion, not the exclusion, of more of our fellow citizens in the electoral process. We must ensure that this continues.“ South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was having none of it. ”I signed a bill that would protect the integrity of our voting,” Haley said in a statement welcoming Holder to South Carolina.
In light of these three issues, Rick Perry’s statement was right on the money. The federal government is essentially at war with South Carolina, as well as other states that dare to defy the command-and-control, and possibly unconstitutional, tendencies of this administration. Rick Perry envisions a different future. “When I’m the president of the United States, the states are going to have substantially more rights to take care of their business and not be forced by the EPA, or by the Justice Department for that matter, to do things that are against the will of the people,” he declared on Monday night. Add states’ rights–or a continuing lack thereof–to a long list of issues that will define the 2012 election.
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