Whatever you are doing right now, let us all take a moment to thank Mike Huckabee for reminding us of the moral blindness that results from partisan thinking.
The former governor of Arkansas, sometime presidential aspirant and frequent commentator on Fox News suggested that President Donald Trump take a page from President Andrew Jackson, and just ignore court rulings that he doesn't like. Trump recently was blocked for a second time in an attempt to block Muslims from entering the country, by a federal judge in Honolulu. Jackson was told he couldn't relocate American Indians.
Huckabee tweeted from his official account on March 15. "'I'll ignore it
and let the court enforce their order.'”
Huckabee appears to refer to Worcester v. Georgia, an 1832 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established the legal foundations of tribal sovereignty of the American Indian peoples within the United States and ruled that they were not subject to state laws.
Among other things, this ruling served as a legal reprimand for
the Jackson administration, which had been
removing American Indians from the Southeast for two years.
by an appetite for land to support the cotton industry, white
settlers had been pushing into Indian territory in Georgia and
creating increased conflict. Since 1830, the Jackson administration had been moving the
Indians from the state to federal territory in modern Oklahoma.
Even after the court's ruling, which upheld the Indians' claim to
their lands over Georgia's, Jackson refused to halt the relocation
efforts. By 1840, the Creek, Choctaw, Seminole and Chickasaw nations
all had been removed from lands east of the Mississippi under the Indian
Relocation Act, on a death march that today we call the Trail of
Indians taken to their new lands often faced extreme weather, hunger
and overcrowding that let disease cut through them like a sickle cuts through grain. Reports vary, but anywhere from 2,500 to 6,000 people died along the way. By 1837, the U.S.
government had removed 46,000 Indians from the Southeast to claim about 25 million acres for predominantly white settlement.
That's Jackson's legacy, and like the incarceration of Japanese Americans under Roosevelt, it's not one any president, or former presidential candidate, should want to emulate.
Like Trump – and like Huckabee and other supporters of the
president's ban on Muslim immigration, Jackson framed his actions as
a matter of national security. Even more unbelievably, in a speech
before Congress, Jackson framed forced relocation as the solution that
would benefit the affected Indians.
Per the National Archives and Records Administration: "It
will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of
whites; free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue
happiness in their own way and under their own rude institutions;
will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers,
and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the
Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off
their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and
From the vantage point of 180 years later, we look back on Jackson
and his actions with horror. The Trail of Tears was an act of
genocide, and we should regard Jackson's decision to ignore the
Supreme Court not as an act of courage or integrity, but as one of
arrogance and cruelty.
This is what Huckabee hails as the example that the Trump administration should follow as he tries to restrict travel to our country by a group of people based solely on their religion — including Syrian refugees who already have endured a two-year vetting process.
Rather than accusing the court
of judicial activism or overreach, Huckabee should stop and be grateful that the framers
instituted a system of checks and balances so that each of our
branches of government can keep the others from going off the rails.
Sometimes the courts do get things wrong — the Dred Scott,
Plessy v. Ferguson and Citizens United decisions all spring to mind,
among others — but a decision that opposes naked bigotry is not one
of those times.
Right now, it's the rule of law, and the rulings of our courts, that are
keeping us from being complicit in another Trail of Tears.
Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.