Diary

The left rediscover federalism

From The Boston Globe:

Liberals are reconsidering federalism in the wake of Trump

By Renée Loth | Boston Globe Columnist | January 09, 2017

With all of official Washington in the grip of Republicans, and an autocratic — not to say imperial — figure in the White House, many liberals are taking a second look at the 10th Amendment. That’s the one where all power not explicitly granted to the federal government by the US Constitution devolves to the states. “Progressive federalism,” a term that once might have been considered an oxymoron, is coming into vogue as worried Americans look to the states to protect their rights or to resist President-elect Donald Trump’s more despotic policy proposals.

Already, states are preparing rearguard actions against executive overreach. California has declared that it will remain committed to the Paris climate accords even if Trump, as threatened, pulls the United States out of the global agreement. Just last week the California state legislature hired former attorney general Eric Holder to help craft legal strategies to thwart the Trump agenda. A number of cities have pledged to continue protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation roundups despite Trump’s threats to cut off their federal funding. “The states are where it’s at,” says Carol Rose, director of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. “We are the safe havens of democracy.”

It’s ironic that progressives find themselves looking for decentralized solutions to overweening power in Washington. Federalism, and its coarser cousin “states’ rights,” have long carried a noxious whiff of bigotry because of Southern-state resistance to civil rights and the abolition of slavery. And, since at least the 1960s and President Johnson’s Great Society, liberals have looked to Washington for broad safety-net protections, and to the Supreme Court to confer an ever-widening circle of liberties. Small-government federalists, by contrast, have often pushed local control as a cover for retrograde policies on civil rights and social welfare, including deep budget cuts masquerading as “block grants.”

Conservatives are calling out the new fair-weather federalists as hypocrites, with snarky comments about liberals finding their inner Jeffersonian now that big government has gotten scary. But Massachusetts, at least, has walked the federalist walk, with pioneering “laboratory of democracy” experiments in same-sex marriage and universal health care that eventually became national law, just as the Jeffersonians intended.

There’s more at the original, but if the left are becoming inclement-weather federalists, a term I find more reasonable given what they see as ominous storm clouds over Washington, I am happy to see them as federalists, regardless of how they got here. We just need to make sure federalism stays in vogue after the 45th President leaves office.¹

Naturally, the very liberal Mrs Loth has to get in some shots at conservatives, both in the quoted section above and the remainder of the column, but I care little for her scorn, as long as it leads the left to a more federalist stance. She can despise those of us in flyover country all she wishes, an attitude which helped elect Donald Trump, as long as the left cannot impose liberal policies on those of us who do not share their views.

Will the Pyrite State stick with the Paris climate accords even if the incoming President withdraws the outgoing President’s signature? Businesses have been fleeing over-taxed and over-regulated California for greener pastures for some time now, and if the Democrats governing the state of my birth don’t care if the people remaining have jobs, why should I? If the Bay State’s taxpayers want to pony up more and more money to support Syrian refugees and illegal immigrants, as long as they aren’t sticking their hands in my pockets, that’s fine with me.
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¹ – As it happens, I’ve been rereading William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and I just finished Chapter 7, “The Nazification of Germany,” describing how the Nazis eliminated the power of the various German states, concentrating all decision-taking in Berlin. The policies of the American left might be different, but the tactic of concentrating more and more power in the federal government has been the same.
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Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.