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Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Atrios tells us that Federalism is only a "dodge" - a way to get "rid off all that stuff we disagreed about". The American Prospect tells us Federalism is "a real luxury". Matt Yglesias tells us that support for Federalism is "rank political opportunism".

I was under the impression that it was a principle embraced by our Founding Father's and embodied in our Bill of Rights to prevent a central government removing power too far from the people.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

This is a classic example of why even though I oppose most of the Republican agenda (though I do like my two GOP Senators) I cannot identify with the Democrats or the left. A key answer to the problems of this country, including health care and economic problems as well as emotional issues like gay marriage, is to rediscover federalism. Problems are dealt with better closer to home, not by big government bureaucracies in Washington. The GOP talks a better game on that, but when push comes to shove they pressure the states or give the states tasks without funding; it was Reagan after all who fought efforts by states to keep setting their own drinking age. So give me a candidate who advocates REAL federalism, a real transfer of power to the states (the appropriate shifts from federal taxes to state taxes) and I’d very very interested.
Written By: Scott Erb
Oh my. The sun is rising in the East. H#%$ is, as we speak, freezing over.

Scott Erb has said something I completely agree with. May [insert appropiate diety here] help us all.

And by the way, "Grace Under Pressure" and "Power Windows" are two excellent, if underrated, albums. (Note: This is a callback to a thread from a couple of months ago...)
Written By: Warrior Needs Food Badly
URL: http://
I was under the impression that it was a principle embraced by our Founding Father’s and embodied in our Bill of Rights to prevent a central government removing power too far from the people.
That’s because maintaining that silly impression (instead of examining how "federalism" is practiced) is key to keeping at bay the cognitive dissonance engendered by supporting a party that insists on Federal action against gay marriage, is building an ever more intrusive Federal police apparatus, and whose single domestic accomplishment is NoChildLeftBehind, while chanting federalism, federalism.
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
(though I do like my two GOP Senators)
And what a pair of RINO’s you have up there Scott
So give me a candidate who advocates REAL federalism, a real transfer of power to the states (the appropriate shifts from federal taxes to state taxes) and I’d very very interested.
How about we start with something simple like repealing the 17th amendment.
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
I think that progressives view the United States and divided into several subordinate polities at the pleasure of the general government and for its own convenience rather than as a federation of states for their convenience. This isn’t to say that they misunderstand history or the constitution, though someone will surely churlishly assert that they do, but a framing of their thinking. The jurisdictions of the states may be barriers or impediments to the universal implementation of their grand, well intended designs, so they cannot embrace them. They are in a certain, abstract way the inheritors of the Federalist and Whig ideals.

I think that Atrios is correct to call federalism, "a dodge," as a politician could easily use it as another lubricant to aid him in slipping away from an unpleasant question. Atrios no doubt generally thinks of federalism in a manner that I would think and other assert to be wrongheaded and his complaint is far more an suited to be in the cacophony against politicians than it is to be argument against federalism.

Much of it is really a restatement of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, though less eloquently carried out by the progressives playing Lincoln and the conservatives or libertarians playing Douglas. I generally am an advocate of federalism as a means to allow diverse political experimentation, adjustment of policy to local needs, and the constraining of impossible political wars. Were homosexual marriage to be somehow ensconced in federal law or proscribed by constitutional amendment, I cannot conceive that such an act would be passed without a protracted, meaninglessly vicious political war and without the opponents silencing after their defeat for a very long time. While it is not quite an ideal instrument for treating such problems, and it cannot really resolve them, federalism would contain the battles, it would spare the federation some of the bad blood and wasted time while at least allowing some justice to everyone, even if the opinion of what justice is varies wildly.

Federalism may have allowed slavery to survive, but it also allowed those who did not want it to keep it out of their states.
Written By: Paludicola
According to the Brownstein op-ed:

Giuliani says "you can’t be a rigid slave to federalism." Disappointing conservatives, he says he’s inclined to retain the nationwide educational testing requirements Bush imposed (though he would seek greater incentives for private school choice).

Nor would he "absolutely rule out" federal legislation on assault weapons if the state action he prefers proves insufficient. Disappointing liberals, he says he might eventually support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage if too many states approved it, especially through the courts.
The "dodge" is that, like most high-level Republican politicians, he’s trying to appeal to everyone at once by taking internally inconsistent provisions. Giuliani is a federalist so long as it gets him elected. Like Scalia, he’s just faint-hearted; when the chips are down, he’ll exercise the power from DC.

Simple question: If Roe were overturned and the Congress passed a law banning most abortions, would Giuliani veto it? If a bill abolishing DOMA came to his desk, would he veto it?

Answer: given his statements to date and his conduct as one of NY’s most authoritarian mayors, the answer to both questions is no.
Written By: Francis
URL: http://
The reason we should be embracing federalism, is that there are some functions that the Federal government ought not be involved in, and especially that it should stay out of many social issues, except where a states regulation of private affairs is impeding the rights of individuals.

Now, whether this or that politician is actually embracing federalism, or as has happened with the conservative label, merely using it as a rhetorical device or shield, is up for debate.

Consistency of action is the key. You should not automatically transpose a mayor or governors actions into what they would or ought to do as President.

To bad we don’t have an on-the-job training system for politicians, which would go through this is what you can and can’t do, according to the Constitution.
Written By: Keith_Indy
Meagain, I have long thought it would be good to repeal the 17th amendment. I disagree with the term "RINO" for Snowe and Collins. I think they reflect a pragmatic wing of the GOP that at one point was much stronger, but still reflects real Republican values. I was once a Republican and moved away when conservatism and the so called religious right became more ideological than practical, and less libertarian.
Written By: Scott Erb
Scott, The only thing you are is a classical middle manager (ride the fence) attaching yourself to "pragmatic people". You are and always have been left but you want to hedge your bets (for some reason). So you blather on about how those damn Christians forced you away. What a load of stuff. Each party has there fringes, the republican bible thumpers and the democrats hippies and the Klan. Fringe are just that, fringes. Your core beliefs still guide you. After reading your writings I think you can stop with the fained BS "I was a Republican". I think you should say I was a liberal who voted for a Republican (I strayed and I am truly sorry mister dean). I would be interested in why you think your a libertarian? Is it the only way you can stomach the left and still keep peace? Or is it because deep down you just don’t believe the narrative.
Written By: coaster
URL: http://
To bad we don’t have an on-the-job training system for politicians, which would go through this is what you can and can’t do, according to the Constitution.
We do. It’s called the courts. But as of late they don’t seem as interested in keeping the congress and executive in line as informing them of what laws they forgot to pass.
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
key to keeping at bay the cognitive dissonance engendered by supporting a party that insists on Federal action against
The Democrats are worse, and I don’t really have a viable third choice. But I expect you already understand that, and just wanted to take some shots at a guy who settled for the best available option. As if you haven’t.
Written By: Jon Henke
Coaster, where do I begin? I was a state officer for the South Dakota College Republicans in college, went to the 1980 GOP convention in Detroit (met Ted Koppel and Sen. Percy, and was on the floor when Reagan came out to accept his nomination), and worked for Sen. Pressler (R) of South Dakota from 1983-85. I also officially joined the Libertarian party in college, but let it lapse (didn’t pay my dues). My core values are that I don’t like authority, I see politics as inherently presumptuous (though necessary), and (here’s where I break with most on this blog) I’m opposed to militarism and an interventionist foreign policy. I don’t like organized religion, but have personal spiritual beliefs. I’m essentially have a strong sense that we need to understand and try to mitigate human suffering, and need to be kind and understanding. In the late 90s that seemed to me to be more left thinking, but I’ve grown more distrustful of government action (read my last two blog entries, "The Pleasure and Party Dome Solution," about Africa and "Collective Identites" to get a sense at that), and now would label myself pragmatic libertarian. When I took the political compas test I was radically civil libertarian (moreso than just about anyone else I know of who took the test, something like -8.9 out of 10), but slightly left of center on economics.
Written By: Scott Erb

I’d say you are well represented by your Senators.

There is nothing wrong with liberal Republicans...they just anger people to the right the same as Lieberman/Zell angers those to the left.

For me they are as about annoying as religious fundamentalist Republicans.

Federalism is very useful for stuff like Health Care where we need some experimentation to see what works and doesn’t, and if there are some smart compromises out there.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
No, I wanted to take some shots at a guy who wants to pretend that federalism is a bright shiny principle while his party only believes it when convenient. But maybe that’s not that different from settling.
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
"Federalism" refers to the basic structure of dual sovereignty established by the Constitution. The national government and the states are each sovereign within their spheres. The national government, however, is supposed to be a government of enumerated powers, meaning those powers specifically stated and assigned to it in the Constitution. States, on the other hand, are not governments of enumerated powers and have, essentially, the power to do virtually anything that they want except those things specifically denied them by the Constitution and reserved for the national government. And, with the coming of the 14th Amendment and the doctrine of incorporation, the states are not allowed to violate the basic rights of their citizens, as those citizens are also citizens of the United States and protected by the Bill of Rights. (Note that the incorporation doctrine has yet to be applied to the Second Amendment, however.)

There is not, for instance, a prohibition in the Constitution against a state having an established religion. In fact, several states did have established religions, but those were all done away with by the states that had them by the 1820s. Since the mid- to latter-20th century the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment has been rigorously applied to the states by the Supreme Court, right down to not allowing prayer at public school graduation ceremonies.

But most of the law that you encounter is state law. "The states make the law" is a basic theme of law schools. The states make the law because, aside from those areas of lawmaking specifically denied them, they can get into almost anything. The national government (aka the federal government) tries very hard to get around the limits of its enumerated powers through the use of such Constitutional instruments as the commerce clause, which gives it the power to regulate interstate commerce, which the Congress likes to think of in the broadest terms. That abuse, and it is abuse, is the reason why people talk about federalism, even though they might not even understand its full dimension.

The national government is so full of itself these last seventy-five years or more that people are often blinded by its big-ticket items and its fantastic levels of taxation. Social Security, Medicare, FDIC, etc., are an overarching presence in daily life, such that people fail to notice that the states still make most of the law, well upwards of 90% of that which affects daily life — criminal law, family law, real estate law, the law of trusts and estates, and so on.

The issue of "gay marriage" is a particularly vexing one. It’s the work of cultural revolutionists within the legal community who operate out of something called "critical legal theory." "Gay marriage" is only at the top of the agenda of the critical legal theorists, and will hardly be the end of their effort to overturn the meaning of society via those things related to the family.

During the Clinton administration Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act as a limp-wristed attempt to fend off the "full faith and credit" required of the states by the Constitution vis a vis the laws of other states. In other words, a marriage in Massachusetts must be recognized in California, and so on. DOMA attempts to suspend that recognition for "gay marriage," and the truth of the matter is that few Constitutional scholars that I know of think that it will stand a judicial test. So, that is why the federal marriage amendment was proposed, to settle the issue of what marriage is in the United States. Note that it is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution because the national government has no power to write law defining marriage. That is a power inherent to the states. Amending the Constitution is the only way to supercede that implicit state authority. (I support the federal marriage amendment, in case you’re wondering.)

Now, about "federalism" as a guiding political concept of the Republicans. It’s purpose was to limit the federal government by bringing more forceful recognition, legislatively and more importantly, judicially, to the concepts of dual sovereignty, limited and enumerated powers, and the authentic powers of states to chart their own legal course apart from the federal government, in those areas — which are most areas — where the federal government’s power is supposedly excluded.

As a means of limiting government it has failed, and failed miserably. Not only has the federal government grown beyond imagination, so too have the states. The states are no longer mere "laboratories of democracy" as (I think it was) Louis Brandeis called them, they are now in many cases full-fledged Soviets, which is no doubt why the Maine Mosquito has announced that he is a "federalist."

So, when I hear a Republican candidate, like Fred Thompson who I like, spouting on about "federalism," I’m fully aware that he’s aware of what is happening in the states. And you know who really has its claws into the states? (Not like they don’t have them dug deep into the national government via the Democratic Party.) It’s the teachers unions. At least around my area in upstate New York, they virtually dictate how the schools will be run (both with their influence in the state legislature and at the local level negotiating with school boards) and are the real force behind the astronomical level of school taxes being laid on home and property owners. If you are a homeowner in New York you are virtually a serf on your own property, and I do not exaggerate.

So, again, as a way of getting the federal government out of things it shouldn’t be involved in, "federalism" is seventy years late and many trillions of dollars short. But as a means of "empowering" the states to raise their fleecing powers to new heights, "federalism" is a marvel.
Written By: Martin McPhillips

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