Thursday, October 27, 2005

Article: The End of Federalism?

Just read an excellent article written by conservative John Eastman entitled, "The End of Federalism?"

The conservative coalition that elected Ronald Reagan in 1980 was always a bit of a three-legged stool. The anti-communist wing, or "Hawks," consisted of strong advocates of national power in the Cold War (and now the war on terror). The "Moral Majority" wing—let's call them "Doves"—wanted to reverse the declining moral trends in society, on issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and religion in public. The pro-business and free enterprise/personal liberty wing of the coalition—"Marketeers"—sought to roll back some of the more onerous government regulations, whether statutory, regulatory, or court-imposed via tort law, that were crippling the nation's economy. The glue that held these disparate groups together was an intellectual movement dedicated to recovering the original understanding of the Constitution—one that recognized the scope of federal power over matters truly national, such as national security, but that sought to revive the limits on federal authority in other areas of daily life, as the Constitution envisioned. The Hawks loved this theoretical formulation, of course, because it kept the national focus on national security. The Doves and Marketeers were comfortable with it, too. The doctrines of strict interpretation, limited government, and federalism promised an end to the judicial activism that had banned school prayer and imposed abortion as the law of the land, and it also meant (theoretically at least) less governmental regulation of the economy.
But now each of these groups finds that its policy goals are best accomplished by controlling and promoting their goals through the federal government - big government conservativism, epitomized by the current Bush administration. The only people left out in the cold are "the glue" of limited government intellectuals, libertarians, federalists, etc. And eventually, without any overarching philosophy or set of policies that everyone agrees on to act as glue, the coalition will fall apart (like the New Deal coalition fell apart in the 70's when white working class males left in droves for various reasons).

Great article from an intellectually honest right winger, a rarity these days.

It also makes me think - perhaps the Democratic party should be the party of federalism? Each state should be able to decide what it wants to do in terms of abortion, gay marriage, guns, etc. The Federal government focus on promoting economic well being and national defense, and would stay out of people's personal lives. Why shouldn't Alabama be able to post the Ten Commandments if 90% of Alabaman's support it? If the tradeoff were strong labor laws, environmental regulation, a living wage, and universal health care, I think a lot of people would take that trade. And we might even make much more headway on issues of gay rights, freedom from FCC censorship, stem cell research, and a host of other social issues.

Just saying.


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