Government & Politics

Restoring Our Republic

Federalism would go a long way to solving our problems.

Arnold Ahlert · Mar. 17, 2016

Reality may be painful, but the first step toward mitigation is to confront the source. If there is anything the current election season has demonstrated beyond a doubt, it is that Americans have irreconcilable differences. The political Left and Right are worlds apart, and it appears that nothing — not even an existential threat to our way of life, be it terror, unrestrained illegal immigration, economic catastrophe or cultural disintegration — will elicit anything resembling a broad-based coalition to address the problem. Thus the nation is at a crossroad during a time when our leaders appear fundamentally incapable of bridging the ideological divide. Yet none of them ask the essential question: Why is it even necessary to do so?

We begin with the source of the division. One sentence from Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural Address says it all: “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” No one is naive enough to advocate the complete elimination of government. Yet there is government and there is big government. The most infuriating government is the sprawling, incompetent, ever-expanding bureaucratic sinkhole that emanates from Washington, DC.

The reason for this condition is simple: Americans have countenanced the evolution of an all-consuming federal leviathan, so removed from the original constraints of the Constitution that it has become unrecognizable.

How unrecognizable? Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution lists exactly 18 “powers” that accrue to the federal government. They include the most practical applications of that power, largely in the interests of maintaining a viable uniformity of national purpose. In other words, it makes far more sense for the feds to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war, maintain a navy, etc., than it would to allow states themselves to undertake such initiatives.

Is there any doubt the federal government has exceeded these restrictions — and the Constitution is nothing less than a treatise on the restrictions of governmental power — by an order of several magnitudes? Is there any doubt that, these days, when most people speak about “government,” it is a virtual assumption they are speaking about the federal government, because we have become so attuned to a top-down, one-size-fits-all mentality fostered over the course of decades?

It wasn’t always that way in America, yet it’s no secret that a huge portion of the nation likes this pernicious evolution because, unlike Ronald Reagan, they do believe government is the solution to all of our problems. Moreover, they have become so determined to continue down this path that they now vilify and/or censor anyone who stands against it.

Any diminution of the federal government’s power is utterly anathema to the American Left, because without the coercive effects of that top-down, one-size-fits-all federal bureaucracy, their power would be severely diminished.

Yet there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. That’s because we are the United States of America — 50 separate constituencies where the locus of most power ought to reside. The states are where people live, work and play, and there is no good reason why people in a conservative state like Utah should be forced by the federal leviathan to live their lives exactly like the people in a leftist state like New York — or vice versa.

Why not return as much power as possible to the states? Certainly the Left would complain, but they have their fiefdoms where their power is virtually absolute. Imagine a nation where California could roll out the welcome mat to illegal aliens and Texas could shut down its border. Imagine abortion restrictions handled on a state-by-state basis. Imagine a 50 state experiment to determine a health care system that actually works, rather than everyone forced to live under the disaster of ObamaCare. Imagine a nation where one could far more clearly measure successes and failures of ideology without the federal government’s thumb on the scale.

The mechanisms are already in place. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” states the Ninth Amendment. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” states the Tenth Amendment.

This is by no means a perfect solution to everything that ails us. There are, by necessity, critical decisions that must be made at the federal level. Yet if more of the power resided in the states, national consensus would be easier to achieve for two reasons: The people’s current sense of powerlessness would be mitigated, and ideas about what works and what doesn’t would be far more obvious.

What would also be far more obvious are the genuine motivations of those who would categorically resist such a re-empowerment of the states and individual Americans. Their lust for unbridled power would be exposed when they make it clear they believe most Americans are incapable of handling Liberty without the coercive guidance that accrues far more perniciously at the federal level. And Americans themselves might re-discover an immutable reality: In the overwhelming majority of cases, effective government operates from the local level upward, not the federal level downward.

We will always be a divided nation. But there are levels of division that are toxic, and levels that are healthy. In a nation of 320 million people, comprised of every ethnic, religious and racial group imaginable, one-size-fits-all is a toxic enterprise. Americans need to seek out political candidates who genuinely champion the restoration of federalism and individual rights. In short, American Liberty.

Click here to show comments

Subscribe! It's Right. It's Free.