I have always been perplexed at how states’ rights are perceived to be exclusively a conservative cause. From my experience, most liberals shun any discussion of the subject, citing slavery and Jim Crow laws as instances where states’ rights have gone wrong. However, I’ve always felt that the Left could gain a lot of political ground through embracing states’ rights. After all, protecting state sovereignty does not necessarily give rise to conservative policy. Take, for instance, our very own State of California. As the Tenth Amendment Center reports, California has taken the forefront of the fight for states’ rights in recent years through embracing progressive policies that contradict federal law– specifically with medical marijuana and stricter environmental regulation. These are two championed causes of the Left which, if it were up to our federal overlords, would not be in the law books today. So, why do liberals continuously neglect states rights, a constitutional provision that is helping their movement?!
Indeed, after reading this excerpt from historian Thomas E. Wood’s excellent book Nullification: How to Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century, I’ve become aware at how perverse their neglect of the subject has become:
For the most part, we are faced with what I call the imperial Left– which, not content to let a hundred flowers bloom, seeks to impose a federally administered uniformity upon states and communities, in defiance of decentralism and localism, to say nothing of the spirit and practice of the original American republic.
“Democracy” seems to be a major buzzword among the Left. Indeed, the word is in the very political party through which most liberals channel their views, the Democratic Party. Pray tell me, what is so democratic about suppressing “decentralism and localism” in favor of “federally administered uniformity”? What is so democratic about neglecting the rights of citizens to make change in their local city or state communities in favor of some bureaucrat doing so 3,000 miles away?
Rather, states’ rights are the very practice of the populist values that the Left preaches. Instead of allowing rich, elitist overlords to rule the masses, states’ rights represent democracy at its core– the ability of the people to become politically engaged and organized to improve their local communities. States’ rights empower the individual, giving him or her a greater voice to cause change. After all, one has a greater chance of being heard at a city council meeting or a state legislature than the United States Congress, which represents over 300 million
special interest groups citizens.
Indeed, the Left’s neglect of states’ rights remind me of the closing scene of George Orwell’s masterpiece Animal Farm, where the champions of democracy, the pigs, end up imitating the very hierarchical rulers they claim to be against, the farmers, by walking on two feet and abusing the livestock. Whereas the Left claims to be champions of democracy, the manifestation of their vision results in the hierarchal structure of an overbearing federal government that suppresses the voice of the People.
States’ rights are viewpoint neutral. Just as conservative policy can be enacted through them, so too can liberal, libertarian, or even communist policy. Indeed, embracing states’ rights would only benefit their cause, giving blue states greater freedom to act as “laboratories of democracy,” as Justice Louis D. Brandeis so elegantly put it, experimenting with legislation that is more fitting to the ideological makeup of their citizenry. Thus, until the Left decides to join the fight for greater empowerment to the individual, the two-party federal gridlock will continue and “change” will remain nothing more than a meaningless slogan for an empty-promised politician.