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When Federalism Fumbles the Ball

What are we to do when our government refuses to perform its constitutional obligation?

Some would argue, and argue effectively, that the revolutionary concept that spawned America’s independence was not freedom but federalism. It is through federalism that the United States has truly achieved long lasting freedom. It is federalism that has kept absolute power, and subsequently absolute tyranny, away from any one particular person or body. The system of checks and balances and separation of powers has forced Congress, the presidency and the courts to a level of accountability not seen in human history.

But what many people do not realize about federalism is that it creates a working relationship between the national government and those of the states. In concept, it is a two way street. It is not, as some would assume a top down process, where the federal government reigns supreme. On the contrary, federalism was designed to create responsibilities and barriers between the two governments.

Perhaps a history lesson will put this into perspective. As most people know, the Constitution that we currently live under is not the first for the United States. The Articles of Confederation served as the union’s first constitution until 1788, when it was replaced by the current document. A Confederacy is a loose association of independent states, the governments of which wield more power than that of the national government. A modern example of a Confederacy would be the European Union. The EU does not claim sovereignty over its member nations. French law is still (or should be) the supreme law of the land in France. The same goes for the United Kingdom and the other members of the EU.

However in the summer of 1787, it was obvious that the Articles of Confederation were simply too weak to keep the fledgling nation together and free. If one races through a history book, one might get the impression that the Constitution was an easy sell – it was not. From its signing on September 17, 1787, the newly created Constitution underwent scrutiny from 13 states fresh off of a protracted and bloody war against their mother country, mainly to loose its self from the oppression of a tyrant. To ratify a new governing document that would take many of their freedoms away from the state level and consolidate them in a new, stronger federal government was not the objective of many who had fought for the cause of freedom.

The proponents of the Constitution, mainly through the Federalist Papers, eventually convinced all 13 states that their new government would not be one that ruled from the top down, but rather would be a symbiotic partner with all states in the union, creating many universal freedoms, but also leaving the lion share of the decision-making to the states.

This is what federalism is. Through the expressed, denied and implied powers of the Constitution of the United States, obligations of law are separated, shared and commissioned to the respective levels of government for the proper governing of its people.

But what happens when one of those governments – state or federal – is not living up to those obligations? We are quite used to (unfortunately so) the federal government superseding state’s obligations when it feels that said state has not lived up to its task. This is a disturbing trend in and of itself but now we are faced with the opposite. What are states to do when it is obvious that the federal government will not, for one reason or another, fulfill its constitutional obligations?

States like Arizona, Georgia and Alabama have recently answered that question, particularly when it comes to the subject of immigration. In the Constitution is the federal government’s responsibility to create laws of uniformity in regards to immigration. However, it is obvious that our federal government, like so many other issues, has decided to kick the can down the road in regards to the issue of illegal immigration from our southern border. For well over 30 years, this has been an issue for these border states and now it has become one of security for the people of those states.

The current violence on the border of Texas and Arizona has once again brought the problem of a porous border to the forefront. When those states become so overwhelmed with the criminal and financial burden placed upon them due to the negligence of the federal government, what constitutional recourse do they have? States, like the ones mentioned above, have been forced to take matters into their own hands, passing laws that simply require the enforcement of federal statutes that are already on the books.

There is a concept in our country known as the doctrine of nullification. Basically, this says that the states do not have to go along with federal policy or law that they believe is a violation of their constitutional rights. Currently, there are 26 states, that are using the doctrine of notification to declare President Obama’s healthcare plan unconstitutional, citing that healthcare should be a state’s rights issue, as per the 10th amendment. But how does a state nullify negligence? Such is the burden of a country that is slowly allowed its federal government to usurp power from the states and centralize it in Washington DC over the past 100 years.

They say that all politics are local, yet the slow, decades long march towards socialism has created a society that looks to the Potomac for all of the answers to its problems. As Ronald Reagan said, “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem”.

The solution, of course, is and will be up for debate for a long time. But one thing is for sure – we got ourselves into this mess over a long period of time and it will not remedy itself overnight. The constant vigilant watch and occasional call to arms is the responsibility of every well educated individual who sees and understands what our founding fathers and framers intended for our great country. Rugged individualism, localized control and the understanding that the old adage is indeed old but true – absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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  1. Max says:

    Very well written piece. The constitution was not an easy sell, for the very fears we are enduring today: An all powerful federal government… one that arbitrarily decides which laws it will uphold, and which laws it will ignore, and then goes after those states who take it upon themselves to enforce the federal laws that the federal government ignores. If that isn’t the definition of insanity, I don’t know what is. But I can tell you this… If the immigration battle being waged between the federal government and the state of Arizona were outlined in the Federalist Papers… federalism would have failed outright.

    The truth is, federalism today isn’t the federalism that was ratified in the constitution. When the federal government is allowed to abuse it’s power (not authority, as it has none) and it goes unchecked, we all lose. One example (of millions) was the (now repealed) nation-wide 55 mph speed law, in which the federal government threatened to withhold federal highway funds from states if they didn’t comply. That is federalism? Much like obamacare… that is federalism?

    From a position of national debt. Our federal government owes this debt, and by default of U.S. citizenship, that debt is immorally placed on all U.S. citizens to pay. With the downward trend of the U.S. economy being what it is, the amount we owe will explode in terms of hyperinflation and the bankrupt condition of the worlds “poorest” government.

    Washington D.C. has already killed off the American Dream. The term “strategic default” has government-made leeches living in homes for free, and it won’t be long before our system collapses. Again, tying this back to federalism… our system of laws, unequally applied, ignored at will, with a growing “poor” population, is pulling this nation down to gutter level. Heck… living on the sidewalk will be a “step-up” in a few short years.

  2. Ryan Craig says:

    You missed one key aspect of Federalism: When all else fails and you cannot get things changed at the local/state level, you can vote with your feet. It’s something we’ve seen recently with people, mainly the productive people, leaving high-tax states and moving to places like Texas.

  3. WillofLa says:

    I’ve been listening to Mark Levin for a little over ten years and during that time many things have happened to our government, and many things has Mark got the American people to do to our government to try and get it to move in a certain direction, mainly to the right. But during all that time it’s only been here since Obama has been elected that people who have called in have asked Mark what and how to have these representatives arrested and charged with derelection of duty and/or a violation of the Constitution. They would want to know how to have these people arrested and jailed. Mark agree’s but comes right back and says, “Then what?”. The people react with all signs of normalsy and say, “What do you mean, what then, you lock them up and throw away the key that’s what.” But then Mark says how are you going to try them, and then there’s a very short exchange with the callers as to what would be needed to get things done. Mark’s all over them while they are back paddling as fast as they can. The point is where are you going to find a judge who would risk his career to take the case.

    Yeah, you could try them all, and yeah they all need to go to prison for the rest of their lives for violation of the Constitution, their oath of office, their violation of their oath to protect and obey the Constitution and a whole box of lawyer talk of charges from A to Z. Many come to mind right away, Reid, Pelosi, Dodd, Schumer, Waxman, Durbin, Obama, Gerelick, Feinstein, and speaking of her, she and her husband should have been prosecuted for “war profiteering” because she was head of the appropriations committee for contracts in Iraq and most all went to her husbands companies to the tune of over ten billion dollars worth of contracts. Some how it was leaked to the press and as soon as it was reported the first time she stepped down from her chairmanship and resigned from the committee. Gee, I wonder why? And after she did that the press dropped the story before the public woke up and started asking questions of her. The story died, but not until she and her husband were made extremely wealthy from profiting from the war in Iraq. Did any of you remember hearing about that story? I do. And I fired off a email to my Congressman and Senator and told them I wanted them to look into it. I never heard anything more about it. But here she is again sucking up taxpayer money in salary and probably has some other scam going on somewhere else.

    That’s why we can’t get anything done according to our Constitution. It’s because there are to many people making huge money off of being in the government. That’s why what I heard is right, that these young people come into the government with not much money, and after a few terms they leave multimillionaires. How does that happen? And that butt head Reid has the audacity to talk about taxing these “millionaires, billionaires”. HE’S ONE OF THEM!!!

  4. WillofLa says:

    I have notified both of my representatives in Washington about my feelings on the strategy of Cloward-Piven being the method that the Socialist Democrats have been using for some time now to begin with: to bring the American people slowly under control of the Federal government. See, I agree with what this article is talking about and understand what Federalism is and how it’s applied to America. But those whose greed for power and people like the Clinton’s, Bush’s, and many in our two Houses are what is know as “Globalists”. That means they no longer believe in sovereign nations can any longer do what they are supposed to do for their people and must be combined together in order to have the power, money, and security that can do what states can’t do and that is provide adequate support for the needs of many people from many walks of life.

    Of course that is what America is designed to do, and it’s Constitution is what gets that done. So basically these people have actually given up on our Constitutional way of life and it’s guarantees and protections of freedom and liberty. Globalists believe they can offer more of that than one piece of paper can provide. That of course is a lie because there has never been any such thing as a benevolent government that controls dealing with the needs of everyone. It always ends up being more corrupt than and single country could become. That is why our Constitution has it’s protections and divisions of powers, so that no single group in the government could get their grubby hands on ALL the power.

    But even after all of that, I believe that Globalists are not our greatest threat, or may not even be that much of a threat. There may be individuals who have banded together in order to TAKE the country away from the people so that they can have all the power for themselves that would not include any Globalist agenda of combining countries together similar to the EU, or Bush’s North American Union. No, these people have an agenda that is more destructive to freedom and liberty than any number of Globalists or anyone else. But in order to get anything done there has to be a TOOL that they can used to free up the foundation and get it in a position that can be dealt with in such a destructive manner that there wouldn’t be any putting it back in place like it used to be. And that TOOL is Cloward-Piven used by Obama and the rest of the Socialist Democrats to TAKE our freedoms and liberties away from us because they will just say to us, “We just can’t afford to let you have those freedoms and liberties anymore.” Can’t afford it? There is no affording freedom and liberty, you either have it or you don’t.

    And in the hands of Obama and the Socialists who see that everything in this country belongs to them, and is for the taking, the use of a extreme form of Cloward-Piven is what is needed here to do the taking. And yeah, we will resist, but the left have used their unConstitutional power to create the forms of a Fascist police state to enforce the lefts use of unConstitutional laws from the courts and crooked legislators. While the police state protects the left from attack, because after all no one wants to purposely loose their livlihoods for some lost cause, or single person attack, and end up in jail or worse prison, Obama and Reid can confidentally say, “NO” and get away with it until they get things in position to pull the switch that will cause the whole country to fall. We must not let that happen!