5-21: States Rights

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South Rising Again

Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) aims to introduce legislation to amend the US Constitution. The purpose will be to “give states the power to overrule federal law or a Supreme Court decision,” according to the Daily Kos. Gee, isn’t that what the Civil War was fought over, states rights? Slavery was just an aside that happened to be one of the issues the South wished for its states to retain. I guess the time has finally come for citizens from all regions to stop working toward a “more perfect union.”

Here is the list of Abbott’s proposed amendments (with my commentary):

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State. (So, Mississippi wants to bring back slavery–that’s ok.)
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget. (… except for defense of course. The likes of Bush and Cheney would still, presumably, be able to wage war without paying for it and issue no-bid contracts to the likes of Haliburton to “reconstruct” war zones, all without fiduciary oversight … then balance the rest of the budget.)
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from creating federal law. (What about all those K Street lobbyists? Are we going to put those poor souls out of work?)
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies, and the un-elected bureaucrats that staff them, from preempting state law. (… by doing what? Repealing the Affordable Health Care Act?)
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision. (What does this do to the “balance of power” we pride ourselves on having at the federal level?)
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law. (I need a point of reference here to understand what is being proposed. Does this mean we, the states, get to vote on whether or not to accept or reject decisions of the Court?)
  7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution. (Sounds reasonable. Where is that not happening now?)
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds. (I wonder if the governor would have been ok with this in the Florida Bush v. Gore debacle.)
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation. (See 5 above.)

The “balance of power” argument usually comes down to an intentionally strong versus a weak executive branch. And that usually comes down to an ideological fight between liberalism and conservatism (both loosely defined here). Why bother with the Pledge of Allegiance anymore?

… of the united states … one nation … with liberty and justice for all.

Governor Abbott and states rights activists have a point. People in Texas live differently from people in Illinois. And yet the beauty of our republic is that we are united. And so I find the argument fatuous that, for example, “justice” can and is defined differently in different states. A conviction in one state can result in jail for life, in another it can result in execution. I just don’t understand how that fits with “justice for all.”

To me, the states rights argument focusses more on things that divide us rather than those that bind us as Americans.

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