All us DHS-designated right wing extremists are in good company.  Federalism Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

To be clear, the relevant section of the Homeland Security document reads “Rightwing extremism in the United States [includes] groups, movements, and
adherents … that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority.”

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in turn, reads “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.”  Rightwing extremism, then, apparently owes its origins to Independence Hall.

Why federalism is essential to freedom:

Like many of the structural safeguards conceived by the Founders, federalism’s purpose is to ensure that the federal government remains sclerotic enough to stay within its constitutional ambit, enforcing the benign neglect that is the precondition of state and local self-determination.  This, of course, makes it threatening to those on both the left and the right who think the federal government’s only limits are the outer reaches of their imaginations.

Thus it was the Bush Administration – supposedly more sympathetic to federalism than its successor – which attempted to quash the popularly ratified legalization of euthanasia in Oregon and resisted the increased regulation of greenhouse gas emissions passed by the California legislature.  While those state acts may have been disastrous policy decisions, the rub of true federalism is a recognition of states’ rights to pass them. Rules that cease to be binding when the powerful no longer care for them are, after all, no rules at all.

It’s a pitchfork-prevention tool, too:

Perhaps it’s better, then, to leave the business of government to those closest to those they’re legislating for.  This will retain the states’ roles as laboratories of policy innovation.  And it will prevent the Washington that produced TARP, the tax code, and the DHS report from having to apologize for one more national embarrassment.  The risk-averse legislators in our nation’s capitol should remember that federalism means never having to say you’re sorry.

Sadly, with politicians’ addiction to the non-apology apology and public acceptance of those farces, it isn’t a very potent weapon at the moment.   If the Tea Party movement continues to roll, that could change.

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