The phrase "States Rights" has for years carried the cloud of resistance to Federal mandates including civil rights legislation. It was a euphemism call to action for local politicans to rally their voters to resist the dictates of national leaders thousands of miles away in Washington.
However, given the performance of Congress and its relationship with the President over the last several years, perhaps it is time to recast States Rights in a more liberal perspective. The last Congress set recent records for the least legislation passed. It was in constant bickering with the President and only a perfect storm of electoral results in 2008 allowed passage of the Affordable Care Act and a medium sized fiscal stimulus package. Since then there has been a paucity of substantive legislation passed. Last week we saw a narrow lobby able to defeat elements of gun control legislation that is supported by 90% of voters. So much for the dictates of our national leaders.
Perhaps it is time to refocus on what states can accomplish without the Federal government's lethargic leadership. We've seen Colorado, Connecticut, and New York all recently pass meaningful gun control laws while Washington fiddles. Several states have recently liberalized gay marriage as a result of voter initiatives. There are many other areas where states can lead the way in adopting new ideas, closely aligned to the sentiments of its voters, that seem impossible with the archaic rules of the Senate and the power of small rural states which are grossly over represented in their influence. Federalism has always been based on the sharing of power between Washington and state legislatures and governors.
With the vacuum of leadership in Washington, a byzantine legislative process, the time is ripe for states to assume more responsibility for leading the way to more effective and democratic government. If Washington is unable to step up, there are still options to address many of the pressing issues of the day.
What do you think?