An opportunity for federalism

Jonah Goldberg thinks this political moment creates an opportunity for federalism:

One of my most cherished principles is the importance of localism, subsidiarity, or what is most commonly called federalism. The idea is pretty simple: People on the ground in their own communities have a better understanding of how they want to live and what they want from government. Local politicians are easier to hold accountable, and culture-war arguments aren’t abstractions when the combatants have to look each other in the eye.

Normally, under Democratic presidents, liberals treat any discussion of federalism as code for wanting Jim Crow or even slavery. They mock anyone who invokes the Tenth Amendment, which holds that any powers not constitutionally spelled out for the federal government belong to the states or the people. I could provide countless quotes to demonstrate this, but again, I’m trying not to score partisan points but to seize an opportunity.

You see, under Republican presidents, many liberals suddenly discover the benefits of “progressive federalism” — as some called it under George W. Bush — or “states’ rights for the Left,” as it was called in Jeffrey Rosen’s recent New York Times piece. Under President Obama, virtually any talk of “secession” — even in theory — was deemed the obsession of cranks and weirdos. But days after Trump’s victory, “Calexit” — a movement for California to secede from the United States — took on new life.

And guess what? I don’t care about the hypocrisy. What I want is buy-in.

This is a rare and ripe moment for conservatives and libertarians to convert progressives to a good idea. And why shouldn’t they? Much progressive thought centers on notions of social solidarity and community. Liberal millennials and hipsters are receptive to the idea that the feds shouldn’t regulate their stinky cheeses, raw milk, micobrews, and weed. Personally, I think “sanctuary cities” are legal bunk, but the idea that localities should have the maximum allowable autonomy within the boundaries of the Constitution is perhaps the best way to maximize freedom and happiness.

The trick, however, is not just to convince liberals that local autonomy is good for them in the era of Trump. It is to get them on record that this is also acceptable for conservatives when the winds change direction and it’s their devil in the White House.

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One Response to An opportunity for federalism

  1. Paul Marks says:

    Quite so.

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