A Forum to Spur America’s Return to Federalism

A Forum to Spur America’s Return to Federalism

Breitbart News Network, American Principles Project, and Cornerstone Action are co-sponsors of an upcoming forum centered on the principles of federalism. More information about the forum can be found at Breitbart News.

A unique public meeting will take place on Saturday, November 22 at Southern New Hampshire University. Entitled “Practical Federalism: How the Federal Government Is Silencing the People,” this meeting will feature national experts on a wide range of issues including those concerned with environmental, education, healthcare, and land-use policies. Forum participants will discuss the disintegration of federalism, its consequences, and what can be done about it.

The disintegration of federalism has brought us boondoggle after boondoggle by the federal government. It has foisted a slow academic progression and a teach-to-the-test mentality on America’s schools. It dictates to the states how to evaluate children and teachers. It burdens American business with draconian regulations. It denies western states their full sovereignty, preventing them from developing their natural resources while it gives a leg-up to foreign producers and a slap down to the American consumer. And its centrally driven healthcare system drives physicians out of the profession and jacks up consumers’ costs.

These catastrophes share a common cause. They emanate from a political course-of-dealing that has turned our constitutional structure on its head. What was intended to promote citizen-directed government and protect the liberties of the people has been perverted. In its twisted state, our governmental structure now distances the people from decision-making and gives us governance by and for elitists. 

The Framers foresaw that, to the detriment of the people, special interests would push federal intrusion into state matters. They, therefore, developed a system of structural checks-and-balances to protect the people. Under that system, the first line of defense is Congress.

Unfortunately, recourse to federal legislators is available more in theory than in practice. Congress faces a vast range of issues, and, with random exceptions, the ones that garner congressional attention are those of primary national concern (those enumerated in the Constitution). When Congress is dealing with national security issues, an obscure decree from, say, the US Department of Education is unlikely to make the cut for attention.

The Framers also intended that the states themselves would draw the line against federal overreach and, within the states, that the legislatures would provide the most vigorous defense of “every assumption of power” by the federal government. That check-and-balance, however, has been severely compromised. Lacking authority in all but a limited set of issues, the federal executive branch uses a carrot-and-stick approach to entice and intimidate state executives into adopting federal policies, a method that ushers in a host of problems. 

The federal executive, as noted above, is often free from Congressional oversight and is vulnerable to special interests. Moreover, the implementation of policies through the state executive deceives state legislators and citizens. What appears to have been a considered decision by state officials is often an ill-considered acquiescence to federal authorities. And the federal carrot-and-stick approach makes state executives more beholden to the federal agencies than to the state’s citizens and legislature. The checks-and-balances evaporate, citizens are distanced and alienated, and poor decisions result.

So, can we right the ship of state?

Citizens have a general sense that the assault on federalism threatens our constitutional structure and, with it, the great American experiment. Politicians have responded with buzzword support of federalism. But often those same politicians have genuflected to the federal and special interest agendas, and merely become their administrative agents. And they have rarely been called to task for their doublespeak.

Now, though, the American people are beginning to realize that they can, and must, pilot the ship of state. The fight against the Common Core provides the inspirational case in point. In state after state, moms, dads and other citizens are prevailing upon their legislators and governors to pull out of the Common Core. In so doing, they are taking on a $600 billion industry, the elitists in both parties, and the federal department of education.

This is the advent of a new wave of citizen: one who is super-savvy on the issues and who is active in the public square. Their example rightly evokes comparison to the Founders’ generation, and they are the best hope for America.

Emmett McGroarty is the Director of Education at American Principles Project in Washington, D.C.