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COLUMN: True federalism could imperil the left

By: Scott Weiser
June 8, 2017 Updated: June 9, 2017 at 7:39 am
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Virginia's Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and several other governors have rediscovered federalism in declaring they will act alone to uphold the Paris climate accord.

McAuliffe pledges to "abate, control, or limit" power plant emissions. A bevy of liberal mayors and university presidents threaten to do the same sort of thing with regard to carbon emissions, evidently without regard for costs.

Good for them. And perhaps goodbye to them.

Gov. Hickenlooper proposed something similar after the Supreme Court of the United States put then-President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan executive order on hold. Hickenlooper objected and wanted to proceed with Colorado's version of the plan.

"Our goals were very aggressive goals, and they are not the same, but they are very similar to what the Clean Power Plan wants," Hickenlooper told reporters in 2016. Then, President Trump won the traditional Democratic stronghold of Pueblo County and shocked some liberals into a self-evaluation.

Trump won in part because Colorado's existing clean power mandates caused ruinous electric rates in Pueblo. Trump landed in Pueblo during his campaign and promised an end to the costly war on energy, and the message stuck.

Hickenlooper saw the writing on the wall and backed off the idea for a unilateral imposition of Obama's Clean Power plan. That was the politically astute decision, because Hickenlooper can't govern if he isn't the Governor anymore.

Many people, including columnist Kathleen Parker in her recent column, mistake federalism as meaning big, centralized federal government. Federalism is more accurately the principle that our nation is not a single entity ruled by a central government like the socialist utopia of Venezuela. It is a republic made up of sovereign member states.

The federal government has limited powers, which are expressed in the Constitution. As plainly stated in the 10th Amendment, powers not expressly granted to the federal government by the Constitution belong to the states or the people. That is the doctrine of federalism.

Under federalism, states have very broad latitude to govern themselves. The highest level of authority is we, the people. We have the ultimate authority to revoke any power we have previously granted to government. Likewise, we have the ability to grant new government powers as we see fit.

The Declaration of Independence says that just governance requires the consent of the governed. Federalism says consent should mostly manifest regionally and locally, enhancing accountability among those who govern.

Nowhere was this principle needed more than during the reign of Obama, a socialist/progressive who routinely ruled by executive fiat, showing disdain for the rule of law and the consent of the governed.

Trump, a businessman and political novice, won because the governed were outraged at Obama's disrespect for their consent. President Trump is dismantling Obama's legacy in order to restore federalism and the power of the states as equals with the federal government.

Meanwhile, the political left is turning to federalism to try and salvage something from the disaster of underestimating the will of the people. It may not be a wise choice, but time will tell.

Thanks to federalism and ignored Americans, socialist are less harmful. Operating at the state and local level instead of the federal level, they are held accountable more easily. When the economic burdens of socialist arrogance hit home citizens will rightfully blame the governors, mayors, university presidents and council members who are responsible rather than the federal government.

They will be accountable to the people who know them best and who are in the best position to remove them from office if they overstep. In favoring federalism, that is exactly what the founders had in mind.


Readers can contact Scott Weiser at

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