Friday, April 3, 2009

Federalism Is a Pretext

In this opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Kollar-Kotelly invalidated on procedural grounds the Bush administration's last minute effort to lift a ban on concealed, loaded handguns in national parks. Bush officials justified the late push to lift the ban -- a rush-job that clearly violated NEPA -- in the following manner: a desire to "give greater effect to principles of Federalism." Source.

This "federalism" argument is used so often by conservatives that it takes on an air of pretext. Their answer to abortion: let the states decide. Their answer to race-relations: let the states decide. Now, their answer to gun control: federalism. With each of these issues, the success of federalism would bypass progressive federal laws in many states, thereby enacting a conservative preference. Yet, when it comes to other issues, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, conservatives prefer to handle things at the federal level, where they can sustain a conservative result. This hypocritical treatment reveals that the "federalism" argument is a pretext.

Chief Justice John Marshall argued that robust states rights would allot the passions of concentrated populations too much power, thereby harming thoughtful legislative deliberation and civil liberties. The federal government, on the other hand, is subject to the people as a whole -- people from more backgrounds than an individual state can provide -- and is therefore less likely to be rushed into arbitrary legislation. Whereas an expansive federal government weakens the absolute authority that majorities hold over minorities in many states.

Conservatives recognize these truths and wish to exploit them, thereby implementing their agenda. When you hear the phrase "principles of federalism," it is a pretext for the conservative agenda.

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