Well meaning, maybe, but federal and state overreach is real.
The nostalgic among us may well be pining away for an old concept, the idea that government closest to the people is likely to be the most responsive to their needs.
The philosophy stems from the nation’s founding, by people who had good reason to distrust central control from an all-powerful national government. The United States’ first stab at a national charter, the Articles of Confederation, failed when the central government proved weak and thoroughly ineffective. Thus, the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787 to strengthen yet still limit central authority. For a more detailed explanation read The Federalist Papers, authored under pseudonym by the historic luminaries James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.
Simply understood, under the Constitution the federal government exercises its enumerated powers, the states retain expansive independent authority, as do the people themselves in their sovereignty over government. From that framework comes the idea that local government and local control closest to the people deserves considerable deference in everyday decision-making.
Today’s evidence suggests many powerful government leaders are not in step with the Founders’ model.
For example, President Joe Biden announced last week a federal requirement that all nursing home staff must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or those facilities will be subject to losing Medicare and Medicaid funding. Forget, for the moment, that vaccinations are widely viewed by the medical community as the right thing to do, particularly for caregivers. Instead, consider whether Biden’s order amounts to federal overreach by stepping on state and local public health authority.
Then consider the Florida example. Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a contrarian when it comes to masks and vaccines. He fought with private business, the cruise ship industry, over whether the companies could require proof of vaccination for passengers to board a vessel. In his latest dust-up, DeSantis has said local school boards and administrators cannot require masking up in classrooms, threatening to block local authorities’ salaries if they try to defy him.
It’s not hard to find other examples of high government officials essentially barking, “Do as I say or else!” Clearly, for politicians of all stripes, the impulse to boss people around has overtaken their good judgment and connection to America’s constitutional traditions.
In our view, Democrat or Republican, this sort of top-down authoritarian behavior is antithetical to what America stands for. Partisans pick sides. We know that. And they usually exhibit near-total blindness to their own hypocrisy, while eagerly pointing out the other guy’s.
But you can’t have it both ways. It’s not alright to suggest bigfoot orders from “our” guy are just fine, while orders from the other side are evil. If Americans have reached a point where they are unable to see through partisan fog to discern larger constitutional truths, the people are in trouble.
No doubt, in the examples cited, Biden and DeSantis believe they’re doing what is demanded by the times. The American experiment, though, did not begin on the premise that the powerful should be empowered to rule with an iron fist.
For the record, here’s the pertinent constitutional language from Article 1, Section 8: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
There’s no better way to say the powers of government are and should be limited, by the people.
So when leaders, Democrat or Republican, behave otherwise the people should object. It should always be suspect when federal authorities step on state governments, or when state leaders step on local control.
The Founders knew that.
The question is, “Do we?”