Return to federalism

When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1789, it established a federation of the independent states called the United States of America. But over time the national government has expanded and overshadowed the states. The Seventeenth Amendment changed Senate elections to a direct ballot, which took state governments out of the loop of federal decision-making. The development of a regulatory process since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal produced innumerable new rules for citizens and businesses. Since then a centralized national government in Washington has taken authority from state and local governments.

Today “Washington” refers to the central government and its power over the lives of American citizens. Many people are fed up with it and its interference in their affairs. Others look to it and its supply of dollars for financial deliverance. Either way, the central government has become more powerful than King George III whom the colonists rebelled against. And the American people have become more divided from each other and alienated from their national government.

We have forgotten that “United States” was originally plural. We have forgotten that “federal” means that state and local governments are not bypassed but are part of a tiered structure. We have left individuals to face the might of the national government rather than state governments who have more resources to stand up to it. We have let the national government ride roughshod over state and local governments so that it is “federal” in name only.

The solution to this situation is a return to a federal structure of government. The national government should be largely answerable to the states, not the other way around. The states should not be forced into a single mold and composition. Rural and urban states should not be treated the same. The laboratory of the states should be allowed to flourish.

New political leadership is needed and eventually a constitutional amendment to define the relationship between the states and the federal government. State governments must be in the loop, for example, by having at least one Senator appointed by the Governor and ratified by the state legislature. The Fourteenth Amendment must be applied in a balanced way to the states. Where the Constitution is silent, the federal government must not be empowered to act.

This return to federalism will not happen in one election cycle. It will take a long effort to bring about. People with different political views will have to work together to make it happen. But a federation of states can and should return to America.