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Presidential Issues: Federalism


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Federalism, Red and Blue

July 1, 2014

By Adam Freedman

In February 2013, Utah governor Gary Herbert canceled plans to establish a state-run exchange for individual health insurance, bringing to 34 the number of states opting out of that essential piece of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, another part of the law, an expansion of Medicaid rolls, is being defied by more than 20 states. Having survived congressional logrolling, Tea Party rallies, a presidential election, and a Supreme Court case, Obamacare may yet be sunk by a resurgent force that many had thought dead: federalism.

The new federalist fervor is coming from both sides of the aisle. Among the governors refusing to create state health-insurance exchanges are two Democrats (in Missouri and Montana), while the Democratic governor of President Obama’s home state, Illinois, is willing only to “partner” with the federal government in setting up an exchange. Nor is the resistance limited to Obamacare. Last November, California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, warned “federal gendarmes” to stop interfering with his state’s medical-marijuana law—echoing former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank, who had championed medical marijuana as a states’ rights issue for years. Such deep-blue states as New York and Massachusetts have tried (unsuccessfully) to block the Secure Communities Act, which requires every arrested person’s fingerprints to be run through federal immigration databases. The Democratic governor of locavore Vermont is locked in a battle with the feds over who gets to determine the future of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant: the state legislature or the presidential appointees on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In March 2012, Yale law professor Heather Gerken took to the pages of Democracy to urge her fellow progressives to embrace federalism because state and local governments were more effective “sites of empowerment for racial minorities and dissenters” than the federal government.

Conservatives may still be the most vocal advocates of greater state autonomy, but federalism is far from a uniquely conservative phenomenon. Indeed, the revival of states’ rights is a movement that has the potential to unite Left and Right while fundamentally changing the balance of power in America..

Read the full article at City Journal: Federalism, Red and Blue

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