Progressives/Liberals, Do You See Value of Strong State Governments Now?

I am a moderate libertarian so the usual left vs right wing rhetoric doesn’t apply to me personally but I have always been a proponent of state’s rights in general. Progressives and liberals generally have historically had a dim view of state’s rights arguments. It has been conservatives that were the strongest proponents of keeping the U.S. a true federalist system controlled by a collection of states as the primary unit of government rather than central control out of Washington D.C.

However, it looks like the big winners under strong state’s rights in recent years has been Progressive and liberal causes. Gay marriage is one example. I don’t think it would have been possible to have a nationwide referendum that led to anything productive on that cause but individual states started falling like a house of cards in a remarkably short time. Marijuana use is still illegal everywhere in the U.S. according the to federal government but not according to all the states that gave the feds the finger for medical marijuana use and especially not in Colorado and Washington where they said, screw the feds, it is legal for everyone here now. It isn’t quite Fort Sumter but the idea is the same and the people of those states have spoken. Vermont is going ahead with a single-payer insurance plan just like Progressives have always wanted. Those are just some prominent examples out of hundreds of less well-known state level initiatives.

The point is that the states still have enough power to enact experiments within their own borders or even tell the feds to screw if they feel strongly enough about an issue. That is state’s rights and I think it is a very good thing overall. You couldn’t have any of this in a country as big and diverse as this if you left everything to be controlled by Washington.

Has your opinion on state’s rights issues been changed due to recent developments? Is anyone still opposed to the core argument?

I’m essentially pragmatic about states’ rights. Glad for it in some cases (the recent pot legalizations), glad for federal intervention in others (civil rights).

The reason I’ve never developed a more nuanced, principled position is the hypocrisy I sometimes detect. My sense has been that the people shouting states’ rights about, say, gun control, have exactly zero shits to give when it’s suggested federal law could be applied to drug legalizations (the fact that this is now changing notwithstanding).

I wish there were just more honesty about it. If you like guns, fine. Just don’t stake a claim on states’ rights and then ignore other issues that aren’t important to you.

John C. Calhoun, foremost champion of state’s rights.
That’s why there can’t be a reasonable discussion of state’s rights, the phrase can never be separated from it’s use in the too long preservation of slavery.

Strong liberal, my beliefs remain unchanged. I consider states declaring marijuana legal in contravention of federal law to be morally equivalent to the states attempting to ban Obamacare.

I agree with Llama Llogophile. States rights are fine, but the people shouting “states rights!” don’t care a whit about them.

For every legalization of pot state, there’s an attempt to outlaw abortion. For every gay wedding, there’s teaching Creationism in the schools. Progressives are probably winning and losing at the same rate they always have. States move fast. The federales move slow. It’s a balance, right?

I make no judgments on Nevada’s libertarian estate nor Massachusetts’ communism, except to say I think it’s neat we have such a broad range of cultures and governments within our borders.

Universal rights of man and rule of law notwithstanding.

And welfare notwithstanding. I was surprised at how much federal money is propping up Alabama. It’s everywhere you look, from food stamps to natural resources protection. Should that depend on how anti-federalist the state is? Or should the federal government intervene anyway? Or are the two seemingly opposite forces somehow related?

Agreement. The same with the “small government” people. They actually want just as much government intrusion and regulation as all the rest of us: they just want to regulate against behavior they don’t like.

When the small government crowd takes a strong pro-choice stance, I’ll start to think they might actually be serious.

(And when the “reduce the deficit” crowd embraces cutting military spending, ditto.)

That simply isn’t true for everyone. I am a moderate libertarian by nature and also a true economic conservative. Small government for me isn’t the means to some other end, it is the end goal. I live by that and I am not the only one.

The strength of the state’s rights argument should be readily apparent but it isn’t to some, even those that would benefit from using it. It’s major strength is that it allows somewhat isolated pilot projects that do not impact the whole nation but may work well for everyone. It is a sound and logical idea all around. You need innovation but no one is prescient enough to know exactly what works and what doesn’t until it is tried in the real world. Corporations and all effective large organizations of people do the same thing. You don’t just come up with a proposed solution to anything decreed from a mountain and then demand that everyone adopt it as first given. You try it first on a smaller scale, see what works and what doesn’t and then modify the original idea from there.

That is the advantage the U.S. has over most other large countries. The states have a large degree of autonomy and can try things on their own. Some may work well just for them which is great and some may work well for the whole nation which is even better. You can find that out in advance on an isolated scale rather than have a huge federal program that could have been done better but can’t easily be reversed even though it was a hopeless mess of compromises in the first place.

That is painting with far too broad a brush. There are many who are consistent in their philosophy, even in morally ambiguous ways. They are called Libertarians and they do exist. You ought not judge them by those they erroneously elect.

Go to a state with a conservative governor and ask a woman trying to get an abortion or a poor person trying who could really use health coverage but can’t get it because the state rejected the ACA Medicaid expansion. For that matter, the states did take the lead on same-sex marriage, but the federal government is now trying to pull a lot of the remaining states along because many of them won’t take the next steps on their own. I’m not saying those examples defeat your entire premise or that there’s no value in strong state governments, but I’d dispute the idea that strong state governments have clearly worked to the benefit of liberal causes in recent years.

Exactly – the ideologically-grounded refusal of Republican-controlled states to opt in to the basically free ACA Medicaid expansion was the first thing that came to mind.

To the OP: I agree with you that in any large country there needs to be a regional distribution of power. State government just simply makes sense for so many reasons. The question is always where you draw the line between state and federal power, and no matter where you draw it, there are going to be both good and bad consequences, which is why your examples and your basic proposition are overly simplistic and not realistic.

Examples abound. So you like the new liberal marijuana laws? Terrific, but it creates bizarre inconsistencies between state and federal laws. You like the liberal gay marriage laws? Good, but it creates bizarre and complicated legal situations where a “married” couple suddenly becomes un-married in a different state, and truly bad situations when residency changes essentially make divorce impossible because a couple that is “married” in one state is not eligible to divorce in a different one, nor in the original home state because one or both don’t meet residency requirements.

The division of power question seems to me to really depend on the specific issue, and the overarching question is not “states’ rights – good or bad?” but IMHO fine-tuning the Constitutional question of what powers bring the greatest common benefits as national policies and which ones have a legitimate regional role. And yes, Llama Llogophile totally nailed it on the hypocrisy angle. To some, it appears, it doesn’t matter in the least if powers are state or federal, as long as they reflect the ideology of said hypocrites.

States have a lot less autonomy than is generally thought. The Feds could bust every pot shop in Colorado tomorrow if Obama woke up kinda grouchy. Lincoln established the supremacy of the FedGov, and whatever else might come up in the courts if O tells Texas to accept extra Medicaid money or we lose our Fed highway funds O wins the argument. Every little town here on an interstate is sucking up that shovel ready stimulus money from the great pork teat…
man, I hate the FedGov, but every half-assed conservative politico here has a vision of StateGov that’s every bit as repressive as the developing nightmare the olagarchical tools like Pelosi, Obama, Kerry etc… are enveloping us in.

I will actually grant that many libertarians are philosophically self-consistent.

I’m afraid, though, that they are outnumbered by their own self-identified brethren, the non-self-sufficient libertarians. It’s a little like looking for moderate Republicans. Yes, they do exist.

THERE’S an appropriate link between username and post…

My objection to state’s rights is that it’s a one way street. If the federal government makes something illegal, states can’t nullify the federal law and legalize it. But if the federal government legalizes something, a state can still turn around and make it illegal. This is a great arrangement if you think something like marijuana or gay marriage should be illegal - if you can’t outlaw it at one government level, you can try at the other. But if you’re somebody who doesn’t like seeing things being made illegal, then it’s a double annoyance.

Lincoln? The federal government was stated to be “the supreme Law of the Land” in the original text back in 1787.

This is the single best “libertarian” point I’ve ever heard anyone make. For those of us who would like to legalize marijuana, for instance, we have to win twice. But for anyone who wants to ban it, they only have to win once. This is an intrinsic bias against certain kinds of liberty.

The ideal is that the laws won’t overlap much, being restricted to domains of relevance. Washington doesn’t care about local zoning laws, and states aren’t involved in international diplomacy. Things like the FCC’s regulation of broadcast frequencies have to be federal, otherwise one state could really mess up another state’s broadcasts. Nothing Rhode Island could do if Connecticut wanted to build a 100,000 Watt transmitter… Same for river pollution laws and other interstate matters.

But, of course, in practice, there’s a lot of overlap.

It isn’t working out so well now is it. Gay marriage isn’t a good example because that has always been a state’s right issue but recreational marijuana use certainly is. Where is the federal supremacy there? Colorado and Washington already said that they don’t care what the feds say and it it is already working in the case of Colorado. What are they supposed to do, bomb the whole state from Cheyenne Mountain? The whole policy is in effect there.

That is just a minor issue. I don’t give a crap about marijuana use and have never donee it in my life. I go to Colorado several times a year and won’t even do it next month when I am there. Still, I think it is a good idea to stand up against ridiculous prohibitions of freedom just because Washington thinks that they can’t get enough voted nationwide to enable something simple. All of the simple, libertarian principles are the same way. I think gay relationships get too much press these days but I don’t care if a man or a woman wants to marry someone of the same sex. What does that have to do with me?

Does the OP believe states should have the power to regulate health insurance sold in their states? Or can the federal government force them to allow policies from other states into their insurance markets?

That’s cool. I don’t give a crap about state’s rights. Indeed I think the phrase is a canard.

Rights rest within the individual, and a good government is one that maximizes individual freedom, with the understanding that property rights are a means of maximizing freedom, not part of that freedom (in other words, I should be free to deal with the nonhuman world in the way I see fit, but since we can’t all deal with the same plot of land however we want, we need a system to decide who gets to deal with that plot of land or whatever, and property rights work pretty well as a starting point for such a system, as long as you don’t treat them as an end to themselves).

Overall, I think the federal government does a better job of maximizing individual rights. Sure, on the one hand you’ve got marijuana; on the other hand you’ve got abortion rights and SSM, and I guarandamntee you that SSM isn’t coming to North Carolina until a federal judge says that it must.

And if you’re asking me to weigh whether someone can get high against whether someone can visit their beloved in the hospital if the couple is gay, I’m afraid the potsmokers are gonna have to wait. I support their cause, but it doesn’t hold a doobie to the cause of SSM.

That said, states have no rights, people have rights. When states protect those rights better than the federal government, that’s awesome, but in general they don’t, at least not where you and I are from, so I support strong federal government not from some first principles but as a matter of practicality.

I am the OP and I used to work in the health insurance market repenting millions of Americans. I live in Massachusetts under RomneyCare which was a success and am witnessing the failures of ObamaCare for the U.S. in total. It may work or it may not but that is a very complicated issue. The project management and execution so far have been terrible. I hope it does work but even ObamaCare isn’t a real solution and didn’t scale up well. That should be expected for a country as diverse as ours and with so many different demographic needs.

I think think the ultimate solution needs to be single-payer health insurance just like Vermont is experimenting with now even though that may not be a good solution for the entire country. I used to live in Vermont and they have a very unique demographic that lets them experiment on these things. The fact that they are allowed to experiment with that bolsters my argument.