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Haupt’s Take: A renaissance of states’ rights

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By William Haupt III | Haupt’s Take

“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.” (The 10th Amendment)

Our first settlers feared the tyrannical governments they fled from and were determined not to allow any government to be formed that had aristocratic control over their lives. They were independent and determined to make their way in a new world that offered unlimited freedom and opportunity.  They were willing to tolerate a degree of authoritative control from the Crown as long as it was for their benefit.

But after the French and Indian war which impacted their revenue, the English tried to recover this lost income from the colonies with invective taxation. When the colonies realized they were giving up too much sovereignty and the price of this exceeded their benefits they revolted.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” (JFK)

After the Revolution, many of the colonies were apprehensive about a centralized government that would restrict their sovereignty and liberty to govern independently. But it was impractical for them to remain totally independent and provide everything they needed for survival such as foreign trade and defense.

Once again they apprehensively were willing to trade a limited amount of liberties to a central government. This would also help them control interstate commerce and a better balance of power between states if they encroached on each others jurisdiction. The question was how much preeminence they were willing to surrender to a body of men they were told they would collectively appoint and control?

“Mutual collectivism is the bedrock for all independence.”(Ronald Shalster)

At the Convention of 1787 the main concern was how to form a union and restrain federalism to maintain the rights of states. Over the course of three months, delegates worked arduously on compromises to satisfy the colonies. Limited powers were granted to Congress but the delegates had to come up with a plan to equalize representation.

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The Great Compromise was finally adopted which created a House of Representatives based on population and each state was given two senators in the newly formed Senate. By September after great chaotic debate, with only thirty-nine of the fifty-five delegates voting to approve the Constitution, it barely passed.

“Trading liberty for protection is apprehensive. Because once liberty is lost it is gone forever.” (James Fulton)

The Constitution was mostly respected until the Civil War when the issue of slavery divided our nation. But even after the war the growth of federalism was kept tolerably under control. This lasted until the Great Depression in 1929 that lasted almost a decade. This was a “raw deal” for America when federalism took over.

Beginning with FDR’s “New Deal” programs, too many people became dependent on federal dollars. The Great Depression led them to look to the federal government to play a bigger role for support. Americans soon deserted the principles of the 10th Amendment that limited the powers of government. Each “New Deal” program FDR created was a “Bad Deal” for our states rights.

“Every time something sounds too good to be true it usually is.” (Alvin Hood)

It is hard to believe the federal bureaucracy began with the three cabinet departments established by George Washington in 1789. Since that time, not only have the number of departments in the cabinet more than tripled, but now there are also a myriad of agencies, bureaus, government corporations, authorities, and administrations that have taken control over many of the issues that use to be the sole responsibility of the states.

What started with the creation of the welfare state has now become an albatross of nightmares for all America. Under the purview of the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Taxing and Spending Clauses the federal government now oversees far too many of the functions previously regulated by the states. While these controls initially began out of the need for jobs and a safety net, the feds have increased control over these functions by attaching mandates to money the states need to implement federal regulations.

“We need to redefine the true intentions of federalism in the USA.” (Chas Coorley)

After 86 years of federal abuse, our nation had an urban renaissance. Experiencing eight years of increased lost liberties Americans elected a president who is a billionaire and lives in Manhattan and has never been in politics. No matter what people think of him, he understands one thing: The limited powers of the Constitution. He hails from a family that has developed urban real estate for generations.

One might think Donald Trump’s election is the most anti-urban political act voters  ever made. But his base consists of older angry urbanites and mostly blue collar workers who are fed up with federalism. They want their America to be American again where the Constitution is a tradition rather than open to interpretation.

“Federalism is no longer the fault-line of federal and states rights. It is the new partnership between progressives and government.” (Nadia Barsha)

While campaigning, Trump talked about urban blight in minority and blue-collar communities. He spoke in a way that made a lot of political pundits think he was simply dog-whistling them for votes rather than actually appealing to minorities and other urbanites. And he never proposed any urban-centric policies.

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He campaigned in a classic constitutional manner that he would stimulate so much economic growth everybody would benefit. This meant less control by the government and more opportunities for the working middle class. He said he wanted to revive US manufacturing with protectionist policies to keep our jobs at home. He claimed we needed to control our boarders to protect US workers from undocumented immigrants who were taking their jobs.

“Many in other countries long to become American citizens but they hate our foreign policy.” (Elijah Parish)

The election of Donald Trump is a time of great opportunity for our states to use their inner energy, creativity, and self motivation to bring prosperity back to their communities without continued hand outs from the government. Our states were once laboratories of democracy when Ronald Reagan cut back dependency on the federal government in the 1980s.

Now cities around America again can become laboratories of democracy by pilot-testing new policies and ideas that could spread across the country and replace dependency on federalism. President Trump gave us a chance to resurrect the 10th amendment and we must take advantage of this to keep America American.

“I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.” (Thomas Jefferson)

American cities use to be engines of our nation’s prosperity, even those controlled by progressives.  Conservative business leaders have always worked to keep these engines running.

Metropolitan areas are now generating most of the nation’s population growth, jobs, and wealth. We have never had a better opportunity to reinvigorate states rights.

“A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned is the sum of good government.” (Thomas Jefferson)

Unlike the 1980s era, most states are stuck on one side or the other of the red-blue ideological divide, pursuing predictable policies depending on which party controls the statehouse. Its time to set aside this ideology and recall what our founders believed:

“The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” (Alexis de Tocqueville)

This article was written by a contributor from Franklin Center’s independent network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists. 


William Haupt III is a retired professional journalist, citizen legislator in California for 40 plus years, and author. He got his start working to approve prop 13.