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Haupt: Your governor, your guardian of the 10th Amendment

By   /   June 12, 2017  /   No Comments

“The Tenth Amendment said the federal government is supposed to only have powers that were explicitly given in the Constitution but I think the federal government’s forgotten that.”

– David Mills

Our founders penned the Tenth Amendment out of necessity. It was hindsight after a summer of impassioned debates at the Convention of 1787. The adoption of our Constitution was opposed by many influential patriots including Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and Sam Adams. They were in disaccord over the powers of the central government and its ability to subvert the will and the rights of the states. They persistently argued the Constitution would eventually lead to an over-powering central state which would destroy the individual liberty of the people and the legal integrity of the states. Many dubiously tagged as Anti-Federalists concurred with Jefferson: “When the General Government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”

The Tenth Amendment was a necessary bone to toss at the liberty hungry patriots with the Bill of Rights. This reaffirmed their understanding the Constitution guaranteed all powers not granted to the central government were reserved to the states and to “them.” The Tenth Amendment clearly emphasized the limited powers delegated to central and state governments. This helped quiet the storm against ratification by most colonies. The highly susceptible patriots agreed this was the best insurance they could get to be free and continue exercising their sovereignty. They were comforted when Thomas Jefferson echoed: “All authority existing outside this domain belongs to the people.”

Since ratification established a bond of states under federal oversight, two issues have generated constant debate: What’s the true nature of the union? What powers, privileges, duties and controls does the Constitution actually grant the central government and reserve to the states? As a result of these heated disparities, the South engaged in a bloody civil war to put an end to this. But that only opened a bigger can of worms. And after the war, this has been fiercely disputed each time D.C. exercises federalism over our sacred sovereignty to reshape our nation’s political, social, and economic anatomy for their advantage.

“The plan of the convention aimed only at a partial union or consolidation. The states would clearly retain all sovereignty as before.”

– Alexander Hamilton

Federalism has reared its ugly head for decades under different masks and disguises. From 1789 to 1901, we had Dual Federalism with little collaboration between state and federal governments. After 1901, we lost liberty under Cooperative Federalism, marked by increased collusion between all levels of government. We witnessed the national income tax and an influx of federal programs that burden us today. Between 1960 and 1968, Creative Federalism was the beast that ballooned under Johnson’s Great Society. It shifted many powers from the states to the federal government through dependent-aid systems. Today we are fighting Contemporary federalism, characterized by shifts in intergovernmental grants, the growth of forced unfunded mandates, over regulations, and excessive control by Washington.

“Federalism should maintain our unity, not destroy it.”

– Alyn Lun

Though the progressives have established a firm position on the national political battlefront through continual growth of federalism, the complexion of our individual state governments proves we have had enough. Over half of our states are composed of conservative legislatures and governors in an effort to stop runaway federalism. Since Obama took office, Republicans captured control of 27 state chambers that Democrats held after the 2008 elections. The GOP controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party. Unpopular policies by progressive politicians have not gone unnoticed, and there’s a growing trend in our states to isolate themselves from the evils of federalism. They’re fighting back on Election Day.

Yes, “Elections have consequences.”

– Obama

The governor’s chair is now increasingly important in our states because it is the most powerful office in our legislative caucuses with clout, control and visibility. It is considered vital to isolate the states from federalism. While everyone talks about the presidency, American governorship gets little attention. Since all government is local, many voters think of their mayors and commissioners as those most affluent. They consider the governor as another figurehead stewarding their state. They seldom know anything about their syllabus before Election Day. They fail to perceive it is he or she who sets the states political and social agenda for the legislature and is the ultimate shield that stands between encroachments of federalism in their lives.

“A wise governor told me a long time ago, political capital you don’t get more of by keeping it. You get it by using it.”

– Scott Walker

Conservative state governments around the U.S. have made progress reforming civil service and beating back public sector union power. They are articulating a coherent agenda that satisfies the political center, as well as the moderate left. The red tide in our state governments has brought the GOP to its most commanding position in state governments in years. But it could shift at any time if the people elect the wrong type of conservative who is a mere party politician rather than one who defends their values and independent state culture. And this is not as hypothetical as one might think, considering the strength of the political party machine. It is that machine that bestows their blessings on a potential primary candidate that has the greatest influence on picking winners and losers.

“The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of political control.”

– Karl Marx

While watching the apocalyptic response to Donald Trump’s victory in so many liberal precincts around the U.S., governors and legislatures in many states realize they now have the headroom to raise state income by lowering business taxes. By taking advantage of cutting back the demands federal government placed on them in the past to toe the line from D.C. or get their entitlements cut, the states can now generate their own creative revenue. By replacing many federal services and benefits they had to pay the government for one-shoe-fits-all mismanaged programs as an agenda for social engineering, they can do it themselves. They no longer have to give the feds huge sums of money and beg to get a portion back by following their rules. They are no longer held hostage by the federalists.

“Governors compete. States compete. People and businesses decide.”

– Doug Ducey

For decades, true conservatives have preached of returning more power to the states, knowing they could do more, and do it more efficiently than Washington. Blue states have supported federalism for years. But red states have fought back to maintain the dignity of the 10th amendment which is our sacred cow. The 10th Amendment is not a sword that cuts both ways. We either govern by it or federalism will consume us. And the governor is the key ingredient in defending us against federal extortion of our rights and liberty. Therefore, it is preeminent we judge every candidate for governor on their legislative history and how they have supported the ethos of the 10th and its proclamations.

Machiavelli wrote: “It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.” And that is the way the feds have been governing under progressive domination. And if we do not take advantage of our conservative administration in D.C. and its brand of politics, we will forever be wondering why we lost our sovereignty.

“Washington, D.C. is full of think tanks, theoreticians and advocacy groups. Governors are the ones whose feet are on the ground.”

Former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen

If Republicans in state capitols can’t articulate a coherent governing agenda that satisfies the political center, the red tide that has brought the GOP to its most commanding position in state governments in a hundred years could begin to shift.

When states and local communities take the lead on policy, the people are that much closer to the policymakers, and policymakers are that much more accountable to the people. Few Americans have spoken with their president; many have spoken with their mayor.

Up until the outbreak of the Civil War, the federal government for the most part minded their business and kept their grubby hands out of our states’ constitutional privileges.

During the pre-federalism period, the country waged a war for independence and established a confederation form of government that created a league of sovereign states. Deficiencies in the Articles of Confederation prompted its repeal and the ratification of a new Constitution, creating a federal system of government comprised of a national government and states. Almost immediately upon its adoption, issues concerning state sovereignty and the supremacy of federal authority were hotly debated and ultimately led to the Civil War.

The period from 1789 to 1901 has been termed the era of Dual Federalism. It has been characterized as an era during which there was little collaboration between the national and state governments. Cooperative Federalism is the term given to the period from 1901 to 1960. This period was marked by greater cooperation and collaboration between the various levels of government. It was during this era that the national income tax and the grant-in-aid system were authorized in response to social and economic problems confronting the nation. The period from 1960 to 1968 was called Creative Federalism by President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Johnson’s Creative Federalism as embodied in his Great Society program, was, by most scholars’ assessments, a major departure from the past. It further shifted the power relationship between governmental levels toward the national government through the expansion of a grant-in-aid system and the increasing use of regulations. Contemporary federalism, the period from 1970 to the present, has been characterized by shifts in the intergovernmental grant system, the growth of unfunded federal mandates, concerns about federal regulations, and continuing disputes over the nature of the federal system.


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.