I would like to thank the Standard Examiner for airing its opinion on the Repeal Amendment and State’s Rights. Although I completely disagree with the position held by the editorial board, the discussion affords us an opportunity as a community to explore this burgeoning issue.
One of the questions we need to ask ourselves as Utahans and Americans is this: At what point does the Federal Government overstep its bounds? A good follow up question might be: Do we as a people even recognize what those bounds are?
Fortunately, to answer both of these questions, we need to look no further to our high school text books or, hopefully, our own bookshelves for a copy of the Constitution. If we understand our Constitution, we can begin to understand the power structure that was put in place to best assure the protection of our liberties and our happiness as a people.
We are all familiar with the checks and balances provided by the three separate branches of government that make up our Federal system. Each branch is supposed to keep the power and influence of the other two branches from growing any more powerful than its own. But this just addresses the balance of power within government. What force is there to check the unlimited growth of power and influence by the Federal Government as a whole? Thomas Jefferson believed that the states of our Union could provide just that balance:
“It is important to strengthen the State governments…it must be done by the States themselves, erecting such barriers at the constitutional line as cannot be surmounted either by themselves or by the General Government.” Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stewart, 1791.
Yet, the Standard Examiner editorial board feels that the voters can simply vote out Federal Legislators and that will somehow resolve the issue of our bloated government:
“If voters don't like what a current U.S. Congress is doing, they have the right to vote federal pols out of office.” - S.E. Editorial Board
The problem lies in the fact that the new guy takes the reins of a government that is every bit as large as it was when his predecessor left. Voting out legislators does not reduce government programs, eliminate executive orders, or overturn judicial interpretation that all aim towards an enlargement of Federal power.
Even Alexander Hamilton, the supreme advocate of centralized federal government in his day said:
“This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from over passing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.” (Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention,
Indeed, we may be asking the impossible. The “rivalship” between the Federal and State level is mediated by the Supreme Court. Is justice even possible when the defendant in the case, the Federal Government, is also a party to the mediator? I think not. And so, over the past two centuries our government has been drifting ever so slowly, but surely, in the direction of ever more consolidated centralized Federal power. We should not rely on our Federal government to exercise self-restraint in this regard. Our Founders did not envision The New Deal, The Great Society, or No Child Left Behind when they signed our framing document. These have been possible only through subtle interpretation of the constitution and the collective acquiescence of the American people.
That acquiescence is coming to an end. Rob Bishop’s Repeal Amendment embodies the return of public sentiment to our Founding Principles. It will give the States the necessary tools to effectively counter-balance an overzealous and cumbersome Federal government. For this reason I support this cause and I hope that you, the reader, will do so as well.