Categories
Politics

No, David French, that’s not how federalism works

“In my view the federal government has a right to enforce the Constitution, which means to protect the Constitutional right of all citizens. If the cause of the riot was the denial of Constitutional rights to any group of citizens, I believe if need be the federal government should protect the rights of those citizens by bayonet if necessary.”
-Ronald Reagan

Conservatives believe in states’ rights and in limited government, so that means that the federal government should never interfere in the decisions of states, right?

Columnist David French seems to be making that case in his column entitled “Trump’s Intervention in Portland Shows that the Republican Party Has Lost Its Way on States’ Rights.”

He’s absolutely wrong.

His point is that somehow the federal government under the Trump Administration sending in troops to help protect cities somehow equates to the federal government under the Obama Administration preventing Arizona from cracking down on illegal immigration.

French goes on to criticize Republicans for larger deficits, he notes that Fox News personality Tucker Carlson once embraced a platform of liberal Democrat candidate Elizabeth Warren, and seems to have a problem with the federal government telling states they can’t have sanctuary cities for immigrants.

And therefore because of this the Republican Party has somehow lost its way. He even seems to question the sincerity of the Tea Party during the Obama presidency.

This is an absolutely ludicrous thought process by French. First of all, French knows full well the Republican Party needed the Democrat Party to pass its budgets, due to needing a 60-vote filibuster majority in the Senate. Secondly, Tucker Carlson is one person and doesn’t represent the Republican Party and all conservatives.

But those two points don’t have much to do with his general statement about how supposedly Republicans believe in big government now because they are not allowing states to provide sanctuary for illegal immigrants and because they are sending in federal officials to stop violent protests.

That point is probably the most ludicrous of them all. French has been an attorney, so he knows there are laws on the books about illegal immigration. States cannot purposefully help illegal immigrants. The federal government has a responsibility to prevent this from happening. And illegal immigration is not something that can affect just one state. If one state allows entry to illegals and them offers them safe harbor, then they can easily cross other state lines.

Also, California’s law put its own citizens at odds with the federal law, making business owners pay a fine to help federal immigration officials do their jobs.

French must also know that Democrat mayors are turning a blind eye to looters and violent protesters. The federal government has an obligation there also if cities are not going to do their jobs.

This is not big government. He mentions federalism several times, as though federalism is some libertarian philosophy that says the federal government never gets to do anything. Maybe he’s getting Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson mixed up.

The Federalist Party in the early founding of our country was not the libertarian party — that was Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. Federalists believed in a central bank, a centralized military, and a strong centralized government. (Although admittedly they probably did not envision it becoming the great behemoth it is today!)

Federalists never believed in no federal government; they believed in limited federal government. They always believed that it had certain responsibilities.

Although government’s power and authority should often be curtailed, there are times in which the federal government should become involved in what the state does, and there are times in which the state should become involved in what cities do.

Suppose that a state chose to segregate their schools again. And then the Trump administration came in and told the state that they could not do that. Would French then start complaining that Republicans didn’t believe in states’ right? I would hope not! Because the federal government has an obligation to make sure that its citizens’ civil rights are not violated.

This concept is nothing new to conservatives.

Ronald Reagan and William Buckley, Jr. discussed these matters on Firing Line even before Reagan was president.

“In my view the federal government has a right to enforce the Constitution, which means to protect the Constitutional right of all citizens,” Reagan said. “If the cause of the riot was the denial of Constitutional rights to any group of citizens, I believe if need be the federal government should protect the rights of those citizens by bayonet if necessary.”

So this concept of the federal government needing to interfere is nothing new. It is a concept that even Reagan espoused more than 40 years ago.

French seems to misunderstand certain parts of conservatism. Yes, we believe in limited government. But we do believe that the federal government has a role. And it is important to understand what its role is. Comparing allowing a state to protect its citizens by fighting illegal immigration versus a city requiring all of its citizens to do something is a fallacy. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s