Many do not know that we live under two political systems: one primarily national in function, the other primarily domestic. It’s called federalism—the two share power and are equal. Neither was to be subservient to the other and each was to have separate duties. Thomas Jefferson explained it best when he said, “The states are not subordinate to the national government but rather the two are coordinate departments of one single and integral whole…. The one is domestic the other the foreign branch of the same government.”
Think of this relationship as an ideal marriage, where neither partner is subservient to the other. The duties in a relationship are gradually assigned to one partner or the other. Neither feels beneath the other, rather they are a team.
Though this was the ideal, the Founders were aware of the nature of all governments to grow. George Washington articulated this when he warned, “Government is like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” In order to ensure that this fire does not spread too far and burn down the home, one builds a fireplace to keep the fire under control. That fireplace is the Constitution, particularly Section 8, which outlines all powers that are given to Congress. Everything Congress did was to be clearly linked to at least one of these enumerated grants of power. In essence the States, who created the Federal Government, retained unto themselves all other powers as per Amendments 9 and 10 of the Constitution.
The advantages of federalism are enormous. States become laboratories of experimentation. Californians remember numerous “brownouts” at the turn of the century because of California’s failed energy policies. Other states viewing this were careful to avoid the same policies. States have the tendency to look at sister states for models and to borrow from them in refining their own programs. These places of experimentation work to everyone’s advantage. What if we had federalized California’s failed energy policy? We would have had “brownouts“ on a national scale.
Had our power crazed Federal Government refrained from their natural inclination to take more power, health care reform could have gone through this experimental process designed by our Founding Fathers. We would then have been able to identify the weaknesses or strengths while they were still geographically isolated. Only three states had tried it: Oregon, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. That was clearly not enough to identify and avoid the “brownouts “ in the area. Instead they took a half-baked idea and made it mandatory for all. Of course, this would have necessitated an enlargement of the enumerated list through Article V, requiring ratification by “3/4th of the Several States.” Since more than 60% of the people did not want this bill, the Constitution would have protected us from the federal government’s self empowerment.
To protect federalism the Founders did two things. First, Senators were to be selected by state legislatures so the U. S. Senate would be protective of state concerns. All law required the approval of the House of Representatives, the peoples’ representatives, and the Senate, the states’ representatives. That is why we have two branches of government to make law—two perspectives. The Seventeenth Amendment, insisting that the people also elect U. S. Senators, destroyed this protection. States thereafter were left unprotected.
Second, the structure of the U. S. Constitution limited and defined federal power leaving all power not specifically defined with the states as per the 10th Amendment. When Congress fails to defend this amendment and federalism as intended, it falls upon governors and their attorney generals to take the more confrontational approach as has Arizona over illegal immigration, or the 26 states presently suing the federal government over mandated national healthcare, or Idaho who took an even stronger stance on the same subject. “It ain’t happening here!” “See you in court.”