Why a Strong Central Government Sucks
Today the Supreme Court handed down a decision in Gonzales v. Raich where the U.S. Government sought to prosecute a marjuana grower under Federal law even though a recently passed State law made the activity legal. At issue is the breadth of the Interstate Commerce Clause. Now, the Commerce Clause has been used to do a lot of great things, like enforce civil rights statutes and empower the New Deal, and I like that. But the Commerce Clause is a dual edge sword, and I think liberals like myself are about to get smacked upside the head if we don’t do something real soon.
I haven’t read the Raich decision yet, and probably won’t because it will just upset me… but I don’t really need to understand the Court’s reasoning to be upset by the long term consequences. In theory a strong federal power isn’t bad… so long as that federal power is difficult to wield and used only in extreme cases. However, the halls of Congress are not so silent as they used to be. With the impending death of the filibuster, the near extinction of the centrist politician, and new methods to control party behavior, it has become easier for the majority party to get legislation through. I’m not just talking Republicans here… this stuff goes for Democrats. Again, that’s not necessarily bad either.
The real problem is that Congress needs to always be doing “something” in order to validate its existence and strengthen its member’s reelection campaigns. Elections are not won by declaring “I did a good job of bogging down the system and keeping things from happening.” Oh no, today’s Congress-critters need to always be dolling out the legislative successes. Whether its industry, special interest, or taxes… Congress cannot simply stand by and announce “everything is more or less fine, what isn’t fine is a State issue.” Which is really unfortunate, because many of the problems facing people today are state issues… or at least could be solved with innovative and local state solutions. Instead, Congress feels the need to stick its fingers into every pot.
The Raich decision deals with drugs, which is a sensitive topic. Let’s assume for just a moment that a majority of Americans truly believe that using medical marjuana is bad (I suggest they don’t, but that there is a very vocal minority who hold Congress hostage to ever increasing demands for anti-drug law). Sure, fine, pass a Federal law that says you can’t ship this stuff between states because the state’s themselves lack the power to enforce the law. But, if a majority of Californians (or Washingtonians… as the case may be) chose to allow medical drug use in their own state, what possible reason does the Federal government have to say otherwise? And given the nature of Congress, how is that Californian majority supposed to do anything about it? Even if the 10 states with similar laws on the books ban together, and even if they represent 60% of the American population, the U.S. Senate will never go along with it.
And that’s okay, that’s how its supposed to be… the Senate is there to make sure that state’s rights are not tramppled on. But that limitation was meant to go hand-in-hand with certain absolute limitations on the power of the Federal government. Cases like Raich only serve to loosen those restrictions and allow Congress to get into every are of public policy. And because of that drive to achieve “legislative success” we get a Congress that has the means, the money, and the 24 hour, unceasing, overdemanding NEED to legislate everything at the federal level.
Worse part of it all… this decision will be hailed by liberals across the nation who don’t understand we are losing the fight.