The “State’s Rights” Debate

(midnight – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

We had a interesting debate Friday night over Arizona’s right to enact laws as a matter of a State’s Right to autonomy on WWL Radio. My esteemed partner and I saw it very differently.



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First of definition of terms, as I plan to employ them:

As a matter of distrusting my own choice of words, when the semantic point came up that the idea of “Federalism” meaning FOR State’s rights, I chose to wander over and pick up my copy of “The Federalist Papers” off our library shelf. I also googled and skimmed “The Anti-Federalist Papers” which were published at the time to make the case against a strong centralized government and arguing against ratifying the Constitution. It was the Anti-Federalists who made the Bill of Rights being the first act of Congress an absolute guarantee. Jefferson was a strong Federalist in believing that the Separation of Powers would ensure a Central Government that would create safeguards against the Federal Government becoming an entity with enough power to become abusive to individual State’s or Citizen’s welfare.

The Federalist Party; thereafter was a product of pro-banking, pro-business who wanted a fiscally stable strong central government. Hamilton’s centralized banking economic policies were opposed by Jefferson – the arguments were essentially elitism versus populism; but culminated moreso in the only Federalist President, John Adam’s creation of a tax subsidized standing military (Navy) and the creation of the “Alien and Sedition Act” …the very first shot in the effort to create a Unitary Executive. However Jefferson also penned the Ky & VA resolution, which supported State’s Rights should the Federal Government overstep its bounds. A sticky wicket this term.

So, consider my usage of the term “Federalist” in description of my views for this debate only, as the Jeffersonian argument for a Central Government, and as the opposing view of the “Anti-Federalist” State’s Autonomy arguers of that era. I am comfortable in my use of this term under this intended usage. I am not employing all of the nuances of Federalist’s platforms or views in this debate, rather using the most simplistic of usages.

Ok, that said, let us move on to the legalities and ethical questions surrounding these points of views in this present era.

I am including four things, penned by the Founding Fathers that I take to be worthy in this conversation. For the record, I do not hold these gentlemen in the reverent regard so many people do; in fact I think their overall “winner takes all” system inherently flawed. I have come to respect certain aspects of Parliamentary procedure: For unless you have a landslide, you MUST create coalitions with those other Parties who speak for and hold the values of large segments of the Constituencies they serve. I have always held that the Electoral College is utter Bullshit with a capital B. When brainwashing is shattered, one must question everything. That said, they got several things right.

The Declaration of Independence States:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Preamble, which has no litigious factors about the powers of the State, speaks plainly to its intent:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Tenth Amendment states: (and one in question here)


The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

First off, for right or wrong, the main test of a State’s Right to secede and/or enact laws that were reprehensible to the Union culminated in The Civil War. The Union, obviously won. (or did they? seems we are still fighting it in many ways)

Since then numerous decisions have been handed down, overturned and reiterated through the years, most notably in our recent history the enactment of Civil Rights Legislation. Many of us here are old enough to understand that Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrats used State’s Rights as codespeak for segregation. This alone, this memory makes the term “State’s Rights” reprehensible to me. I am a Federalist from youth, borne of this precedent.

Since the original framer’s time, so many laws have been enacted by Congress, it is hard to find a subject that has not yet been addressed by Federal Law.

But since we are speaking of States, realize that at one time, these too were states: Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln, Muscogee, Superior and Deseret, all either rejected by the Union or disputed by other “States” that appropriated the control of the land.

States, like Countries, are nothing but arbitrary constructs in which humans draw imaginary lines in the dust and deem themselves “owners and masters” of that which happens between the lines.

No matter how irrevocably ridiculous I find the concept, I have to argue within the constraints of the system as it stands, not the system in which I dream it to be:  One World.

We have, in existence, very strong anti-discrimination laws passed at the Federal Level. These Laws came into effect PURELY for the reason that that power, left to the States was being applied in a way that did not honor the “all men are created equal and endowed…” intent of the Documents by which we claim to govern ourselves.

We find ourselves in a position here. At one time the National Guard was called out to make sure students in Mississippi could attend school unmolested. Now, Arizonans are calling for National help in doing the Federal Work of Immigration Control. They have employed a tactic that presumes guilt (not to mention illegal search and seizure, and possibly cruel and unusual) by racially profiling Citizens. Both “guilty until proven innocent” and “racial profiling” will not withstand Constitutional Scrutiny. This method is not only illegal, but stands clearly against our INTENT.

So, the question lies here: Does Arizona have the “right” as a State to create or limit educational standards in their PUBLIC school system? For that matter, does Texas have a right to make the teaching of one religious view as a “scientific” explanation of the Origin of Mankind?

First off, there are National Education Standards. All States receive Federal Funding for Public Education. It is permissible, in any state, to create a non-funded Private School and teach ANY curriculum you choose, so long as the basic Educational Standards are met. You can teach the Bible as truth, but your students still have to pass standardized SAT tests in order to keep your accreditation. That includes Science.

It seems to me that the Scopes Trial and the “establishment of religion” clause would make the Texas question answered; it is illegal. Federalism trumps States in matters of separation of church and state.

But what of other curricula?  Does it stand the litmus test of breaching a person’s Civil Rights to only offer “White European” history from the guise of the conquerors?  Should not Federal Restrictions be used against discrimination where Federal Funding is used? This same argument has been used to stop funding abortions by the very people who refuse this argument when made by those opposing their racist curriculum. Either Federal Funding is mandated by Federal Restrictions or Permissions or it is not. At what point does the Funding argument end and the Rights of the Individual to Freedom begin?

I argue that the right to autonomy belongs to the person, not the State. We may not create laws that abridge a person’s right to health and happiness at a STATE or FEDERAL level. This includes a woman’s right to medical decisions over her own womb, a dark skinned citizen’s right to walk unmolested on the streets their tax dollars built, and the right to any and every student to not be given censored history by a (for the moment) majority of white people.



A system must be judged by how it treats its most powerless. It must be judged by the ensuring the rights of not only the majority, but its minorities.

I do not believe for an instant that the intent of the Constitutional Authors was that “shunning and boycotts” were the only recourse for States that wrongly abuse their own Citizenry. All Citizens are guaranteed “Security” whether that be in person, spirit or the ability to educate themselves with ELECTIVE studies.

The argument “who does it harm but Arizonans?” falls incredibly flat for me.”Who did the Alabaman segregationists hurt but themselves?” The powerless is who. The lynched. The CHILDREN. Should Wyoming pass a law that children need not go to school past 6th grade, would it be upheld? No. Children need protection, the protection that allows them to be educated and have a future beyond whatever hollow they are born into. Who it hurts is not White Arizonans. It hurts a whole generation of children, both by inferior education, and by making a whole group of Americans feel inferior. It causes psychological damage to a whole underclass. (Think of the studies of the past, and still being done today in which black girls always pick the white dolls as “prettiest” “nicest” and “best.”) It is psychological warfare. I do not believe the framers thought the only protection against abuse of citizens was boycotts and shunning while looking away from the suffering until it somehow magically stops. The example of Gazans still starving shows sanctions do nothing while they suffer. Boycotts did not stop segregation, troops did.

There are things that cannot withstand “popular” vote. Those are the guarantees of INDIVIDUAL autonomy may not be abridged. The Bill of Rights was created to protect the Minority from the Tyranny of the Majority.

The argument about Medical Marijuana is one I find worthy of National Debate. California and Michigan may make this law, but it is illegal on a National Level; therefore will have to undergo the scrutiny of a Federal Decision. That is the process.

It is not a class “A” narcotic, yet class “A” narcotics are administered all the time. People are given morphine (clean heroin) all the time, to ease their pain. Controlled substances are given when prescribed by the medical community, as it should be. To separate one substance out; one clearly non-addictive, by “popular” (and may I say the result of a propaganda campaign) opinion as not being medicinal is illegal.

These laws have been passed purely for the benefit of the Private Sector of Pharmaceuticals and to benefit the huge Industry of Incarceration. They do not serve the People’s well being, life, liberty or pursuit of happiness in any way. The war on drugs itself is Unconstitutional. Ultimately, this law, like prohibition, will not be overturned due to its ridiculous nature; it will be overturned do to the fact it is financially beneficial to the PTB to so do. Big tax money.

You cannot dictate what substances people use to pleasure themselves. You may dictate whether or not they can use such substances in a way that endangers other people. (i.e. drunk driving is illegal) Laws that purpose to legislate personal “safety” always abridge human rights. (helmet laws for cyclists being one)

Taken larger; a law that dictates safety, such as environmental safety is legal because toxic substances do have a harmful effect on individuals exposed to it.

Gay marriage is another subject that is testing the waters of States Rights; yet it is already on the books that all States MUST recognize a marriage another State deems legal. This is already a Right granted expressly to States. Any Federal Law against said marriage abridges, again, the right of people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That said, I believe that it is the Federal Governments JOB, just as in the case of Civil Rights in the 50’s and 60’s to overrule States that may make a prejudicial decision in these matters. The Federal Government must follow both the intent and the letter of the Constitution… which (arguably) is for Freedom of the People from the tyranny of, well, anyone or any institution that tries to infringe upon it for any reason.

We are all under the Tyranny of the Business class at the moment. None of us are truly free of it. Most laws have become arbitrary and self serving for this class.

I find it interesting politically that these Racist Laws are being tested by States for a Federal argument in a time which the Country sees its first Person of Color as President. It is a ploy to push the Federal hand against an illegal law, to frame him as “Look, he hates White People.” This is purely the act of Conservative Think Tanks, who want to exert further Right-Wing extremism, and divert from the Class War.

This is why I argue that the Energy companies (to start) should be Nationalized and Non-profit, to serve the Good of all People rather than the interests of the very few at the expense of the Many. I believe Education should be Nationalized and Non-profit. I believe the Health Care system should be Nationalized and Non-profit.

We have tried Unfettered Capitalism; it has failed America. Her people suffer due to its nature.

The system itself needs to be overhauled, and in that overhauling, the Federal Government must be given Primacy over the States in all matters in which anyone’s rights are abridged. This needs to be, for the VERY first time, a Government FOR and BY the people. All people, not some people. All Laws that thwart people’s personal freedoms need to be stricken, and enforced at the Federal Level.

I am a Federalist. I think State’s Rights only serve to a very fine point…. that being the preservation of the Lands from exploitation by other entities or areas. Another State may not steal one’s timber or water, nor dump toxic waste on someone else’s lands.

This argument cannot be held strictly as “States Rights” or “Federal Rights,” each must stand on its own, and ultimately Federal Law, if it is to serve its purpose, MUST come out in favor of Individual Protection and Freedom.

This comes around to one of the best discussions I ever had online, with Weeping For Brunnhilde.

He, from the POV of a Black Man in a racist world, espoused he firmly believes in a ruling elite, and that the masses cannot be trusted. I argued vehemently with him, both of us conceding the pros and cons of such a system. The conversation lasted days.

Ultimately, we agreed on one thing. Were education available and valued by society as it was in the greater ages of the past; yet available to all, not just the Elite Class, the masses would be able to self-govern with wisdom.

Until that happens, there MUST be wise and reasoned Laws in place to prevent the mob mentality that uneducated people can partake in, riddled with fears, disinformation and hatred.

So, Plato, the job is not to interpret the cave-shadows, it is to lead the people out of the cave, into the light of day.

Until then, make rules that prevent them from eating one another around the fire, huddled in the darkness beneath the stalactites.


“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

“I shall lift them up,

brothers and sisters, together all hues,

raise them above as one, and lead them

into the light of Freedom from all tyranny.

So sayeth the Commie Pinko Chick. Amen.

12 comments

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    • Diane G on May 16, 2010 at 6:20 pm
      Author

    Would arguably be one in which we would not have 2 classes, subdivided beneath the two into many factions. It would have one class; a class full of caring, equal individuals that are educated and cared for by one another… and these questions would never HAVE to be posed again.

  1. And even if they object to that, have no problem with it being passed around as an item for casual debate, where all opinions are equally to be “respectfully debated”.

    An interesting schism.  Let’s say we were to start a respectful discussion on the basic civil/human rights Catholics should have, or, say, white people.  In the mainstream media.

    See how that flies.  Without massive crowds of screaming people saying, rightly, that such people’s basic human rights are not a matter for casual discussion in terms of restrictions.

    It wouldn’t — wouldn’t fly.  Not for a second.  But it flies for immigrants and homosexuals.  And, in terms of the control-of-body “debate”, for women.

    I find that interesting.  And revealing.

  2. so I’m missing a lot of the ‘finer’ points of the politics at play, even after 30 years I still find myself puzzled at times. Especially when it comes to Mr Jefferson and his beautiful words. he reminds me of someone…eloquent speaker…saying one thing…doing something very different..well, can’t put my finger on it right now..

    The problem,as I see it, started right here:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that

    all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    The reality was it only applied to white men and really only to wealthy ones. Over time it got deeply embedded into the American psyche, it didn’t apply to black, yellow, red and not even white women and g*d forbid gay and/or lesbians.

    This mind set hasn’t changed much since then.

    When it comes to states rights:

    The whole system started out pretty much flawed, but then maybe it worked at the time when the states were scattered over miles and miles and communication was slow, a strong, independent states system was needed. But even then people didn’t trust government very much, if I can believe some of what is written in books. Then you throw in various politicians stoking the fire of local pride and ‘we’re better than they’ and you have states running amok. American individualism at its finest.

    The whole system is still flawed and should be scrapped. One man/woman one vote! Coalitions are great, keeps everyone on their toes.

    Educating the masses is key! That and a stable workforce that should include actually teaching  job skills to the young who don’t want to go to college, like apprenticeships and job related courses where you work and go to classes and getting paid to do so. It works well in Europe. You’ll end up with a happier, healthier population and most of all more educated. If it was up to me I would send every young person overseas for one year for them to see how other people live. It broadens the horizon and maybe then Faux News won’t have so many viewers.  

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