States Rights

LQ wrote at about looming challenges to federalism

i’ll be interested to see how the conservative, pro-federalism, pro-states’ rights, GOP-run government (and the conservative intelligentsia which carries their theoretical water) handles some of the upcoming challenges to federalism:

  • medical marijuana laws
  • state & regional initiatives on global warming: for isntance, California’s mandatory cap on greenhouse-gas emissions will have to be signed off on by the EPA before it goes into effect

I tried to comment, but WordPress kept ignoring me. Instead, I’ll post here and trackback.

James Loewen writes, in his book Lies Across America, that “states rights” is the call of whatever party doesn’t control the presidency. The Republicans made a lot of noise about it during the Clinton years, but will likely have to adjust their position now. Some readers will likely point out, however, that the unspoken Republican tenet (at least since the early 1900s) is “might makes right.” Sadly, the Bush administration has already supported challenges to local environmental regulations. I can’t remember the specifics, but a federal court struck down a California law that required clean-burning busses and trucks in the state.

Maybe Republicans are more tolerant of cognitive dissonance than liberals. Maybe they don’t care.

For context, Loewen was righting about how the South has been re-defining the Civil War. Most of us learned that it was a war about states rights, but according to Loewen, that’s a revisionist view created by over a hundred years of mythologizing about it.
Loewen quotes:
[quote]Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens expounded, “Our new government’s foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery-subordination to the superior race-is his natural and normal condition.” [/quote]
Stephens represented the popular view, and Loewen quotes dozens of others, including John C. Calhoun, to prove the point. Further, states rights were actually a complaint for southern seperatists, who complained that protection and equality laws in northern states violated the federal constitution. Southerners argued that the US Consitution protected their right to enslave people, and northern abololitionists were violating that right.

Since then, however, Confederate mythologizing has rewritten history to make the Civil War one of states rights, and the North has participated with its silence. The Unionists won the war, but the nadir of race relations that followed reconstruction so shames us that it’s easier to forget what we fought for than to admit we lost.

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