~This country is increasingly becoming more federalist, and that leaves the GOP in a pickle.
By John S. Wilson
The recent earmark debate that developed from the omnibus spending bill signed by Obama on Thursday wasn't about earmarks. And though the GOP did a masterful job of framing the debate to center on earmarks (which only comprised 2% of the bill) they lost out on an opportunity to delve into the real subject matter - federalism. Even after earmarks are stripped away there is going to be more power centralized in D.C. And more power usually leads to more federal government revenue which leads to more federal expenditures - it's a vicious cycle. This basic premise led Thomas Jefferson to found the modern republican party, then known as the Democratic-Republicans, and James Madison and George Mason to fight for the Bill of Rights to be included in the Constitution.
Today various members of the GOP lack profundity on these ideals. With rapid fire words like "Reagan", "limited government", "tax cuts" and "responsibility" are shot from their mouths but seem to be falling on Kevlar-lined ears. Why? Because government programs like Social Security and Medicare are extremely popular; because the very thought of a Katrina-like disaster happening without the federal government pitching in (quickly and ably) scares the bejesus out of people; and because citizens implicitly know that if the federal government is doing less it means states, localities and citizens are left doing much much more.This country is increasingly becoming more federalist, and that leaves the GOP in a pickle.
Why would citizens want to limit the very same government they have empowered to distribute retirement income, revitalize their school systems (No Child Left Behind), and help their kids pay for college (Pell Grants)?Republicans, whether socially conservative or moderate, have also jumped on the federalist bandwagon. Social conservatives wanted a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as being between a man and woman, and moderates supported the prescription drug bill Bush signed in 2003 and the Patriot Act, which trumped liberty and kowtowed to neoconservatism.So what exactly are the benefits of being an anti-federalist? That's what the GOP must explain. Earmarks can frame a debate or two but they can't define a party or an era.
-John attends Virginia Commonwealth University with a triple major in economics, sociology, and women's studies. He blogs at Policy Diary, contributes to Hip-Hop Republican.com, and serves as a regular contributor to PolicyNet, where he writes about domestic and foreign affairs. He recently served as a legislative fellow in the office of the Honorable David Englin (D) of the Virginia House of Delegates.