November 20, 2004


A States' Rights Left? (JIM HOLT, November 21, 2004, NY Times Magazine)

When George W. Bush was re-elected, people in some of the bluer states were so angry and sad that they talked of moving to Canada or seceding from the Union. How else, they felt, could they escape the intensifying red-state control of Washington? But there is a less drastic survival strategy available to liberals in the coastal and Great Lakes states, one that involves neither emigration nor civil war. It is based on the venerable doctrine of states' rights. And the oddity is that President Bush himself is determined to give the blue states a rather generous gift to help it succeed.

The phrase ''states' rights'' has a nasty ring to it for liberals, given its historical associations. During the civil rights era, it was the proud slogan of Dixiecrats like Strom Thurmond and George C. Wallace, who fought tooth and nail against desegregation. A century earlier, it was invoked by the slave states of the Confederacy to justify their secession from the Union.

But states' rights has not always been the intellectual property of reactionaries. During the War of 1812, it was a rallying cry for antiwar forces. In the winter of 1814 and 1815, representatives from New England states came together at the Hartford Convention to express their hostility to the federal government and ''Mr. Madison's War.''

So the doctrine of states' rights has had a varied career. But why resurrect it today? The reason is simple. There are big differences among the states, as the last election showed -- differences in their understanding of tolerance, in their attitude toward the role of religion in public life, in the value they place on education, conservation and scientific research. The more sovereignty each state has, the better it can pursue policies that are appropriate to the needs and preferences of its people.

Mr. Holt isn't serious, but he's right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 11:15 PM

Isn't it funny?
Now that the liberals no longer have the power to force their whims on the entire nation, they have suddenly decided that it's good for different states to be able to run things according to their own local wishes.

Posted by: ray at November 21, 2004 12:30 AM

Since they can't force the entire country to do things their way, they're willing to settle for telling Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, California's Central Valley, Downstate Illiniois and such places. And, when they run out of states, they'll settle for the counties in which their precious cities are located.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 21, 2004 12:42 AM

Welcome to the Democrats' fallback position on abortion, when Roe is reversed and power of law is given back to the states.

Posted by: John at November 21, 2004 1:13 AM

How much you want to bet that, when Roe is reversed, a dozen or more State Supreme Courts decide that, lo and behold, their state constitutions guarantee a right to abortion! Hooray for states' rights!

Posted by: Timothy at November 21, 2004 1:22 AM

Prior to Roe v Wade several States were legislatively repealing Abortion laws. If Roe is reversed my hunch is that that will continue. The net result is that abortion will be available to every woman in America. Just a car drive away.

Still important to reverse Roe.

Posted by: h-man at November 21, 2004 3:47 AM

That's fine. There's no good reason why Utah and New York need to have the same law concerning abortion, if they don't want to. If we can reach a modus vivendi in the culture war by returning all manner of power to the states, that's great. I really do not want to spend the next three decades hearing fugly women scream 'Keep your rosaries out of my ovaries' or receiving postcards of rotting dead fetuses in the mail.

Posted by: Bart at November 21, 2004 6:22 AM

The more local the politics, the more accountable. That is a great thing for conservatives.

Twenty years ago, the abortion debate nearly drove me insane. I wasn't worried about the mothers, or the abortion doctors, or even the society. I was worried about the babies.

Finally, it drove me to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. And I have been content since.

A lot of Christians believe in an age of accountability, but that is philosophically untenable; otherwise, the ultimate sacrifice a mother could make for her child is to have an abortion. She would be sending the child to heaven, at the cost of going to hell for herself.

The truth is, even an unborn child is judged. But, I was content with realizing that the kid at least gets a fair shake.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 21, 2004 8:54 AM

I love it. What's next, an ackowledgemnt of the 9th and 10th amendments? The left is coming apart at the seams.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at November 21, 2004 2:39 PM