The United States has moved beyond federalism | News, Sports, Jobs
When the Articles of Confederation proved insufficient to address the critical issues left after the 1783 armistice with England, major settlers advocated a national meeting of colonial delegates to amend the articles.
After several years of jolts and starts, the 1787 convention came to order and 55 delegates worked through the scorching Philadelphia summer to negotiate solutions to the weaknesses of the Confederacy.
Horse and buggy government
Creating federalism by granting specific powers to the federal government and reserving all other powers to the states worked very well during the early decades, when the horse and buggy were the means of transportation and most business was local.
Over time, the Supreme Court has been asked to review traditional interpretations of the commerce clause, the general welfare clause, the equal protection clause, among others. The definition of federalism was therefore broadened to deal with new unforeseen problems arising from the nationalization of the country.
America is nationalized
However, the American economy, society, and culture have become so national that the fragmentation of a federal system of 1787 no longer adequately serves the people. The structure of government should facilitate, rather than delay or hinder the prosperity and happiness of the people.
Currently, groups have sprung up with the aim of changing the Constitution. A number of states have endorsed the proposal that two-thirds of state legislatures convene a constitutional convention. Others want to reject the Electoral College for the direct election of the president.
Then there are others who want to overturn the Supreme Court ruling declaring partnerships for the purpose of contributing to campaigns. Another group wants a convention limited to adding an amendment requiring a balanced budget at the federal level.
Support and opposition to all of these convention proposals has been bipartisan with the John Birch Society and the Eagle Forum against and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council in favor. States were so divided over the proposals that they withdrew their consent as soon as new supporters emerged.
Much of the dialogue about forcing an appeal from various conventions is irrelevant to the larger issue of overhauling the national government to manifest the national complexion of our economy and society. National issues have become more important than state issues.
Federalism has failed
The failure of federalism is well documented by our recent experience with the confused handling of COVID-19 at all levels of government. President Donald Trump has put federalism to the test by delegating the COVID-19 pandemic to states.
States became enemies as they tried to outbid each other for the medical supplies needed to fight COVID-19. Then the federal government got into the law and competed with the states.
Responses to the pandemic have varied dramatically from state to state. Some states have closed their doors to foreigners. Masking rules were inconsistent, with governors battling local governments.
Good Road Show
It would have made a great road show but the cast was too big.
That would be funny, except that some experts estimate that federalism and its implementers have caused 300,000 deaths from COVID.
A federal system generates a lot of piecemeal policies. Because federalism requires the mobilization of high-level public support, the processes are slow and cumbersome.
But just as in the days of the Articles of Confederation, we now face problems that are not resolved in a federal system.
It will take a national government to develop universal health care, tackle global warming, respond effectively to natural disasters, finance infrastructure, ensure equal rights for all and cope with unforeseen crises.
All of this will require a greater sense of community.