Sadly “states rights,” for many, conjures images of George Wallace and water cannons. And rightly so. The idea of “states rights” is associated very legitimately with opposition to the civil rights movement. This is reality. However the idea of broad decentralization back to the states is a concept that needs to be more than just examined. It just makes sense. The centralization of the 20th Century was a mistake in many/most respects.
We understand however the very legitimate fears associated with devolution of power from Washington, but we must deal with these fears and see “states rights” through a new, 21st Century lens.
A very real conversation about civil rights must happen as we consider 21st Century states rights. Government generally should be closer to the people and not centered as it is now in Washington DC, at least to the current degree. However, the concerns of the past (and present) cannot simply be dismissed. They must be dealt with.
I don’t presume to suggest a way out of the current gridlock, but the increasing frequency of federal shutdowns—this is the third one in the past year— should tell us that the problem is deeper than a disagreement over immigration or health care or the debt ceiling. If we accept that federal shutdowns are likely to continue to occur, then we should consider long-term strategies to mitigate their scope and severity—including the return to a robust federalism that leaves more policymaking power to the states.