May 25th: Balancing Our Mentality With Our Budget

In a satirical column in USA Today, I learned that Kentucky is the state that most depends on Federal assistance to run their operations. I also knew, based on this election and every one that came before it, that Kentucky tends to be one of the most Republican-friendly states on voting day.

This comes as a bit of a shock. How is it that a state that depends so much on the help from the national government can so regularly support the political party that wants a small central power, with the real strength being given to the states? If that was the case, Kentucky would be dooming itself by biting the hand that feeds it, in favor of being left to its own (rather poor) devices.

This kind of political dissonance is baffling to me, and begs to question: what is it that Republican voters like about their Republican candidates that they would be willing to sacrifice themselves in that way? We know there are pet projects that the Republican party supports that are hot-button issues in places like Kentucky: guns, abortion, same-sex marriage, and others. But, on the larger scale, these are small issues when confronted by the fact that, if all goes according to the Republicans’ plan, states like Kentucky will be left out to dry.

It makes very little sense that a state so dependent on the national government for support would be willing to so consistently vote for the party that seeks to make government “small enough to drown in the bathtub.” And it should be for even greater concern when we consider what would happen if the people of Kentucky actually got what they have been asking for.

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February 24th: Deregulation as Offset Regulation

Donald Trump took up the pen yesterday and removed a provision set in place by Barack Obama which allowed students to choose the bathroom at school that best matches their gender identity. Trump put the regulation in the hands of the state, rather than Federal mandate.

It may come as a shock to anyone who has read my blog before, but I don’t have an issue with this from the perspective of political ideology. A true Republican believes that legal decisions such as this belong in the hands of the states, not the federal government. It makes sense that a man representing the Republican party would deregulate nationally and put the power in the hands of the state legislators. This seems to match his general tone of deregulation. Trump has made it clear that for every new regulation he puts into place, he intends to eliminate two existing ones.

Two issues jump out at me. The first is that Trump needs to remain consistent in his goal to state authority. He can’t go back and forth, saying that some issues are more important than others for federal jurisdiction. If you’re going to tell me it’s a state issue to determine gendered bathrooms, don’t turn around and nationally declare religious freedom to allow refusal to gay customers. While I may not agree with the notion of a small government, I can respect a consistent application of it, which isn’t something we’ve seen very much in the past decade of Conservative governing.

The other, more concerning idea is a lack of faith in the morality of the state legislators. If it is up to them to protect the rights of citizens, I don’t have a lot of hope that all 50 states will look out for all citizens equally or create protections for even the marginalized members of American society.

The track record isn’t good. Indiana and North Carolina have both put forward laws in the last two years that have demonstrated a willingness to restrict the rights of many, rather than protecting them. Not all Americans will receive equal rights in this system, which may work to even further divide and sectionalize the country which is already struggling to unify and bond.

As a result of the power being given to the states, advocacy styles will have to change. Petitioning and lobbying the White House will be far less effective (not that it was entirely effective before). Instead, we will have to mobilize to 50 states, in hopes of creating the uniformly accepting society one state at a time. If we want to ensure that all Americans are able to live with the rights and protections they deserve, we will have to be able to convince each state separately, making the task far more difficult, yet no less important.

With a Republican president in place, the activist community is going to have to adjust the mode of attack. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with putting the power in the hands of the states, but it puts the onus on the public to ensure that the states regulate according to our notion of what is right, and to ensure that huge sections of the country don’t fall prey to states that legislate in contradiction to the values of the nation as a whole.