Jul. 3—With the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, and others involving separation of church and state and protection of the environment, there seems to be a movement challenging the role of the federal government in our civil society.
We should be careful what we wish for.
The Supreme Court ruling in Roe essentially said the federal government has no power to protect reproductive rights via the U.S. Constitution. The court seems to be leaning in that direction for church and state issues and the power of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Other longstanding federal policies might come under attack. Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare laws come to mind. Even though these policies were enacted by Congress, and therefore, by the people, we have a high court that seems activist against federal powers.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin could be challenged. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has already been dismantled by the conservative court. In that case, the Supreme Court struck down the requirement states with a history of discriminating in voting must have changes in voting rules approved by the federal government. States then went forward after the ruling and passed myriad laws that make it more difficult for people of color and others to vote.
Some will argue this passing of power to the states is somehow sanctioned by the 10th Amendment, which says states have powers if federal government has not prohibited them, leaving not much room for interpretation.
The powers of the federal government are a necessary check against the excesses of the states. Federal power was necessary to overrule southern states' Jim Crow laws. Federal power was necessary to allow Blacks to vote exercising the federally given right when states were obstructing and prohibiting it. Federal power was necessary to allow Black school children to attend public schools and universities.
The federal government power has been necessary recently to ensure proper prosecution of cases of police brutality, including the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police.
States have more opportunities to corrupt democracy in their ability to gerrymander voting districts in a way that makes it impossible for their opponents to win. We've seen many egregious examples of this. States are more susceptible to corruption in that the gerrymandered elected leaders can further corrupt laws in their favor.
The authority of the federal government is given by duly elected representatives in Congress. And if we think the federal government has too much power, we should ask those in Congress who provided it why they approved it.
The federal government is a necessary check and balance against states that have proven they will thumb their noses at important American rights like justice and equality. If we weaken the federal government, we weaken those protections for all Americans.