It’s no secret that as conservative living in Wisconsin I happen to be a big fan of Governor Scott Walker. I also happen to be a big fan of federalism. I also happen to be a big fan of state sovereignty, which while related is not precisely the same thing. Lost a little bit in modern America is the definition of just what a state is and what that means for our government model. The Merriam-Webster dictionary has eight definitions for the word “state” the fifth definition is “a : a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory; especially : one that is sovereign b : the political organization of such a body of people c : a government or politically organized society having a particular character <a police state> <the welfare state>.” Most pertinent is the first portion of this definition. Politically organized, definite territory, these are key and what makes nation-states, or countries into what they are. This is also how they were commonly thought of early in our nation’s history. This is also why our states are called states. This also leads to the definition of federalism “the distribution of power in an organization (as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units.” The key words here being distribution and organization. States are well defined and politically organized, where as federalism and federal governments by nature are associations and organizations. They have only the power allowed by their charters and their members.
This leads me in to my main point on the subject. Since the beginning of the United States, we have slowly empowered the umbrella organization that was meant to really be nothing more than a meeting ground and trade/defense union for the independently operating states. Over time this trade organization we call a federal government has slowly taken power away from the independent actors we live in and has dictated to them rules and requirements for their behavior. We have seen in our history push back against this over reach, and hopefully we may now be coming upon another period of this push back against the federal government. In the past few days Scott Walker released an open letter to the President-Elect Trump urging an initially modest move back towards federalism as it is rightfully defined.
Some of the main points include mandated Federal agency coordination with the States and state agencies, the right to a greater say in whether or not refugees are resettled here, management of the gray wolf population in the state, and state assisted management of federal timber in the state’s borders. To the first point, these are modest benchmarks and while modest this is a step in the right direction. If the federal government must interfere then the state should at least have the ability to implement as it is best able within its own means and then with aid as needed. To the second point, this is an important one the states are sovereign and as such should have the ability to control their own immigration and citizenry as the elected officials of these states see fit. To the third point, this is perhaps the least salient but the most egregious violation. I have a lot of issues with the Wisconsin DNR, but one of their most praise worthy successes has been saving the wolf population of Wisconsin from near extinction. Federal courts then stepped in and have tried to tell this and other states that because they have their own specific rules our state programs may be invalid and must be at least on hold if not cancelled. To the final point, I believe along with the governor that the harvesting, transportation, and in some cases use of federal natural resources should be managed in such a way that is healthy and responsible for the state that they are in.
I don’t believe that these and the other requests go far enough. The federal government needs to become almost entirely missing in the affairs of our individual states. However as stated this is a modest beginning and if the President-Elect listens a good start. I personally pray that this will lead to more and even all governors taking a similar step or ten.