Democrats Should Embrace States’ Rights
Alex Massie argues that the current inability of the Democrats to pass meaningful health care reform, one of their signature issues, despite overwhelming control of the government shows the system is broken.
It’s more difficult than it was in LBJ’s day, mind you. All the horse-trading that once went on in private now takes place in a world of Twitter and blogs and email and 24/7 news and a permanent campaign that is exhausting to follow, never mind survive. Everything is judged prematurely, nothing has time to settle and there’s very little opportunity for proper contemplation.
Of course, that broken system is very useful when the other party is in power. Democrats didn’t mind that the system helped defeat George W Bush’s social security reforms. Now, however, the boot is on the other foot. And it’s fair to say that plenty of smart liberal commentators are feeling pretty bad about it.
Congress, of course, is massively unpopular regardless of which party controls it. The public wants Congress to do stuff but also wants Congress to frustrate the bad or scary ideas the other mob propose. That’s a recipe for confusion and, in the end, legislative constipation. It’s like trying to brake and accelerate simultaneously.
There’s an argument to be made, then, that the United States is currently in the midst of an experiment that will go some way towards demonstrating the limits of liberal democracy. Or, to put it another way, how scaleable is democracy? And how scaleable is it in a country as diverse and disputational as the United States? Can you actually govern a country of 300m people effectively while also operating within the framework of enlightenment thought?
His solution: Send it to the states.
If everyone gets to supply ingredients for a cake baked by Congress it’s hardly a surprise that the end result is indigestible. Fewer ingredients and more, but smaller, cakes might produce a better result. National legislation, almost by definition, must ignore local tastes and preferences. Nor, in a country as vast as the US, does national legislation necessarily offer efficiencies of scale that outweigh their drawbacks.
It makes a lot of sense. Indeed, the bluest states, the ones that want it most, would presumably pass some sort of state-run or state-option system rather quickly whilst the reddest states would remain holdouts. Everyone, excepting perhaps blues living in red states and vice versa, would be happy.