All Systems Are NOT Go … Restoring the Governing Balance of Federalism

Rep. Ken Ivory is the newly-appointed chairman of the Center to Restore the Balance of Government. He co-chairs the Utah Commission on Federalism and speaks nationally on how maintaining our divinely inspired constitutional system is the solution to the challenges facing our communities and our nation. Ken has served in the Utah House of Representatives since being first elected in 2010.

Shortly after boarding my return flight from the ALEC Annual Meeting in New Orleans last year, the pilot announced over the intercom that they were having some mechanical difficulties. He explained that the crew was working on the issues and asked for our patience while they made sure “all systems were go.”

As I sat there, I wondered how passengers might react if the pilot had said something like this, “Welcome aboard ladies and gentlemen. We want to get you to your destination on time. We have a sticky rudder and some of the gauges aren’t working, but we’re taking off anyway. We’ll do our best to get you to your destination in one piece.”

Ridiculous, right? The airline would never accept such liability, not to mention the strict laws against such life-threatening recklessness.

In the United States, pilots and crew are restricted from pulling away from the gate until “All Systems Are Go.” Once the plane pulls back from the gate the flight crew conducts yet another series of system checks before the plane ever takes off.

Properly functioning systems are critical not only for safety reasons. Considering that a plane is off course nearly 99 percent of the flight, properly functioning systems are critical to ensuring that the plane reaches its destination. If these systems are not meticulously maintained, it’s not just on-time arrival that’s at risk – people’s lives are at stake.

Recognizing that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm” (Federalist 10), the Framers designed a constitutional system that allocated “few and defined” powers to the national government and reserved “numerous and indefinite” powers to the States (Federalist 45). They created this unprecedented “compound republic” as “a double security … to the rights of the people.” (Federalist 51). The Framers expected that this intricate system would be meticulously maintained not only to secure our pursuit of happiness but also because life, liberty and property are at stake.

To ensure the regular maintenance of our compound republic, the Constitution, under Article VI, requires every national and state officer to swear an oath to uphold and defend our constitutional system before assuming office.

Recently retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy reiterated the importance maintaining our governing system in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012, dissenting opinion): “The Framers considered structural protections of freedom [separation of powers and federalism] the most important ones…. The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril.”

As we settle into the cockpit of our 2019 governing flight, by nearly all accounts, All Systems Are NOT Go with our compound republic aircraft of state. The national government is partially shutdown yet again; the national debt will soon skyrocket through $22 Trillion; interest on the national debt is projected to exceed $1 Trillion a year in less than a decade; and the dysfunction of DC is on display daily in a host of other ways.

Nearly 80 percent of the American people across the political spectrum are frustrated with the lack of efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in government at the national level. Does it make any sense that selecting new politicians or new policies over and over again at the national level will produce different results?

Across the political spectrum, the American people instinctively know “that it’s time for a new relationship between the citizenry and their government.” The “new relationship” they intuitively describe is actually the “more perfect union” of American federalism originally established under the Constitution.

Americans are looking to their state leaders – they trust their state leaders – to restore the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of government. This is federalism. They are looking to their state leaders to secure their pursuit of happiness, through the protection of their life, liberty and property. This is why federalism matters.

The system is the solution! The power is in the States to restore governing balance! You are the leaders who will usher in this “new relationship” established by the Framers!

To restore and maintain our system of American federalism, we need to lead by example. We need to become experts in functional federalism.

For starters, I invite you to review the first of six short Federalism Curriculum videos produced by the Center for Constitutional Studies at Utah Valley University, under the direction of the Utah Commission on Federalism.

At the ALEC annual meeting in Austin, Texas later this year, we will explore in depth the fundamentals of American federalism, why they matter, and how functional federalism is the key to this new relationship our citizens deserve and demand.

When All Systems Are Go once again, we will see our people, our states and our nation transported safely to the enduring peace and prosperity our Constitution was engineered to produce.


In Depth: Federalism

Genuine accountability to hardworking taxpayers results when state and local legislators work with members of the community to determine a plan of action that is right for each individual state, city or town. Real solutions to America’s challenges can be found in the states – America’s fifty laboratories of democracy…

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