This Is Federalism

“This is a Football.”

“This is a football.” Holding a pigskin in his hand, legendary coach Vince Lombardi started training camp with his world champion Green Bay Packers with these simple words, explains author David Maraniss in his best-selling book, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi.

Coach Lombardi took nothing for granted. Every year, he with his world champion Green Bay Packers covered the most basic fundamentals of the game.

Vince Lombardi is regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time. In the span of seven years, he won five NFL Championships and never coached a team with a losing record.

While D.C. Dithers…

While Washington, D.C. dithers, the stakes for our neighbors, our school children, the sick and poor, roads and public safety in our communities are higher than ever. Perhaps it’s time for state leaders to take a page from our nation’s federalism playbook, follow the example of Hall of Fame Coach Lombardi, and get back to basics.

Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court John Roberts  recapped “the basic principles” of our unique federalism structure of government in the NFIB v. Sebelius case (numbered here for convenience only):

  1. “In our federal system, the National Government possesses only limited powers; the States and the people retain the remainder.”
  2. “The Federal Government is acknowledged by all to be one of enumerated powers. That is, rather than granting general authority to perform all the conceivable functions of government, the Constitution lists, or enumerates, the Federal Government’s powers.
  3. “The enumeration of powers is also a limitation of powers, because ‘[t]he enumeration presupposes something not enumerated.’ The Constitution’s express conferral of some powers makes clear that it does not grant others. And the Federal Government ‘can exercise only the powers granted to it.’”
  4. “If no enumerated power authorizes Congress to pass a certain law, that law may not be enacted, even if it would not violate any of the express prohibitions in the Bill of Rights or elsewhere in the Constitution.
  5. “Indeed, the Constitution did not initially include a Bill of Rights at least partly because the Framers felt the enumeration of powers sufficed to restrain the Government. As Alexander Hamilton put it, ‘the Constitution is itself, in every rational sense, and to every useful purpose, a bill of rights.’ The Federalist No. 84.”
  6. “And when the Bill of Rights was ratified, it made express what the enumeration of powers necessarily implied: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution … are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ U. S. Const., Amdt. 10.”
  7. “The Federal Government has expanded dramatically over the past two centuries, but it still must show that a constitutional grant of power authorizes each of its actions.”
  8. “The same does not apply to the States, because the Constitution is not the source of their power. The Constitution may restrict state governments—as it does, for example, by forbidding them to deny any person the equal protection of the laws. But where such prohibitions do not apply, state governments do not need constitutional authorization to act.”
  9. “The States thus can and do perform many of the vital functions of modern government—punishing street crime, running public schools, and zoning property for development, to name but a few—even though the Constitution’s text does not authorize any government to do so.”
  10. “Our cases refer to this general power of governing, possessed by the States but not by the Federal Government, as the ‘police power.’”
  11. “’State sovereignty is not just an end in itself: Rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sovereign power.’ New York United States, 505 U. S. 144, 181 (1992).”
  12. “Because the police power is controlled by 50 different States instead of one national sovereign, the facets of governing that touch on citizens’ daily lives are normally administered by smaller governments closer to the governed.”
  13. “The Framers thus ensured that powers which ‘in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people’ were held by governments more local and more accountable than a distant federal bureaucracy. The Federalist No. 45.”
  14. “The independent power of the States also serves as a check on the power of the Federal Government: ‘By denying any one government complete jurisdiction over all the concerns of public life, federalism protects the liberty of the individual from arbitrary power.’ Bond United States, (2011).”
  15. “In the typical case we look to the States to defend their prerogatives by adopting ‘the simple expedient of not yielding’ to federal blandishments when they do not want to embrace the federal policies as their own.”
  16. “The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.

The Role You Play

As you take the field for this critical 2020 legislative “season,” you have the ability as state leaders to return our nation to the basic fundamentals of our unparalleled governing system.

There is a movement afoot to rally state legislature organizations NCSL, CSG and ALEC together to convene a National Federalism Task Force for the purpose of restoring and maintaining the fundamental structure of our government.

As Justice Anthony Kennedy warned in the NFIB v. Sebelius case, our system of government was meticulously designed to secure our “unalienable rights … to pursue happiness.”

“The fragmentation of power produced by the [federalism] structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril.”

Draft language exists to move forward on the establishment of a National Federalism Task Force. This draft can also serve as a starting point for sign on letters for those who want to express support for and circulate this idea more widely.

This Is Federalism

This is your opportunity to channel your inner Vince Lombardi. You have the power to rally your colleagues in your state and around the nation to return to the basic playbook of our government; the structural protection of federalism specifically designed to secure and maintain the liberty of your people.

“This is a football.” This is Federalism.

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…

+ Federalism In Depth