Reader Commentary by Chris Parker
In our system of government, built according to the blueprint of the Framers, the states are the highest governmental authority, and they themselves are subject only to the will and consent of their People. The states have the power bring an action immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court (i.e. original jurisdiction), in order to directly challenge the constitutionality of federal laws at the highest level.
They also have the power to amend the U.S. Constitution entirely on their own through the conventions procedure. Finally, with these awesome powers, they implicitly have the power to cancel or replace the U.S. Constitution if they so desire (if this were to be done, it would probably be done by using the amendment process to either substitute the Constitution’s entire text, or to merely insert an expiration date, depending on what new form of government is intended to replace it). So, the states are in no way becoming weak or powerless, no matter how many times the courts rule against them.
The U.S. Constitution has stood for over 200 years primarily because its provisions and federal government have remained useful tools for the states with sufficient checks and balances to withstand many tests. Politicans have also been often careful to humble themselves and respect the heritage of the Founding Fathers’ vision.
While the Constitution leaves some federal powers open to very wide interpretation (i.e. the commerce clause, etc.), the judges are still always bound by what the law and the Constitution say, and they have always faithfully provided detailed, rational arguments to support their interpretations. The argument that “activist judges” are rewriting the Constitution is contradictory to the facts, as the judges can’t choose what cases will be brought before them, nor control the legal arguments presented to them by the attorneys, nor at any time change anything that the text of the Constitution actually says.
The issue of states losing power is really more of an issue of the states being reluctant to step forward & protect their own rights. Indeed, the states are the final & ultimate check on the federal government’s power, as they have the power to change the Constitution on their own as mentioned above if the U.S. Congress doesn’t act in their interests.
So, while I see the issues and concerns of growing federal encroachment that your organization stands against, I don’t see the possibility that the states could or would ever actually lose their supreme power no matter what happens (unless, of course, they were to voluntarily relinquish this authority in a Constitutional amendment, which I can only see happening in a war situation when they are forced to surrender). The Founding Fathers were very careful and protective in their blueprint that the states could and would always legally prevail if the federal government were to run them amuck.
With the upcoming implementation of the Real ID Act (which is what brought me to your site), which it appears will need to be done mostly without any federal funding, it appears that many states are beginning to notice that they are being outright disrespected by the federal government which is supposed to be serving them.
Therefore, if Congress does not back down on the mandate on its own, these states may need to take some of the law back into their own hands by taking authority away from the federal government, either through the U.S. Supreme Court if possible, or otherwise through changing the Constitution itself. In that vain, I’ve written my Congressmen and warned them that if Congress doesn’t change this law in some significant and meaningful way soon, the repercussions could be far greater than just the outcome of the Real ID Act, as a precedent might be created limiting Congress’s future powers in general.
In conclusion, the fight for states’ rights should properly be fought by the states themselves. While various civil and criminal cases may from time to time raise Constitutional issues for the courts to decide, the courts are least sympathetic to states’ rights when just individuals are involved and the states themselves are passive on the matter.
The states gave the federal government its power, and they can take it away too if they act together (the problem during the Civil War was that the states were split on the issues that brought it about). The grand issues of state superiority should run independent of party lines. And, of course, the future integrity of our nation has always relied on the most basic and fundamental of principles: the United States.