by Michael Maharrey

The issue of state sovereignty, and a balance of power between State and federal governments, as explicitly stated in the 10th Amendment, should span political ideologies and party lines. But many, particularly Democrats and folks leaning toward the left side of the political aisle, misunderstand, believing that “tenthers” belong exclusively to the “right” or to the Republican Party.

Undeniably, some have hijacked the Tenth Amendment for their own causes, narrowly applying the principles of state sovereignty and limited federal power to specific issues. But the Tenth Amendment Center stands for an even application of the Tenth and constitutional principles, limiting the federal government to its enumerated powers, even in cases where we may find the outcomes advocated by the feds favorable.

Our eyes remain singularly focused on the process, regardless of political outcome. We stand solidly committed to James Madison’s summary of the powers delegated to the federal government.

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce; with which the last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State.”

True advocates of the Tenth Amendment don’t necessarily oppose government health care solutions. We just insist health care falls under state authority and any government run system must evolve at the state level. We don’t necessarily favor the legalization of drugs, but understand that the federal government has no Constitutional authority to prosecute a drug war. Each state must make its own decisions about the legalization of marijuana and other substances. “Tenthers” don’t necessarily oppose public funding for art, but recognize the federal government does not have the authority to pass out money for the arts. States must create their own mechanisms for art funding, if they deem it a priority. Political liberals should welcome the intended constitutional restrictions on waging war.

Democrats as well as Republicans, those leaning toward the political left as well as those leaning to the right, should embrace the Tenth Amendment, because it protects every citizen from the dangers of concentrated power. The founders created dual sovereignty for this very reason. They feared the tyranny inherent in big, centralized governments.

Justice Antonin Scalia articulated this principle brilliantly in a 1996 Supreme Court Ruling striking down parts of the Brady bill in Mack/Printz v. USA.

“The Framers rejected the concept of a central government that would act upon and through the States, and instead designed a system in which the state and federal governments would exercise concurrent authority over the people.

The great innovation of this design was that our citizens would have two political capacities, one state and one federal, each protected by incursion from the other ‘ – -‘a legal system unprecedented in form and design, establishing two orders of government, each with its own direct relationship, its own privity, its own set of mutual rights and obligations to the people who sustain it and are governed by it.’ U.S. Term Limits Inc. v. Thornton 514 U.S. 779 838 (1995) (Kennedy J., concurring). The Constitution thus contemplates that a State’s government will represent and remain accountable to its own citizens.

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“As Madison expressed it: ‘The local or municipal authorities form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere’ The Federalist No. 39 at 245.

“This separation of the two spheres is one of the Constitution’s structural protections of liberty”

In an era of increasing political divisiveness, perhaps citizens embracing widely varied political ideologies can find a rallying spot and common ground around the Constitution, the 10th Amendment and the political processes brilliantly devised by our founders. Perhaps a rediscovery of the constitutional principles envisioned by our founders can serve as a bridge spanning different ideologies. While we may disagree on the role of government in various aspects of our lives, surely we can agree on working out those differences within a system designed to protect the freedom’s and liberties of every citizen.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



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