The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

What She Said

I held forth earlier about the creeping of “states’ rights” into Democratic campaigns, but I didn’t put it quite the way Amanda did.

It’s important to have long memories, because the language about “small government” and “states rights” is with us today, and there’s no reason to think the basic meaning has changed significantly from the days when it was about stopping black people from voting. “States rights” dresses itself up as anti-tyrannical language, but it’s actually pro-tyranny. It’s about crafting a nation that makes it the easiest to use government power to override individual rights. Remember this picture every time you hear someone waxing on about the inherent nobility of “leaving it to the states”, because odds are they’re beating the same drum they have since the South lost their war to preserve slavery.

I’ll say it again. In the history of this country, states rights have never been invoked in the service of extending rights and protections to more people, but has always been invoked in the service of restricting the rights of and denying protections to—or restricting rights to and preserving protections for—particular groups of citizens.

Put another way, “states’ rights” has never been a means to advance equality, but has always been a tool for preserving inequality.

2 Comments

  1. States do not have rights; only individuals have rights. States have powers — powers that they can and do abuse.

    Stated differently, why should I care whether my rights are violated by Congress, the state legislature or city hall?

  2. Put another way, “states’ rights” has never been a means to advance equality, but has always been a tool for preserving inequality.

    Generally, but not always. Take, for example, the outrage over the feds raiding Californian medical marijuana farms. I only wish that the staties had stood up and prevented the feds from executing their warrants. Many today would say that the federal government has overreached its bounds. Some of them are white supremacists, and some of them are people suffering from various diseases who smoke pot as prescribed by their doctors.

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