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States rebel against Washington

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The movement's success will largely depend on whether Washington sees these legislative insurgents as serious – or, as Pitts puts it, as just "a bunch of rednecks."

"There's a lot of frustration when someone quite distant from you forces you to do something you don't want to do," says Steve Smith, director of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government and Public Policy at Washington University in D.C. "That's the root cause, and it ends up being rationalized in constitutional terms."

Resurgent states

The reversal of the federal stem cell research ban, a stimulus package widely seen as a backdoor grasp for more federal power, and fears about gun control have accelerated a state sovereignty movement that began taking shape under the Bush administration. In the past, both liberals and conservatives have used states' rights arguments for political expedience. That may be the case now as ousted conservatives try to force issues out of Washington and into states, where they have a better chance of winning them.

"Where power resides and who gets to do what – there's been an ongoing interpretation of that through our history," says Idaho State Rep. George Sayler of Coeur d'Alene, who voted against a states' rights bill that passed recently in the Gem State. "Sometimes the federal government asserts a stronger role, and it looks now like we might be getting into a period where the states" push for more power.

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