Voting for Delusion
I was so perplexed by Froma Harrop’s column about the Democrat Party’s 50-State Strategy that I thought for a moment that I’d missed something that would be, politically, on the order of magnitude of the Earth’s poles moving to the equator:
Imagine Democrats in Washington who don’t all sound like Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel or Ted Kennedy. That’s about to happen, as party Chairman Howard Dean’s 50-state strategy bears fruit. The plan involves running strong candidates on Republican turf and letting them speak the native tongue. Some worry that a socially varied Democratic Party would lead to chaos. California liberals would clash with Colorado libertarians, who would spar with Bible Belt Carolinians.
Doesn’t have to happen. A more diverse Democratic delegation could avoid geo-cultural warfare by sending many socially contentious issues back to the states, where they belong. Then Democrats in Washington could concentrate on their lunch-pail issues, above all, economic justice.
The “some worry” phrase makes it sound as if there’s a debate currently ongoing over a revolutionary plan by the Man Who Said “Aaarrgghh,” so I thought I’d see what this 50-State Strategy might entail. Well, according to the official Democrat Web page, the 50-State Strategy is essentially an organizational, get-out-the-vote kind of thing, not a grand statement of principle. Indeed, nowhere on the Web site was I able to find a single indication that the Democrats have any intention of changing their platform or political approach, let alone so much as a hint that Roe v. Wade might be on the Democrats’ internal negotiation table.
In other words, Harrop’s appeal to Democrat federalism is wishful thinking to the point of delusion and, therefore, could be wished for either party… or both. Personally, I do wish for both parties to incorporate stronger federalist principles in their platforms. It would be folly, however, to suggest that any particular strategy from either party is likely to further that end — much less make it “about to happen.”
If only Harrop had provided citations for the discussion that led her to indulge in daydreams, perhaps readers could figure out who is playing whom. As it is, one gets the impression that Harrop is merely exploiting a promise of federalism to badmouth President Bush for the anti-federalist sins of which both parties are perhaps unsalvageably guilty.
As a footnote, I’d like to mention that Harrop’s apparent understanding of the mechanisms of society in a federalist framework makes it a much less appealing notion than it ought to be:
But when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that its state constitution guarantees same-sex couples the legal benefits of marriage, President Bush immediately stuck his nose in. At a campaign stop in Indiana, he denounced New Jersey’s “activist” judges. Whether these state judges are activist or not should be the concern of New Jerseyans and no one else.
Unless we are to be a balkanized nation without its own character, what happens in each state ought to concern us all, and public statements are perhaps the most undeniably appropriate means of exerting influence across state borders. The question federalism seeks to answer is who gets the final say for each area and at what level of government.