Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The filibuster debate 

rages on, and Richard Lowry at the National Review chimes in today with an excellent piece highlighting the hypocrisy of the left in their vain attempt to appeal to History. His liberal use of civil rights era comparisons helps expose the convoluted positions of the filibuster supporters, who claim federalism and the sacrosanct right to filibuster as infallible:
Oh, how times change. Democratic Rep. John Lewis is a heroic emblem of the civil-rights movement. He was beaten with other marchers in Selma, Ala., in 1965, spurring passage of a federal civil-rights law that year premised on the notion that Washington couldn't trust states like Alabama to protect its citizens. But during the fight over whether the federal government should act to ensure that Terri Schiavo's right to due process was being honored, Lewis was on the floor of the House pleading, "Where is the respect tonight for states' rights that we said we hold so dear?" Where, indeed?

The truth, sad to say for Rep. Lewis, is that the role and validity of "states rights" have been spelled out again and again, since the constitution. Perhaps a history lesson is in order?
As I would hope the Representative is aware, there was a time before the Civil Rights movement when the calls for States' rights were even louder. In the time leading up to the Civil War, when a fragile peace was held together by balancing slave and free states, Southern states increasingly viewed the Federal Government as a North dominated foreign power, exerting undue power on the states. From The War for States' Rights:

The 10th Amendment states: "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." This amendment was the basis of the doctrine of states' rights that became the ante-bellum rallying cry of the Southern states, which sought to restrict the ever-growing powers of the federal government. The principle of states' rights and state sovereignty eventually led the Southern states to secede from the central government that they believed had failed to honor the covenant that had originally bound the states together.

The sight, which seems to be quite sympathetic to the South, goes on to espouse the main fallacy of the States' Rights line of Argument; namely that Slavery is Protected in the Constitution. Strictly speaking, this is not the case. While articles condemning and outlawing slavery were rejected from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (see Declaration of Independence), there was never any specific clause protecting Slavery in the constitution. A series of legislative act carved the expanding country into slave and free areas over the years. So, the false logic seems to follow that since it is not expressly prohibited in the constitution, it is a matter let to the States. This ignores the actual wording and intent of the 10th amendment. Since matters of interstate commerce are expressly delegated to the federal government elsewhere, and the Federal government had passed numerous legislation on Slavery prior to that point, Slavery could not and cannot be viewed as a matter left to the states.
Returning to the matter at hand, it seems to evade the Democrats who are crying for federalism that the matter of the filibuster, or Terri Schiavo for that matter, has little to do with States' rights. The matter of the filibuster reffers to the parity among party representation, on a national level, and the federal government has entertained legislation regarding the filibuster before. Like slavery, it is not at all an issue of State's rights. In fact, the epitome of equal rights for the states has to be the system of equal and proportional representation. Obstructing a vote, as I have argued before, is not protecting the voice of the minority, it is obstructing the views of both sides from being voiced at all. The matter of Terri Schiavo, which by now has long been over talked, is a question of the United State's obligation to protect the lives of its citizens from undue harm. A national mandate on the level of power next of kin have, and on the validity of life that is not in a deteriorating state, would have cleared up many of the discrepancy that existed precisely because of state to state variance. While the dangers of overbearing central government are great, the ills of weak and decentralized authority have been seen before, and are no better. Someone needs to remind Rep. Lewis that we are not a Confederacy, and then tell him why.

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