States’ Rights and Wrongs

Indiana’s embarrassing Governor recently appealed a federal court ruling that he lacked authority to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana. From all reports, the appeal’s oral argument did not go well for the state.

A major reason for Pence’s loss in the District Court–and his probable loss at the appellate level–is that immigration is a federal issue over which states lack authority.

The notion that federal law should govern areas of national concern seems to rankle Donald Trump’s chosen running mate, and his annoyance isn’t limited to matters of immigration. In comments defending North Carolina’s discriminatory bathroom law, Pence recently insisted that the states “and the people” should be able to decide who gets rights.

The reason the 14th Amendment applied the Bill of Rights to the states was to ensure that a majority of people in a state could not use their local government to deprive their fellow citizens of the fundamental rights all Americans should enjoy.

There are areas in which the debate over local versus federal control are legitimate, but In the context of civil rights and civil liberties, “state’s rights” was and is a dog whistle meaning: we should get to pick on disfavored people if we want to, and the federal government shouldn’t be able to interfere.”State’s rights” was the (flimsy) cover used by defenders of segregation and Jim Crow.

What if we were to take that states’ rights “logic” to its ultimate conclusion?

What if the federal government couldn’t make states treat women or African-Americans equally? If I’m a woman living in, say, New York, and New York does choose to protect me, do I take a risk driving through, say, Alabama or Indiana, states that don’t protect women’s equality? If I am an African-American supplier doing business with national companies, do I hire a lawyer to tell me which states I can enter to visit with my customers, confident that I can find a hotel room or a restaurant that will serve me?

Shouldn’t Americans expect their fundamental rights to be respected in all of the states of the union?

There are certainly areas of the law that are local in nature. It would be nonsense to have a national zoning law. Certain criminal statutes are better enforced at the state or local level.  There are others. But in a country where people move freely and frequently, where commerce and transportation and communication are national, the notion that states should be able to legislate different levels of basic citizen rights is not just impractical and unworkable, not just unfair and inequitable–it’s profoundly  stupid.

Of course, for people who want to normalize discriminatory behaviors–what Hillary Clinton quite accurately called deplorable behaviors–the notion that the Supremacy Clause and/or the Bill of Rights might legally prevent them from doing so evidently pisses them off.

Pence refused to call even David Duke “deplorable.” I for one am pretty happy that my right to equal treatment under the law isn’t his or the Indiana General Assembly’s to decide.

 

 

 

 

27 thoughts on “States’ Rights and Wrongs

  1. We must take “States’ Rights and Wrongs” beyond the years of segregation and Jim Crow laws; States’ Rights was the crux of the Civil War. Waving the banner “States’ Rights” but denying that primary right was to allow slavery to continue and flourish fooled few people. Plantation owners with slaves were the minority but they were the ones with the money to pay others to fight for their “right” to maintain slavery. Today it is the 1% who have the money and are funding this Civil War.

    We are in a different version of Civil War at this time; with slavery abolished the current class(es) affected by States’ Rights encompasses a wider range of American citizens but is again ruled by those with the money to pay others to fight their battle against women, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQs, etc., and Trump has managed to slip in the disabled with his aping of a disabled journalist. Trump has unleashed hatred and approved the use of violence as a tool to bully those who believe all Americans have the same rights as provided under the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and SOME of the Amendments. Citizens United has provided the source of money to maintain the States’ Rights protecting some citizens while disallowing the rights of others…in the name of Christianity.

    We have become a nation of the “haves” vs. the “have nots”; we have become a nation ruled by the caste system. The current rulers of the caste system are those like Trump and Pence who are fighting for States’ Rights’ overlords to maintain their control of specified groups of Americans who are, by their very nature and birthright, the disaffected at the state level.

  2. Pence doesn’t support anyone other than folks that are copies of himself. He is No friend to refugees, blacks, females, lgbtq, or Latino judges.

  3. I fear that the Oligarchs who are running this country, through the Tea Party and to President Trump see no need to protect the individual rights which many of us hold dear. Promoting Jesus, the right to bear arms will be (sorry, are becoming) the law of the land. They will stop the government from any regulation or protecting any rights which those Oligarchs do not like.

  4. Lest we ever forget that Jim Crow was elected in Indiana by outwardly following the Christian KKK. God has chosen Indiana leaders, they know their rights when it comes to discrimination.
    Thanks, Sheila
    sorry for the contempt.

  5. The 8th circle of hell is for fraud and the 9th circle is for treachery. If we elect Trump and Pence, we will live in the 8th circle for a while.

  6. Pence signed on with Trump for two reasons: 1) he knew that he would lose his position as governor in the upcoming election and 2) Trump made it clear to Pence that if Trump was elected he was going to count on Pence to run the country. Pence, being the un-Christian prostitute that he truly is, saw the opportunity for more power and was willing to sell his body and soul to jump on the Trump bandwagon. I am disgusted that Pence claims to be a Christian first, when he is anything but that.

    It is truly sad that people in our own state that would not have voted for Pence are willing to give him even more power than he had as governor. I can only assume that they are so consumed by hatred of democrats that they are willing to give Pence even more power over them than he already has. And, I assume that they have chosen to Not listen to the discrimination that he spouts or they actually support it.

  7. Just yesterday Pence said that Dick Cheney is his mentor. And as Paul Krugman stated last Thursday on CNN, Trump’s campaign is completely based on racism so this is no surprise. Pence being a lawyer is just a cover for his Xian beliefs that he wants to impose on everyone that looks like him. He doesn’t want refugees because they are the “others” and he knows it’s politically motivated to fight them (pandering) from ending up in Indiana. What a sick bastard. Let’s hope Pence is unemployed on November 9th and Trump is forever removed from our screens. I think a 2nd civil war is coming if that doesn’t happen.

  8. AgingLGrl,

    “Let’s hope Pence is unemployed on November 9th and Trump is forever removed from our screens. I think a 2nd civil war is coming if that doesn’t happen.”

    Right on target. The PATTERNS have been in the making for at least 50 years. The UNAVOIDABLE CONSEQUENCES of a Trump/Pence victory is racial warfare. The evidence is right in front of our eyes.

  9. The ultimate lab for states rights is Europe. Tiny mostly irrelevant to the world states each pretending to be the center of the universe.

    Where would Pence’s Indiana rank as a country?

  10. Technically, Pence, if he and Trump lose, will not be unemployed until January 1. As for “States’ rights”—sorry to repeat what I have written several times, but—States do not and cannot have “rights.” States, as governmental entities, have powers. Powers of government are derived from the consent of the people. To say States have rights elevates governmental entities to the level of those who create States. Indiana’s 1851 Constitution adopted the first part of the Declaration of Independence. These concepts are consistent with Locke, who was popular amongst The Framers.

  11. I also find it deplorable that in this state, our legislature, supported by this governor to push his intolerant agenda actively seeks to deny local government their right to pass laws that would represent the values of their own communities in order to impose a state agenda.

  12. Let’s take this to its dry logical extreme and ask Pence what he would do if counties and townships in the Hoosier state were to deny the exercise of state powers within their boundaries. Perhaps we could then identify what “local powers” he thought constitutionally appropriate in such a dust up and those that were not. I am surprised that there is even an argument on the merits in the case Shelia cited since his complaint should have been dismissed primarily on grounds that he had no standing to sue since immigration is so clearly a federal issue over which states and municipalities have no say. Read the Constitution, soon-to-be ex-governor.

  13. It occurred to me suddenly that neither Trump or Pence – or governors of other red states with their anti-laws – have even suggested “separate but equal status” to any of the American citizens they disparage. Just sayin’

  14. The following is an article by Dick Meyer on September 8th:

    I have good news and I have bad news.

    First, the bad news: The lead Hillary Clinton’s enjoyed in national polls for most of August has been cut roughly in half.

    The good news: Much of the #NeverTrump citizenry is paranoid again after a misguided spell of lapsed vigilance and even complacency after the conventions.

    This political cockroach has defied extermination once again and professionals don’t have a clue what poison to try next. Nothing sticks to Donald Trump; everything sticks to Clinton.

    That may seem like an odd assertion given that Trump is the least popular general election candidate from a major party since the invention of polling. But there is an optical illusion at work here.

    Everything we thought we knew about elections says Trump never should have gotten the nomination in the first place and he certainly shouldn’t be a contender at Labor Day. Trump’s offenses, scandals, gaffes, admissions, outrages and disapproval ratings are on a whole different scale of magnitude from all prior nominees. This shouldn’t be a race – period. But it is.

    In a recent column in The New York Times, liberal Paul Krugman says Trump is “being graded on a curve.” “If he manages to read from a TelePrompter without going off script, he’s being presidential,” Krugman writes. His “multiple scandals … get remarkably little attention.” Yet there is a “presumption that anything Hillary Clinton does must be corrupt.”

    The problem is bigger than that. Every voter knows that Trump isn’t a normal candidate. He’s a rogue, a stage act, a clown – whatever. Trump’s transgressions are enormous and blatant and no one pretends otherwise – not even his fans. Because of that, new information, new disclosures, new outages bounce right off him.

    Think of it like a high school. Trump is and always has been the oafish bully, the mean lummox and occasional class clown who can’t sink any lower; no one cares when he swears in class or pours Gatorade on the kid at the next desk because that’s what is expected. Clinton is the straight “A” student, the Girl Scout, the goodie-goodie; when she gets a “B+” or is caught chewing gum, the other kids delight in her fall and demand she be punished to the limit of the law.

    Sometimes the lummox gets elected class president.

    Since 1993, a real “vast rightwing conspiracy” has been able to turn’s Clinton’s missteps – some slight, some substantial and some totally made up – into faux scandals and cases for the grand inquisitor. At their worst, Clinton’s misdeeds pale in comparison to Trump’s lifelong record of ethical atrocities updated daily. But Republicans have used congressional hearings, Fox News and right-wing talk radio to hound and harm Clinton. Trump has some of the architects of the vast rightwing conspiracy working on his campaign, slime merchants such as Roger Ailes, David Bossie, Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.

    What the country desperately needs right now is a vast leftwing conspiracy to Hillarize the Donald.

    The country needs some propaganda program that can pierce Trump’s armor of idiocy and thuggery and persuade the undecideds, the abstainers and the third-party flirters to turn away from Trump.

    Normally, this would be the job of the press and the opposition party. But nothing happens normally this year.

    The press is in an impossible situation. Imagine being assigned to provide impartial, fair and even-handed coverage of Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein. Absurd, right? Well, that is essentially what the “straight” political press corps is trying to do. On one hand, journalists have done a fine job uncovering a huge record of dirt on Trump, and his slurs, racist rants, lies and flip-flops are covered from every angle. But the normal vocabulary and forms of journalism don’t affect Trump as they do mere mortal politicians. Nothing wounds him. And “straight” reporters aren’t allowed to break form and simply call a rat a rat.

    But virtually the entire American commentariat has loudly and repeatedly called the rat a rat – the top conservative magazines, newspaper editorial pages and columnists, many rightwing radio talkers and the entire liberal and establishment pundit corps. It hasn’t cut through.

    As for the Democrats, they threw their best punches at the convention and almost knocked Trump out. It also appears that the attack ads they are running in swing states are effective. Trump might be on the ropes, but he’s still in the ring and swinging wildly. Hillary Clinton lacks the public trust to throw a knockout punch.

    Who or what can throw a knockout punch? Can a vast leftwing conspiracy come up with something to make the country safe from Trumpocracy?

    No one foresaw the darkness Trump has brought to the campaign and country. Let’s hope that a new source of light we can’t now see shines through in the final weeks of the campaign.

  15. States’ Rights are now and have always been a vehicle for achieving a politically objectionable objective. In the 1850s, it was slavery. Now, it is anti-LGBTQ legislation, anti-woman legislation, anti-you name it legislation. It is the political equivalent to the end around in football. You cannot make headway going straight at an issue because the majority does not favor your position on the issue. But, it is frequently workable to distract at the local level and get “what you want”. Therefore, there is a cry that local politics rules. I have NEVER seen states’ rights used to justify a worthwhile position.

  16. Marv: Too bad the right-wing, so-called “news media’ isn’t held to the same standards as the main stream media are. Fox “News'” talking head Sean Hannity has not only been using his Fox News TV show to blatantly shill for Trump daily, but he has now reportedly totally crossed the line by appearing in a paid political ad for Trump. A first as far as I know for any so-called TV “news” person (although Hannity self-professes to be an entertainer rather than a news reporter — a distinction that is surely lost on his audience.). Reportedly it was even a bit much for the Honchos at Fox to stomach, but, of course, Hannity hasn’t been taken off the air. No bias there, right?

  17. David,

    Thanks for the info. In the above article by the award-winning journalist Dick Meyer, he made one error when he said: “No one foresaw the darkness Trump has brought to the campaign and country.”

    Meyer accurately points out: “Normally, this would be the job of the press and the opposition party. But nothing happens normally this year.

    The press is in an impossible situation. Imagine being assigned to provide impartial, fair and even-handed coverage of Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein. Absurd, right? Well, that is essentially what the “straight” political press corps is trying to do. On one hand, journalists have done a fine job uncovering a huge record of dirt on Trump, and his slurs, racist rants, lies and flip-flops are covered from every angle. But the normal vocabulary and forms of journalism don’t affect Trump as they do mere mortal politicians. Nothing wounds him. And “straight” reporters aren’t allowed to break form and simply call a rat a rat.

    I have to admit that I acquired the URL TrumpCard.video about a week after Trump announced his run for the presidency. My ability to predict is based on first- hand knowledge of both the surface and the multiple sub-surface political currents that are rapidly rising into a catastrophic political TSUNAMI.

    An effective opposition to Trump must come from a new communication source probably with some ties to Europe. Meyer’s last sentence was the following: “Let’s hope that a new source of light we can’t now see shines through in the final weeks of the campaign.”

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