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Back to School Needs Back to Civic Education (National radio commentary, Salem/Townhall) August 15, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Radio Commentaries.
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https://omny.fm/shows/townhall-review-conservative-commentary-on-todays/david-davenport-back-to-school-needs-back-to-civic/embed?style=artwork

 
As America’s students go back to school this month, America’s schools need to go back to civic education.  Our schools are awash in political concerns—from guns to immigration to bathrooms even—but it’s not clear that students have a good understanding of politics, history and civics.

 

In the last round of national testing, a pitiful 18% were found proficient in history, 23% in government.  And these are the future leaders of our republic.

 

With the emphasis on math and science, and pervasive political correctness, schools are not teaching basic civics.  Both instructional time and testing of government and history are down.

 

A few states are beginning to act, adding civic education course requirements and testing.  But more must be done.  Preparing students to become good citizens and voters is more important than ever.  And that requires a major commitment to civic education.

http://www.townhallreview.com

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California is Using Lawsuits to Impose its Blue State Values on the Rest of the Country (Washington Examiner) August 7, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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It’s not fake news that California is joining 19 other states to sue the Trump administration over auto emission standards. But it’s not surprising news either, since this is now the 39th lawsuit California has brought against the federal government during Donald Trump’s 1.5-year presidency. Viewed through that larger lens, this is less about federalism, states’ rights, or even auto emissions, and more about California’s ongoing effort to impose its blue-state ideals on the rest of the country.

The Clean Air Act of 1967 was a federal initiative to take over environmental policy, reinforced by big-government Republican Richard Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Thereafter, the federal government, not the states, would be in charge of auto emission standards, though the federal government could still grant waivers to states under particular circumstances. California has had such a waiver for 48 years, though the EPA now wishes to remove that waiver and enforce the lower federal standards across the board. California argues it has special needs for higher standards and, as a matter of states’ rights, it should be able to enforce those.

The truth of the matter is that California only believes in state auto emissions if they are stricter than those of the federal government. If Texas, for example, wished to have lower standards than the feds, California would not be joining that lawsuit. No, for California, states’ rights only travel in one direction— toward more regulation, not less. Since California is such a large market for everything, including automobiles, its standards have nationwide impact. In fact, 20 states now follow California’s auto emission standards. If you make cars, you either follow California or federal standards, no one else’s. So this is not a case of states’ rights, broadly speaking. This is California vs. Washington, Gov. Jerry Brown vs. Trump, blue state vs. red state, pure and simple.

We saw California’s bully federalism earlier when it imposed a ban on the use of state money for travel to eight other states that, in California’s wisdom, do not provide sufficient legal protection for gay and transgender rights. Student athletes in California’s universities and colleges, for example, may not have the educational experience of seeing how things are done elsewhere, because California believes things are not done correctly there. As the sixth largest economy in the world, with the largest state budget, California has economic power to throw around and it seeks to leverage other states into seeing things its way.

Federalism has traditionally been a shield, protecting states from an overreaching federal government. But California’s blue-state bully federalism is more like a sword, trying to prod others into following its world view. States are required to give “full faith and credit” to the public acts, records, and court declarations of other states, according to Article IV of the Constitution. If not violating the letter of that law, California certainly disrespects and dishonors its spirit.

People will argue the auto emissions controversy both ways, but the larger story deserves attention as well. When a state sues the federal government 39 times in 19 months, something bigger is going on. In this case, California is trying to impose its own blue-state policies on immigration, civil rights, environmental standards, healthcare and more on the rest of the country wherever it can. That effort should be seen for what it is— a blue-state political power play, not a high-minded defense of federalism and states’ rights.

 

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/california-is-using-lawsuits-to-impose-blue-state-values-on-the-rest-of-the-country

Foolhardy Presidents Keep Declaring ‘War’ On Problems They Can’t Solve (Washington Examiner) July 24, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Newspaper Columns/Essays, Op/Eds.
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Perhaps you did not get the memo from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers earlier this month: The War on Poverty is over, and we won. To be more precise, the CEA report said, “Based on historical standards of material wellbeing and the terms of engagement, our War on Poverty is largely over and a success.” Consequently, increased work requirements for those receiving aid would now be appropriate, according to the council.

This report seemed almost as funny as President Ronald Reagan’s line in a 1988 speech: “Some years ago, the Federal Government declared a war on poverty, and poverty won.” Declaring war on domestic policy problems has become a bad habit of American presidents and, by now, we should have learned several lessons about them. First, they do not solve the problems they set out to address; meanwhile, they actually reduce our ability to find root causes and alternative solutions; they increase executive power at the expense of Congress; and they never end.

Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty was the first of these domestic policy wars. Looking for a signature policy to help define his presidency and the “Great Society,” Johnson gathered his advisers at his ranch in December 1963. He told them he would find federal money for anti-poverty programs and asked them to design a policy. Not much was known then (or arguably now) about how to eliminate poverty, so the advisers came back with some small test programs. Never one to go small, Johnson instead went big and declared a “War on Poverty” in his State of the Union message in January 1964. It was, as these domestic policy wars all are, long on rhetoric and short on policy.

Other presidents have followed the LBJ domestic war template. Johnson later declared a war on crime, though Nixon accelerated it and become known for it. Nixon declared a war on drugs. Jimmy Carter declared what he called “the moral equivalent of war” on energy consumption. George W. Bush declared a war on terrorism. These wars are declared on intractable problems and, in many cases, conditions rather than real enemies, so they are never won — poverty, drugs, crime, and terror are all still with us, and the wars continue.

In each case, presidents declared these wars without a strong sense of the policies that would be needed to win them. In the case of poverty, we have never even known how to define the problem. That, by the way, is how the Council of Economic Advisers could declare victory — it used a consumption-based formula rather than the standard income definition of poverty. The latter has always been flawed because it counts only annual earned income, not assets or government aid. So we are not sure how to define the problem, how to fight it, or what it would look like to win it. Believe me, anti-poverty programs are not over.

Further, domestic policy wars limit the search for policy solutions. We do not have time to search out root causes and debate policy options — we are, after all, at war. Nevertheless, the war calls for us to find enemies and spend money rooting them out. We appoint drug czars, we arm local police with military weaponry, and we diminish civil liberties — all in the name of war.

As he expanded so much of the modern presidency, Franklin Roosevelt really started all this in attacking the Great Depression. He said in his first inaugural that the American people want “action, action now,” and he began a presidential agenda of “bold experimentation.” He said that, if necessary, he would ask Congress for war powers. In this way, presidents have continued to grow their power over domestic problems that should be the purview of Congress, or in some cases, state and local governments.

No, the war on poverty is not over. However, presidentially declared wars on domestic policy problems should end.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/foolhardy-presidents-keep-declaring-war-on-problems-they-cant-solve

Millennials Say ‘Democratic Socialism’ But What They Want Is Free Stuff (Washington Examiner) July 11, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Surprise primary victories by “democratic socialists” in New York and Pennsylvania have created a buzz about millennials and socialism. Bernie Sanders was the prophet of this movement, attracting strong support among young people for his ideas about democratic socialism in the 2016 presidential campaign. Still, people were surprised when a YouGov poll showed that young people (under 30) preferred socialism to capitalism 43 to 32 percent. With these recent political wins, some wonder whether the Democratic Party will undergo a socialist realignment, just as Donald Trump led a populist reinvention of the Republican Party.

To all of this I say: Not so fast. First, there is a widespread misunderstanding of what democratic socialism means and what millennials really want. Socialism is an economic system that involves collective (especially governmental) ownership of the means of production and distribution. It stands in contrast to a capitalist, market-regulated ownership of business. When you add the word “democratic” to it — which is presumably done to soften the impact of an historically unpopular term in the U.S. — you are essentially saying the system is chosen democratically, not imposed by some kind of totalitarian regime as in Russia or Venezuela.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, tiny Denmark found itself front and center as Bernie Sanders pointed to it as a model for his democratic socialist ideals, and Hillary Clinton felt compelled to admire it in one of the debates. But something was wrong, if not rotten, about that characterization of the state of Denmark. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen clarified that his country was not socialist, but rather “a market economy” with “an expanded welfare state.” High taxes and lots of government benefits, yes, but not a government-controlled economy. Ah, there’s the very important difference.

It would appear that today’s millennials are most interested in free college education, retirement of student debt, and help getting into the difficult housing market, but less interested in government controlling the means of production and distribution. In fact, a 2014 Reason-Rupe survey of young people (ages 18-24) confirmed their admiration for socialism at 58 percent. But when pollsters then asked whether they wanted governments or businesses leading the economy, they preferred markets by a two-to-one margin.

The real problem is that millennials do not seem to have a good understanding of what socialism is. In a 2010 NYT/CBS poll, only 16 percent of young people could accurately define socialism. (Not to be too hard on millennials, older folks only responded appropriately to that question at a 30 percent clip).

I am not suggesting that there are no hard-core socialists in the mix. The Democratic Socialists of America has grown dramatically since the Bernie Sanders campaign, from 7,000 members to 37,000. They could fill a small island, if not an actual city or state. But they are true believers, calling for “popular control of resources and production, economic planning and equitable distribution” in their Constitution. And they have endorsed their fellow democratic socialists in New York and Pennsylvania.

But the real question is about the millions of millennials, and I think this generation, which has been coddled by helicopter parents and seeks “safe spaces” when they go off to college, basically wants more free stuff from the government. Their concern is not who controls the means of production and distribution — in fact, they do not even understand that is what socialism is. Besides, with the voter turnout among millennials so poor — only half of those eligible voted in 2016, compared with two-thirds of older cohorts — it will be awhile before their vote will show up and make a difference. By then, the old saw says they will have paid enough taxes and experienced enough government regulation that they are likely to view things differently.

Mark me down as skeptical that a huge socialist millennial wave is about to hit our shores.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To view the column at the WashingtoExaminer: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/millennials-say-democratic-socialism-but-what-they-want-is-free-stuff

 

Election ‘Reforms” Are Usually One Party Trying To Rig The System (Washington Examiner) June 22, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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The election games have begun. Not just the obvious jockeying that takes place in the primaries and the general election. No, look below the radar at the several so-called reforms and improvements in the rules of voting and how elections are carried out. That sort of political gamesmanship, like June, is bustin’ out all over.

One reason we miss important electoral changes is our failure to understand that even what we call national elections are actually 51 separate state (including the District of Columbia) elections under the Constitution. With federalism the order of the day, there can be large variances in election practices from state to state and many important proposals are in play.

In big blue California, for example, progressive reformers led the charge for a top-two, sometimes called a “jungle,” primary in which the two candidates with the most votes in the primary election, regardless of party, advance to the general election. The “reform” argument was that this would force parties to run more moderate candidates and reduce polarization in the legislatures. In fact, there is little evidence that this has happened since Republicans and Democrats still vote for their own party offerings rather than search for some reformers’ ideal of a centrist candidate.

But an unintended (or was it intended?) consequence is that the general election often offers no real choice at all: two Republicans or, more likely in California, two Democrats in the final vote. This fall’s race for the U.S. Senate, for example, features two Democrats, just as it did in 2016. With apologies to Jim Carrey, I call it “left and lefter.” Many races for the state legislature feature two Republicans or two Democrats with few real differences on issues. Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington also have some version of the jungle primary system, and Maine has adopted a ranked voting system.

Another progressive brainchild under consideration in D.C. is allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. A handful of cities already permit this in municipal or school board elections but, since DC is considered a state for voting purposes, a change there would allow 16-year-olds to vote for president, a significant change indeed. Since young people tend to vote a more liberal ticket than older voters do, Democrats are especially enthusiastic about this election reform. With 11 Democrats and 2 liberal “independents” on the Council, this could well pass and trigger similar efforts elsewhere.

The big progressive election reform is one you’ve never heard of: the National Popular Vote Bill.  Connecticut recently became the 12th state (including the D.C.) to enact the bill. All the states are on the blue side of the political color wheel, having voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When signed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, a compact comes into force requiring each member state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. This clever end run around the Electoral College established by the Constitution is high on the Democrats’ agenda since they have lost the presidency twice in this century, despite winning the popular vote.

Republicans have their own election games in play. They are accused of trying to limit voter eligibility and turnout, since larger vote totals often favor Democrats. This week a federal judge ruled a Kansas statute requiring proof of U.S. citizenship for voter registration was both unconstitutional and a violation of the National Voter Registration Act. Other states have similar voter ID laws that may now come under closer scrutiny. Recently the U.S. Supreme Court upheld purging voters from the registration rolls if they had not voted in several elections in the important political battleground state of Ohio. “Use it or lose it,” Ohio says, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, said we will not interfere.

Beware so-called election reforms — they are more often than not attempts by one party or the other to rig the game in their favor.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway dential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/election-reforms-are-usually-one-party-trying-to-rig-the-system

This University’s Problems are a Microcosm of Washington, DC’s (Washington Examiner) May 31, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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One of the nation’s most successful university presidents, C.L. Max Nikias of the University of Southern California, recently shocked the Trojan community with his abrupt resignation. Although Nikias had been highly successful in raising money and, with it, USC’s profile and reputation, he had also presided over the university’s mishandling of scandals and crises.

USC faculty member William G. Tierney, who is also an expert on higher education, describedthe president’s leadership failure as one of speed and action over deliberation and reason. “Instead of reflection and reasoned debate,” Tierney has written, “the university sprinted toward growth.” There were few “checks and balances” on the president, Tierney said, as he raced headlong toward financial and reputational goals.

Nikias’ leadership style and problems are, unfortunately, a microcosm of our political leadership in Washington, D.C. Rather than engaging the Congress in meaningful deliberation, presidents increasingly seek what President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered the nation during the crisis of the Great Depression: “action and action now.”

Everything has become a crisis or emergency in Washington, mandating action over reasoned reflection. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a “War on Poverty,” soon followed by later presidents with a “War on Crime,” a “War on Drugs,” and a never-ending “War on Terror.” All of these domestic wars result in heightened presidential power and a diminished oversight role by the Congress. At the same time, we live under 28 official “national emergencies” declared by presidents, some as old as Jimmy Carter’s presidency in the 1970s.

If the president cannot get Congress to support his agenda, he goes it alone by means of executive orders and agency actions. President Barack Obama was sufficiently frustrated by Congress that he famously said he had a “pen and a phone” and he would start taking unilateral action rather than deliberate with Congress. He undertook unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, while also initiating new gun control and immigration policies, stretching the application of executive orders.

Congress has also moved to action over deliberation. Instead of putting major legislation through committee hearings, with their debates and amendments, legislative leaders now hold a bill in secret until they have the necessary votes and then spring them on the Senate for a quick, usually party-line vote. The most important legislation of the Obama era, healthcare reform, was passed on a straight party-line vote of Democrats. Tax reform, the biggest legislative accomplishment of the Trump era, similarly passed on a party-line vote of Republicans.

One problem with choosing “action and action now” over deliberation and debate is that those actions lack deep bipartisan support and are easily overturned. President Trump signed several executive orders in his first hundred days that directly overturned executive orders of the Obama era. Congress came very close to repealing Obamacare on a party-line vote, just as it had originally passed with limited party-line support. Rather than deliberating over long-term policy, the sailboat of federal governance tacks first one way and then the opposite direction when new presidents and congresses take office.

Just as checks and balances had been weakened at USC, there are attempts to do so in Washington. The National Popular Vote Bill, for example, seeks to overturn one such check by replacing our current electoral system with a national popular vote, and without going through the constitutional amendment process. Progressives constantly attack various checks and balances and separations of power as attempts to thwart the democratic voice of the people. However, what they really do is allow for, indeed require, careful and reasoned deliberation.

The USC experience should be a cautionary tale for leadership broadly, including our political leaders in Washington. Especially in large public institutions, the goal is not simply to take action, but to engage a broad representation of the community in its processes, to foster a culture of reasoned deliberation. A failure to do so invites the crashing and burning of both the institution and its leaders.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

 

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/university-of-southern-california-problems-microcosm-washington-d-c-s

Connecticut Joins the Quiet Campaign to Undermine Constitutional Presidential Elections (Washington Examiner) May 21, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Both houses of the Connecticut legislature recently passed the National Popular Vote Bill, which now sits on the desk of Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is expected to sign it. With his approval, Connecticut will join a quiet campaign to undo the Electoral College by means of a clever end run rather than a proper constitutional amendment.

Four times in our history (fewer than 10 percent of presidential elections), the winner of the popular vote lost the presidency in the Electoral College. The issue is on many minds these days, since two of the four were in this century: George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore in 2000 and Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

Rather than take the straightforward and transparent approach of changing the electoral process by constitutional amendment, proponents of change want to travel an easier incremental path: asking state legislatures to approve the National Popular Vote Bill. The bill, when adopted by enough states to constitute 270 electoral votes, triggers a requirement that each state signing onto the compact cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote. Very clever, indeed.

Connecticut will become the 12th state (including the District of Columbia) to sign on, with a cumulative total of 172 electoral votes, only 98 shy of the goal. Of course, politics are always at play in voting bills, and not coincidentally all of the states approving so far are liberal — for example, all were states carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. The bill has been introduced in 11 other state legislatures, and with the Trump win still stinging Democrats, it may gain further momentum from Connecticut’s recent approval.

There is both an historic case and a current argument for the elector system established in Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. The Founders sought all manner of checks and balances along with separations of power in what they clearly understood to be a federal republic, not a direct democracy. So there would be two chambers of Congress, one for the people (the House of Representatives) and one for the states (the Senate). Likewise, both the people, through the popular vote, and the states, with the electoral vote, would play a role in choosing a president. Tinkering with federalism in favor of more direct democracy has become trendy, but if you are going to do it, at least be big enough to follow the Constitution’s own process for change and pass an amendment.

But even today, there is a practical role for the elector system.

Have you noticed what the candidates do in the last couple of weeks of a campaign? They crisscross the country, stopping in key battleground states, arguing the issues of special importance there in order to win the requisite electoral votes. And how would they campaign if there were only a national popular vote? They would go to the big cities and states and appear on popular media. It is hard to say that this is a preferable campaign. In addition, votes must be counted at some level and, under the present elector system, if there are recounts, these are only in one or two states. Imagine the specter of a national recount with the popular vote and even the possibility of not being able to seat a president by inauguration day.

If you want to change the electoral system, there would be an easier and more fair way to do it by eliminating winner-take-all electoral rules in the states. These are not constitutionally mandated, and each state controls that decision. In fact, Nebraska and Maine already allocate electoral votes by congressional district, rather than winner-take-all. This would eliminate some of the unfairness the pro-democracy people see while not beginning to undo the constitutional system of the republic.

Connecticut’s vote should be a wake-up call, not a call to a clever end run around the Constitution.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To view the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/connecticut-joins-the-quiet-campaign-to-undermine-constitutional-presidential-elections

I have left Forbes.com for the Washington Examiner: “Don’t Let 16-Year Olds Rock the Vote” (Washington Examiner) May 3, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Since the “March for Our Lives” student demonstrations over gun violence on school campuses, the question of lowering the voting age to 16 has come to the fore. The Washington city council is now considering a proposal to do just that, and similar bills have recently been introduced in Georgia and Minnesota. The city of Tacoma, Md., was the first to allow 16-year old voting in 2013, and since then a few other cities (most notably Berkeley, Calif.) have followed suit.

It is not clear why student willingness to demonstrate now qualifies them for new adult-level responsibilities of citizenship. The last time the voting age was changed, it was lowered from 21 to 18 by the 26th Amendment to the Constitution during the Vietnam War. The argument was that if 18-year-olds could fight and die in a war, they should be able to vote for their national leaders.

But it is difficult to find a comparably compelling reason for further change now. Would we also want 16-year-olds serving on juries or signing up for the military? I think not. And if 16, why not 13, when they enter the teen years and those hormones start up?

The more we learn about the human brain and how it develops, society has increased the age of responsibility in other areas, not lowered it. Researchers generally agree that the brain is still developing until the mid-20s, with moral reasoning and abstract thought coming later than we once thought. So the drinking age has gone up to 21, and the age when kids may drive a car without any conditions has now increased to 17 or 18 under most state laws, not 16.  Simply put, the law has been moving toward greater maturity before responsibility, not less.

Advocates argue that we need greater civic engagement, and younger voting would help. Younger voters, however, have been notoriously weak about showing up at the polls. In the 2016 election, for example, only half of younger voters turned out to vote, compared with two-thirds of older voters. Growing the pool of younger voters hardly seems like a solution to the civic engagement problem. Besides, if you look at students’ civic knowledge, you would hardly deem them highly qualified to start running the republic. In the last round of national civics tests (unfortunately now only administered to eighth graders), a mere 23 percent scored as “proficient” or above. What we should be promoting among the young is better civic education before greater civic engagement.

The question is whether 16-year-old voting is likely to become a new political bandwagon. So far, only cities have moved on this and they can only make decisions about voting in their own municipal elections. States, however, including the District of Columbia, control both state and federal voting, so D.C. could decide to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote for president in the next election and beyond. The likelihood of another constitutional amendment changing the voting age nationally is not high, since it would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures to approve it. However, the possibility of the District of Columbia, or a liberal state, making the change is much higher.

If 16-year-olds voting is the answer to some problem we have, I guess I do not understand the question.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/dont-let-16-year-olds-rock-the-vote

Democrats Finally Discover Federalism (Washington Examiner) April 19, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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After decades of neglect, a federalism bandwagon is rolling across the country, carrying not only conservatives who have long believed in states’ rights, but also gathering up progressives who are out of power in Washington and have rediscovered the appeal of localism. In fact, many of today’s big political battles are, at their base, a federalism tug of war pitting the federal government against state and local governments.

Take immigration, for example. As the Trump administration has tightened up immigration enforcement at the federal level, a number of states, counties, and cities have decided not to share citizenship information with the feds, with some declaring themselves sanctuary areas for immigrants. President Trump pushed back, signing an executive order pulling most federal grants from states and cities that will not divulge information about citizenship as required by federal law. Last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions turned up the heat by suing deep-blue California over its sanctuary laws. An interesting federalism nuance now sees certain conservative California counties and cities joining the federal suit against the state’s liberal sanctuary laws. A federalism fight is on.

Federalism may have found a truce on another key issue: legalized marijuana. Federal law continues to make the use of marijuana illegal, whereas 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its use in some way. The Obama-era solution to the conflict was to ease up on federal enforcement in states that legalized marijuana, but Sessions announced early on that the federal government would resume enforcement everywhere. When Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from marijuana-friendly Colorado, began blocking Trump’s judicial nominees, the president called and said the feds would back off enforcement in Colorado if Gardner would approve his nominees. Gardner reported this federalism victory, saying, “President Trump has assured me he would support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ issue once and for all.” For now, a federalism truce is found.

The federalism tug of war has encompassed a number of issues in Trump’s first year. California famously announced its own climate change and environmental policies when Trump pulled out of the Paris accords. State attorneys general challenged Trump’s travel ban. States are now suing over the tax reform limitation on the deductibility of state and local taxes, based on the theory that it violates the equal protection rights of more expensive blue state residents. In fact, by the end of Trump’s first year, Democratic states had brought 35 lawsuits against his administration, compared with 46 lawsuits by Republican states in President Barack Obama’s 8-year term. The federalism tug of war is spreading.

With federalism busting out all over, where might this lead? Republicans have long championed the 10th Amendment (power not delegated to the federal government is reserved to states and individuals) and states’ rights. In the era of gridlocked government and President Trump in Washington, Democrats have discovered “progressive federalism,” especially located in cities, which tend to be governed more by their party than states where Republican governors predominate. Is it possible that federalism might actually unite liberals and conservatives in a drive for greater localism? Perhaps, but it seems even more likely that federalism may simply become the latest tool in the political battle.

Just as President Richard Nixon reportedly said of economic policy, “We’re all Keynesians now,” it seems we are all becoming federalists now. After decades of power moving to Washington, it would be healthy and refreshing to see the pendulum swing back toward state and local governments. But it would be even more promising if federalism became a way of making policy more deliberative and less contentious. It remains to be seen whether this new federalism might accomplish that.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the column at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/democrats-finally-discover-federalism

‘It sucks.’ The Senate, the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, No Longer Deliberates” (Washington Examiner) April 2, 2018

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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Former President James Buchanan called the Senate “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” a moniker that has stuck for 150 years. But as he left Washington for the Senate’s two-week Easter recess, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., reflecting on his inability to get a vote on even one legislative amendment in his first 15 months on the job, said something quite different: “I think it sucks.”

In that “emperor has no clothes” moment, Kennedy exposed a key reality in Washington: The greatest deliberative body in the world no longer deliberates.

Kennedy’s proposed amendments are not the only ones failing to receive Senate votes these days. The Senate has voted on only six nonbudgetary amendments so far in 2018, an average of two per month. All right, so they have been busy trying to approve spending bills to keep the government open (itself an embarrassing and contentious process) and approving President Trump’s nominees, which has moved at a snail’s pace. However, according to a Politico report, the Senate has only taken 25 roll call votes on binding amendments in this two-year Congress, compared with 154 at this point in the last one.

When he took over as majority leader of the Senate in 2015, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed to do much better. After Republicans won a Senate majority in the elections of November 2014, McConnell promised “a more free-wheeling approach to problem solving” than the prior leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., had allowed. McConnell spoke of restoring the Senate’s “traditional role as a place where good ideas are generated, debated, and voted upon.” In particular, McConnell committed to “an open amendment process — ensuring senators on both sides a chance to weigh in on legislation.”

Oops.

Instead, what we have is little debate and even less voting in the Senate. Bills are crafted behind closed doors, held until they have the requisite 51 (or 60) votes, and then rushed to the floor for a quick vote, sometimes with handwritten notes still in the margins. If there is deliberation, it is only by members of the party in power, not in open committee hearings or debates on the Senate floor. Important pieces of legislation, from Obamacare to tax reform, are passed on straight party-line votes, with no support from the other party. Indeed, as one study has shown, party unity voting has grown from around 60 percent in the 1970s to closer to 90 percent today.

Kennedy is not the first to call out the Senate’s lack of bipartisan deliberation. When Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., famously flew back to Washington from his cancer treatments to cast a decisive repeal vote on Obamacare, he disappointed his fellow Republicans by voting “no.” But his comments afterward made an even stronger statement. McCain decried the Senate process of drafting proposed legislation “behind closed doors … then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition.” McCain urged the Senate to “return to the correct way of legislating,” sending bills to committee, holding hearings, and ultimately crafting laws that could be passed with bipartisan support.

There is a growing sentiment that the Senate needs to return to “regular order,” to the kind of process McCain described, but it will not be easy. Legislating in Washington has become about winning, not finding the best policy solutions. Votes are taken to best position legislators for re-election, not to enact the best bills. At a time when America has an impulsive president, it seems especially important that the Senate play its full deliberative role.

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

To read the piece at the Washington Examiner:

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/it-sucks-the-senate-the-worlds-greatest-deliberative-body-no-longer-deliberates