Former U.S. House Speaker “Tip” O’Neal is most commonly associated with asserting that “all politics is local.” As we’ve moved away from Federalism and republicanism toward democratic homogenization in this country, I think that’s become less and less true:
Coloradans are drawing a line in the asphalt when it comes to California’s growing influence on their SUVs, trucks and votes.
The Colorado-based Freedom to Drive Coalition filed a lawsuit this month against the state’s adoption of California’s zero-emissions vehicle standards, arguing that the rules violate state law and would add thousands of dollars to the cost of the heavy-duty vehicles favored by drivers navigating Colorado’s snowy roads.
Meanwhile, supporters of the Electoral College are balking at the lopsided flood of cash pouring in from California to prevent Colorado voters from overturning the National Popular Vote bill, which Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed into law in March.
Figures compiled by Protect Colorado’s Vote show that more than 98% of the donations to Yes on National Popular Vote have been from Californians, while Coloradans have contributed 99% of the revenue raised to exit the compact.
“Obviously, California is incredibly engaged in getting Colorado’s votes,” said Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese, who heads the referendum campaign.
This situation exemplifies why the Electoral College was put into place. Without it, just 9 States (California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia and Florida) could elect the president, since they account for just over half the U.S. population. Other States would become mere subsidiaries of one of these population centers. Those who want the popular vote to prevail in presidential elections know they face an uphill battle to amend the Constitution. Thus the “National Popular Vote” bill effort in many states, trying to put together a coalition to lump together a bunch of States to do what I believe to be an unconstitutional end-run around the Electoral College.
As the article above shows, what may work for California (and that’s arguable) may not apply to the conditions of another State, like Colorado. This is one of many reasons the Founders intended most governance to be local (State and below), with the Federal government largely charged with handling the external affairs of the federation of States. Too much of the divisiveness in this country is driven by efforts to impose “one size allegedly fits all” solutions from Washington, D.C. (or Sacramento, in this case). What’s tragically ironic is that the loudest proponents of unitary government suddenly find their inner secessionist whenever the Federal Government goes against their agenda. States like New York are passing local bills enshrining the legality of abortion, since many expect Roe v. Wade to be reviewed, revised or overturned in the next few years by a Supreme Court with more constitutional originalists on its bench. The Left will stick up for “States’ rights” in such a scenario, but more times than not, they are happy to use Federal power to bludgeon the entire nation into compliance with their agenda.
Campaign financing has been another insidious erosion of local politics. Note in the linked article who is funding the two sides of the National Popular Vote campaign. Why are Californians allowed to contribute to campaigns in Colorado? Another example is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes. Once she won her primary in 2018, out-of-state money provided the majority of her general election campaign financing. How does this square with the idea a ‘representative’ reflects local opinion and priorities? (Spoiler: it doesn’t.)
What this does is turn every Congressional/Senatorial race into a national campaign. We hear about the outsize influence of billionaires. Well, guess who has the wherewithal to fund candidates all across the country? That’s not the vision the Founders had in mind. Want to reign in the influence of campaign contributions? Two steps: only allow individual citizens (not corporations, PACs or any other organizational source) to contribute, and require them to contribute only to their State/local races. As is often pointed out, only the office of the presidency was designed to be elected by the entire nation. The current campaign financing model undermines that.
A truly federal system allows for variations and experimentation of policy to best meet local conditions and aspirations. We have moved away from that to our great detriment. How about some of that magic “diversity” when it comes to letting locals set their own agenda? Save the Federal power for things that truly matter to everyone — like upholding the “Life” part of “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness” by protecting the unborn.