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November 05, 2004



Oh, I get it. Bush is just spending like a Massachusets liberal to force the Democrats to counter him by demanding the agenda he really wanted in the first place! That evil genius Karl Rove must be behind this!

Richard Aubrey

Good point. You build a machine without any certainty about who gets hold of the levers, you'll be surprised one day.
Affirmative action was supposed to go only one way. But others, Cubans in Florida, for example, figured out the victim schtick, got themselves lumped in with the accredited victim hispanics, played the game smarter and are now on the inside watching the designated beneficiaries complaining.
It was predictable.
But, somehow, the liberals were convinced that only the Right Sort of People would ever be in the control room.


"This, My Little Fuckers, is the danger of Big Government. Being able to micromanage the entire nation from the national level may be all well and good when Your Guy is in power, but what happens when the other guy gets a shot at pulling the levers?"
Good point, but one that will be lost on the statists who ARE the Democratic Party.


Ya think? Ya think that if you stop trying to force other states to live by the values of your own that they may be more likely to listen to you?

Who is the most intolerant? The one who CAN"T STAND THE IDEA that in some distant state, there exists a gay couple that can only get married by getting in their car? Or the one who says, live like you want in California, and let me live like I want in Nebraska?

Pious Agnostic

An interesting idea! If the Democrats become the party of States Rights and a weakened Federal Government, then maybe then they'll be able to enact their nitch social institutions on a state level and eventually unite and secede from the Union.

Oh, wait, they tried that once. Let's go over that again...

Pat Adkins

Jane Smiley is in denial. The ignorant people are those that can't look at the presidential candidate they chose, and figure out that he was unpalatable to the majority of Americans.

Smart people learn from their mistakes. Democrats keep repeating the same mistake with the candidates they offer. America is saying NO to them.


There are MANY, MANY people who count themselves as classical liberals (circa 1776) who dislike the current Democratic party for only one basic reason: the embrace of big government as a way of enforcing a preferred social system.

MANY, MANY people think that this is start of the road to serfdom, and oppose Democratic policies not because of the particular policies but because of the big-government agenda.

Heck, even Strom Thurmond's 1948 speech - if you actually listen to the whole thing - was pro-integration, but anti-big government. Of course, if you assume that any opposition to centralization is just a cover for racism, you'll interpret his words differently than their plain surface meaning. A lot of people considered him far right - but even he would be hard pressed to resist the kind of states' right argument advocated above.

Besides, this is what 'the laboratory of the states' was all about: let different states try out different laws and social policies (w/o demanding that other states fund their local experiments), then let the people 'vote with their feet'.

I think the hypothetical future left would win back a lot of folks with a new, clearly-non-racist committment to states rights.

Jim Oliver

I completely agree with you. If you look at the red and blue counties from the last election, it's quite clear that Urbanites and Ruralites having different political ideologies. What’s good for New York City is not always good for Greenville, SC. Gov’t should fund the military, build roads, provide affordable healthcare, provide Social Security, and several other functions, but it must eliminate pork spending. The power structure should “trickle-up”….that’s something the dems should understand.

Publius Rex

In the realm of good ideas that have no chance of being enacted, this is certainly a top notch idea. As long as the Democrats believe that once Bush gets 60 Senate seats he will run in this direction, beating him there is a tremendous starboard tack.

I see only one problem. The reality of the repositioning is that the federal government gets smaller. That means a BIG loss of union jobs, BIG problem for Dems.


Fantastic - this would even get me to vote for the Dems at a national level. And perhaps this not so far away from the thinking among some Democrats too.

One overwrought respondant to Jane Smiley's screed in Slate was outraged at the net tax inflows to Alabama and the net tax outflows from New Jersey. The writer called for labels on goods to indicate which state they were from so that they could be boycotted. Classical Red State federalism!

Perhaps out of rage the Dems will alight on a classic American polical philosophy (as opposed to a European one) after all.


The left is what the left is. All the rest of this is lipstick on a pig. Nobody is going to be fooled into voting for them by appeals that are obvious lies.


Excellent, excellent, excellent. Having genuine federalists in both parties will let us lay this annoying "culture war" to rest. AND it would provide a much needed levelling of federal power.

Michael Mealling

If you could get the Democratic Party to do that you'd get my vote immediately! As a long time Libertarian (Lifetime Member) who voted for Bush this time you could easily convince a large number of federalist oriented Libertarians and Republicans to defect immediately.

But someone else above said this:

Gov’t should fund the military, build roads, provide affordable healthcare, provide Social Security, and several other functions, but it must eliminate pork spending.

If you're going to go the federalist route, you have to do it right. If a state wants to provide affordable healthcare as an entitlement guaranteed by that state, then fine, but you have to really mean it. You won't get my support if you still insist on making things like Social Security a national program.


Jim Oliver wrote: "What’s good for New York City is not always good for Greenville, SC. Gov’t should fund the military, build roads, provide affordable healthcare, provide Social Security, and several other functions, but it must eliminate pork spending."

Um, Jim -- a lot of us don't think that "providing affordable healthcare" and "providing social security" are proper functions of the federal government, either. Cut those two off your list and you're down to the libertarian basics, which is where I can begin to agree with you.

There's never been any reason Calfornia and Massachusetts can't have taxpayer-funded health care and pensions for everyone, if they want to. The reality though is that all of the competent people (with the exception of a few starry-eyed idealists) would move to another state where they weren't forced to pay for other people's costs of life. That's why Democrats/socialists/collectivists have to control the federal government for their plans to work -- they can't allow anyplace for the citizens who generate the wealth to escape to.

Libertarian Libertarian

I'd vote for a libertarian Democrat.

I sure as hell can't vote for a libertarian Libertarian.

(Those nutballs get weirder every year ... Bed-time Badnarik is no libertarian.)


"That's why Democrats/socialists/collectivists have to control the federal government for their plans to work -- they can't allow anyplace for the citizens who generate the wealth to escape to."


And Teresa Heinz knows that from personal experience...

Local government means accountability to me. Hell, I'm a communist when it comes to issues that happen in my own house, a socialist when you're talking about my neighborhood, a centrist regarding my city, and a libertarian as soon as you get any farther away.

Raoul Ortega

The only reason the Left has been whining about budget deficits is because since they lost control of the institutions they bloated up, they are being out bid by the GOP. Put the Left back in power and their concern for deficits will evaporate as they pay off everyone who put them back there.

But it'll never happen because micromanagement of other people's lives is a foundation of the Left's programs, and without it, they have nothing but their own moral exhibitionism.


I still can't get TrackBack to work. Apologies for the intrusion, Lex, but I linked to you:

Horst Graben

Good essay and comments. The idea of the country being evenly and sharply divided is hogwash. Most folks want demo-lite social service, regulatory government and repub-lite jacksonian military and social conservatism. Look at the defeat of gay marriage with super-majorities. Obviously many Kerry voters are "Jesus Freaks", just like the "red-neck" Bush voters.

I estimate (that is to say a wild ass guess) that 75-percent of US voters agree with each other on about 75-percent of the "issues". The great so-called divide is just a tool used to corral folks to vote for one of the two parties.

The problem for both parties, as I see it, is that they each rely on the 12.5-percent of the hard core liberals and conservatives to do the leg-work of the parties. Without these hard working, committed people, neither party can garner the votes from the 75-percent.

The only way for Lex's proposition for the demos to work is if they are willing to abandon their base of support that does the hard work for no pay. I don't think that is a feasible option.

Guru George

Excellent post! I think a lot of moderates and libertarian-inclined people voted for Bush on the single issue of the WoT, but had to "hold their noses", as the saying goes.

A Democratic party that ditched the old guard hippy farts like the Clintons et. al., got someone smart and charismatic like Barack Obama to run for President, reformed itself along the lines you propose and (in Mark Steyn's words) started worrying about real enemies instead of imaginary ones, would attract such libertarians, re-attract the middle, and bring a Democratic win in 2008. No question about it.

It's an exciting thought!

Bruce Badger

Yep, yep, yep.

The Defense of Marriage act is NOT anti-gay. It is anti-judicial legislation. I'm ambivalent about gay marriage, but I am SURE it is not an issue to be decided for the nation by a judge in Massachusetts. Let them try it in Massachusetts, and in a few years we'll have a concrete idea of the effects. If gay marriage is of parmount importance to you, relocation is not terribly difficult in the USA. If it works out well, acceptance for the idea will grow among the red-staters.

When my kids were small, I would have made an attempt to relocate in a State that offered vouchers. Let's try it on a small scale and see what the unforseen consequences are.

I'm very socially conservative on some issues and very progressive on others. But lets try lots of new ideas on a small scale, approved by those citizens who are directly effected, and see how they work.

Without checking, I think Alaska voted down further relaxation of drug laws - am I right? But I believe (not having followed this closely) that they already have pretty tolerant marijuana laws. Maybe they can demonstrate to the rest of the country that many drug laws are unnecessary and conterproductive.

This is very productive thinking. Perhaps it is one of the few remaining routes for the red and blue staters to find common ground. I really don't care how the people in New York, San Fransico, or Seattle agree to be governed. Nor do I care about the local laws (with few exceptions)in Boloxi, Mobile, or Anchorage. "All politics is local." A cliche because it is largely accurate.

But it is about time for the "oh-so-tolerant" left to quit trying to tell the rest of us how to live. And I must say I find the right-wing nutballs to be much more willing to adapt a lez affaire approach.

Let's have some more examination of radical new ideas from the left to try to reshape the arguement. Bridge the gap. Close the divide. I am a centrist, but the politics of hate and intolerance exhibited by the Democrats recently has driven me into the arms of the right. But I, and others like me, would prefer the vast cafeteria of ideas and approachs that has historicaly been the strength of this country.

Have any of the Democrats reading this noticed the exitement expressed by the most staunchly Republican of writers for the new Conressman from Louisiana? I can't recall his name, but he is of Indian descent. The first legislator of that ethnicity. And he brings new vigor, and drive, and ideas to the Republican party and to our nation. Another voice added to the choir. A slightly different perspective on the conversation. That "great melting pot" is what has made this country great.

More please.

More ideas. More discussion. More experiments. Less hate. Less intolerance. Less political correctness. Bush was the radical in this race. Kerry the reactionary. A strange turn of events. Lets embrace our differences and attempt to find a common ground. Just because he doesn't agree with you does not make the President an evil-Bushitler chimp.

Nice to find a small voice of reason among the hysteria, bitterness and anger that is all to common on the left today.

Bryan Lovely

This sounds a lot like my prescription for good government regardless of party. I doubt that the Democratic Party will be able to embrace it, however, because of the historical connection of "States' Rights" to Jim Crow. Anyone making that pitch will be immediately denounced as a racist.


Just one little quibble with you, Lex:

>his denial of federal funding for stem cell research

Isn't that the limited-government conservative position though? One would think from the point of view you advocate that federal funding for [insert issue here] to be something to be avoided, not encouraged, at the national level. And if it's to be enacted upon by government at all to do it at the state level. Such as was done with California in this election.

Alex D.

Just what I was thinking. I consider myself a Democrat, but a more moderate one, and I would definitely approach a small-government philosophy with open arms.

chris b

If you guys are serious about this, are you prepared to allow states to outlaw abortion if they should choose to do so? Utah might do it, New York probably wouldn't. In fact, should a county have the right to prohibit abortion?

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