Monday, November 15, 2004

Smells Like ... Federalism?

The Stranger has an interesting bit on the 2004 Election. Starting from the same map referred to in the post below, they arrive at the concept of the Urban Archipelago.

My first impression was distinctly unfavorable. On the face of it, this is a doctrine of abandonment, retreat, and surrender; they entirely give up the goal of being a national party. If the Democratic Party wants to continue its luge ride to oblivion, this is exactly the sort of thing to pursue. Also, I'm not a fan of the tone used in the piece. It drips with hatred, condescension, and about a half-dozen other negative and unhealthy emotions.

On the other hand, it isn't necessarily wrong to have a party of unabashed urban advocates. There's a place in American politics for that sort of thing.

And ... on reflection, there are some good ideas there, too. Something I hadn't expected to come from the Left. Just the faintest whiff, mind you, but nevertheless it carried the scent of ... Federalism?

Here's a thing to understand about rural Americans: they loathe, hate, absolutely detest other people minding their business. I suppose we all do. But nonetheless, what upsets them as much as anything about the current state of affairs is the extent to which good-intentioned busybodies are always mucking about in their lives. In fine, they don't much like city folk telling them what they can and can't do.

And yet, we have to live with each other. It's not like one side or the other is going to up and move to another country, or suddenly vanish to reappear on Mars or something.

So what do we do? We go back to the basics.

You see, democracy is an empty word, a sham, a LIE, if it does not mean government by the consent of those governed. A logical consequence of that is that most laws need to be made at as local a level as is practical. That's the essence of old-school Federalism: each level of government is reasonably sovereign within its own bailiwick. You need to have some uniformity of laws, but beyond that, people need to be able to live under laws that they've consented to, more or less.

Naturally, there has to be some broad-based agreement on basic human rights. We can't allow any part of America to slide back into Jim Crow. We can't allow any part of America to slide into barbarism. But we can, at least, agree that part of what diversity is all about is that there are different ways to order one's lifestyle. We can, at least, come to what Herman Kahn used to call a "second-order" agreement: an agreement on the areas where we just have to agree to disagree.

The best part of what the Stranger is proposing is that rural America and urban America can each live under laws that fit their needs. I suspect that there could even be an interesting synergy, here. Without the constant drive for national gun control laws and the perceived enviro-nannying, rural Americans might begin to vote their real economic interests again.

Give them the freedom to live under laws of their own choosing, and they might well be persuaded to come back. We could re-build the New Deal coalition. We could actually run, and win, as a national party again.

It might be worth a try.

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