Special to the Cape Charles Mirror by Paul Plante
In an essay entitled “American Federalism, 1776 to 1997: Significant Events,” by Eugene Boyd dated January 6, 1997, the author breaks American political history into four (4) distinct eras beginning in 1789 and ending in 1997.
In his scheme of things, he terms the period from 1789 to 1901 as the era of Dual Federalism which is characterized as an era during which there was little collaboration between the national and state governments.
Indeed, that was the time period in this nation’s political history which included the Principles of ’98, the American political position that individual states could judge the constitutionality of central government laws and decrees, and could refuse to enforce laws deemed unconstitutional, which, according to WIKIPEDIA, is generally referred to as “nullification,” but has also been expressed as “interposition,” i.e. the states right to “interpose” between the federal government and the people of the state.
As schoolboy/girl history books tell us, the Principles of ’98 were widely promoted in Jeffersonian Democracy, especially by what were then called Tertium Quids, a disparaging term that referred to cross-party coalitions of Federalists and moderate Democratic-Republicans such as John Randolph of Roanoke, Virginia.
As we are informed by history, the term “Principles of ’98” derives from the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions written in 1798 by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, respectively, both of whom believed that if the central government was the exclusive judge of its limitations under the U.S. Constitution, then it would eventually overcome those limits and become more and more powerful and authoritarian, which, of course, brings us to the times we are living in today in this nation, which is what makes this upcoming presidential so interesting and important, where we have what can only be called two monarchists competing against each for the throne of imperial power in Washington, D.C.
Madison and Jefferson argued that formal limiting devices such as elections and separation of power would not suffice if the government could judge its own case regarding constitutionality.
As Jefferson wrote, “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.”
Say what you will about old Tom, he certainly had prescient vision with that statement.
From Dual Federalism, we next go to what the author terms the era of Cooperative Federalism, which is the term given to the period from 1901 to 1960.
According to the author, this period was marked by greater cooperation and collaboration between the various levels of government, and it was during this era that the national income tax and the grant-in-aid system were authorized in response to social and economic problems confronting the nation.
From there, we go to the period from 1960 to 1968, which was called “Creative Federalism” by President Lyndon Johnson’s Administration.
Not surprisingly to those of us alive back then, especially us Viet Nam veterans, President Johnson’s “Creative Federalism” as embodied in his Great Society program, was, by most scholars’ assessments, a major departure from the past, which comes across to me as gross understatement.
President Johnson’s “Creative Federalism” as embodied in his Great Society program further shifted the power relationship between governmental levels toward the national government through the expansion of grant-in-aid system and the increasing use of regulations.
And that then takes us to what the author calls Contemporary federalism, which was the period from 1970 to 1997, when the article was written, an era characterized by shifts in the intergovernmental grant system, the growth of unfunded federal mandates, concerns about federal regulations, and continuing disputes over the nature of the federal system.
And here we are now, almost twenty (20) years later, and those disputes over the nature of OUR federal system in this nation have greatly escalated, as we see state Constitutions vanishing in New York state and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
So the question to me is – what era are we now in?
Are we still in the era known as Contemporary federalism, which period began in 1970, the year I got back from Viet Nam, or have we progressed from there into a new era, as yet unnamed?
In answer to that, I would posit that the era known as Contemporary federalism ended on 9-11-2001, to be replaced with what can only be described as Imperial federalism, where all governmental functions in this nation are being subsumed into the federal government in Washington, D.C., or are coming under the control of the federal government in Washington, D.C., which is coming to resemble the Roman government in the time of Augustus Caesar.
In that scenario, George W. Bush became our first imperial president, a law unto himself.
Barack Hussein Obama, he of the executive orders, became our second imperial president, and with his executive orders, he expanded on the powers our first imperial president, George W. Bush awarded himself when he assumed office in 2000.
And now we are confronted with the election of our third and most powerful imperial president to date, in what has to be the most bizarre and surreal presidential election in my lifetime.
With respect to bizarre and surreal, we have Hillary Clinton, who just made the most miraculous recovery from pneumonia the world has ever witnessed, making national news by slamming Donald Trump on Thursday, September 15, 2016, for declining to answer a question about where President Barack Obama was born, as if the most important issue facing this nation today was not about ISIS, or when we are ever going to get out of Afghanistnam, or our $20 TRILLION national debt, but instead is “where was Barack Obama born?”
“When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry?” Hillary ranted and pouted at The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute awards gala in Washington, D.C. because Trump would not tell her where Barack Obama was born, as if Trump had been there as a witness to record the momentous event, and as if not considering where Barack Obama was born was really a worthy topic of debate between two presidential candidates in America today, neither of whom is named Obama, constitutes bigotry, which is defined as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”
Does the fact that Donald Trump doesn’t see it worth the while of we, the American people, to have listen to a silly debate between himself and Hillary Clinton on the question of where Barack Obama was born really qualify as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself,” or is the charge of bigotry made by Hillary Clinton simply patently stupid?
Are there more important things for two presidential candidates in this country to debate about than where Barack Obama was born?
Or is that really what is at the top of the list?
Now, as to that caterpillar, it is blue in color with a haughty look on its face and a supercilious attitude as it sits on a mushroom outside my window smoking its hookah and occasionally blowing smoke letters in the air, which, when put together, seem to say “this **** is too bizarre to be real,” a sentiment I find it impossible to disagree with.
Whatever kind of caterpillar that is, it sure does seem to have its finger on the pulse of these times that we now find ourselves immersed in.
Could it be Tom Jefferson reincarnated?
A question for our times if there ever was one.