Federalism Is for Leftism, Says Brown U. American Studies Chairman

The political right in the United States has been a big fan of federalism for some time now — pretty much since they wrote The Federalist.

The idea of relegating powers to state government and to the people themselves while greatly restricting what the federal government can enact from way over in Washington, D.C., makes a lot of sense to anyone concerned about tyranny. And rights.


However, Brown University’s chairman of their American Studies Department(!), one Matthew Pratt Guterl, thinks Republicans are meanie pants who took the idea and perverted it or something:

For the past 20 years, the Republican Party has perversely rewritten former Supreme Court Louis Brandeis’s notion that states could be “laboratories of democracy.” Where Brandeis imagined state governments pushing liberal and progressive ideas beyond the national consensus, drawing the nation forward, Republicans have worked to preserve a dwindling white majority through gerrymandering and have used state governments not merely to slow down liberalism, but to turn it to dust and ash in the broad center of the country. In the so-called red states, liberalism is now often relegated to a kind of folklore-ish local practice in college towns and mid-sized cities, while formal, statewide policy is strictly and stridently conservative.

Red states, in other words, are laboratories of anti-democracy — as many have been, in a way, since the days of slaveholding and Jim Crow. With the election of Donald Trump, it’s safe to say that most people’s lives will get worse in these states, and that the forces of intolerance and bigotry will grow stronger and even less cautious.

Well, Guterl is right about Brandeis’s intentions, seeing as how he was a progressive himself. But, and of course, it was Brandeis, not the Republican Party, perverting the notion of federalism.


Federalism prevents Washington from, say, forcing rural towns in Idaho to blow $100 million installing bike lanes when nothing is reachable by bike. Decisions such as that are to be kept local. “Laboratories of democracy?” Sure, if that’s what the locals want to do. For example, take the Hope Scholarship that several states have and that are funded by lottery proceeds. State officials looked at how other states were funding their scholarship programs, and could decide for themselves whether or not it would work for their state.

But Guterl is talking about “laboratories of socialism.”

And he seems to have been fine with Obama’s top-down, anti-Tenth Amendment progressivism, while also wanting the Tenth Amendment to somehow be a check on the Constitution itself, too.

In other words, nothing should be allowed except progressive ideals. Very progressive of him, don’t you think?

Hat tip: Campus Reform


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