July 25, 2005

Whatever Happened to Post-2004 Federalist Democrats?

A lot of academics and pundits liked to speculate that after the losing 2004 election the Democrats and especially the left should embrace federalism. They point to state funding of stem-cel research, the Terri Schiavo incident, and other examples as reasons why the Democrats are slowly embracing left-federalism. Of course, these were all examples of opportunity, not of genuine ideological change. Sometimes opportunism can be around long enough to allow genuine thought to develop. But this is not the case for Democrats today.

Witness the Roberts confirmation debates. Not only is the subtext of the abortion debate the issue of state choice over abortion, but the qualifications of Roberts (and other jurists) have been affected by the debate of whether the nominee is a member of the Federalist Society. Senator Leahy asked Edith Brown Clement ten different questions about the Federalist Society. Roberts was reported to be a member, then that story was shown to be false, but now a possible honorary position on the steering committee is being reported. If the Democrats were really interested in a genuine embrace of federalism, I doubt they'd use membership in the Federalist Society as an identifier for being potentially too conservative.


Blogger DevP said...

I think that sentiment was scene in the wonk/intelligentsia/eggheader/journalist ends of the Democrats; ideas usually get lost in getting transmitted over to the party leadership or rank-and-file. Certainly, both Democratic and Republican politicians are willing to use federalism - or centralism - as a hammer for pushing the other policies they really want.

And even among the liberal blogosphere, thre was no clear consensus on federalism - some even justified the terrible Kelo and Raich decisions on the grounds that "well, they have a point - we shouldn't use the Constitution to set Federalist limits, because that's bad" and so on. Ugh.

Finally, the Federalist Society is a conservative think-tank, and in trad-liberal circles, often described as "ultra-conservative". Maybe this doesn't fit, but regardless this isn't a test against belief in federalism, but a test to see membership in a conservative organization, to suggest political-ideological bias. (As opposed to legal-ideological bias, which is impossible to ignore - judges gotta have some legal to theory.)

Anyway, that's my take on how that's going on. Yeah, I wish more Dems would pick up on the virtues of decentralization, but it's no easy fight.

July 26, 2005 7:46 AM  

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