In a November 2010 column titled “Stop Smearing Federalism,” I surveyed some of the overheated liberal rhetoric directed at critics of President Barack Obama’s health care law. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, for instance, writing in The New Republic, compared opponents of Obamacare to the fire-breathing Confederates who urged disunion in 1861. “Proclaiming themselves heralds of liberty and freedom, the new nullifiers would have us repudiate the sacrifices of American history—and subvert the constitutional pillars of American nationhood,” Wilentz huffed.
It was a delusional statement then and it looks even worse now. Voters last week in Colorado and Maryland, among other states, brought about sweeping federalist victories on behalf of marijuana legalization and gay marriage, respectively, proving yet again that democratic experimentation on the state and local level is not an inherently right-wing or left-wing phenomenon. Federalism is just another tool in America’s constitutional kit.