What's the Left-Wing Case for Federalism?


At the Volokh Conspiracy, George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin discusses a new article in the left-wing journal Democracy which urges progressives to give federalism a chance. Here's how the author of that piece, liberal Yale law professor Heather Gerken, begins her case for "A New Progressive Federalism":

it is a mistake to equate federalism's past with its future. State and local governments have become sites of empowerment for racial minorities and dissenters, the groups that progressives believe have the most to fear from decentralization. In fact, racial minorities and dissenters can wield more electoral power at the local level than they do at the national. And while minorities cannot dictate policy outcomes at the national level, they can rule at the state and local level. Racial minorities and dissenters are using that electoral muscle to protect themselves from marginalization and promote their own agendas.

Read the whole article here.

As I observed in a November 2010 column, it's beyond strange to hear so many liberals smearing federalism at the very same time that many of those same liberals embrace federalism on issues ranging from gay marriage to medical marijuana to consumer protection. Perhaps Gerken's argument will help some of them reconcile their internal contradictions.