The public’s government in exile
Republicans are getting their wish. Government seems increasingly dysfunctional, with the result that people are tuning D.C. out more and more. But that has not led to the conservative golden age the GOP had sought. People are just turning to other means of accomplishing their goals. Going around D.C. is in vogue.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben points out that neither Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Joe Kennedy, in their assessments of the state of the union, mentioned climate change. If D.C. is that out of touch with public needs, there’s no way to rely on it. So the nation must turn to the federal courts and state and local governments.
Trump and the feds may not be abiding by the Paris Accord, but cities, states and companies are. They don’t need the federal government to set an enlightened environmental policy. They’re doing it themselves.
McKibben: “Even if Democrats manage to take back the House and Senate in the midterm elections, they wouldn’t be able to get meaningful legislation past Trump—and there’s nothing much to suggest they’d try very hard. … [W]e dare not wait for Washington to return to sanity. And happily, we don’t have to. The strategy that’s been evolving for U.S. climate action—and for action in many other parts of the planet—bypasses the central governments as much as possible. That’s because the oil industry is strongest in national capitols—that’s where its money is most toxically powerful. But if frontal attack is therefore hard, its flanks are wide open.”
The pack of lies about marijuana that locked this wonder drug away from the public for eight decades has been beaten down by facts, and public votes have slid authority out from under the federal government and handed it to the states.Even here in Nevada, a Republican governor went his own way on the Affordable Care Act, putting the needs of Nevada patients above those of GOP dogma.
The federal courts kept pace when public attitudes on our gay brothers and sisters started changing. In D.C., where direct mail fundraising depended on demonizing unpopular groups, the GOP was taken aback when conservative attacks on gays prompted a wave of years of courageous coming out. Families and friends found the faces of gays not as difficult to encounter as they had thought. While congressmembers still championed bigotry, attitudes evolved. The public and the courts leaped over federal politicians and changed history.
To be sure, the doctrine of preemption in the U.S. Constitution—giving primacy to federal over state law—gives the fed authority to seize back its control on some of these initiatives, such as marijuana and climate change. San Francisco Department of the Environment Director Deborah Raphael calls preemption “California’s worst nightmare.” But in the dynamics of politics, federal politicians would pay quite a price with sweeping interferences of local action. We can’t wait to see Republicans making war on government at the local level.
So let Republicans in D.C. go on with their gridlock strategy, and let Democrats go on unable to cope with the Republicans. Life and policymaking go on without them.