Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Ben Sasse: The Leader We Need, But Not The One We Deserve

Senator Ben Sasse continues to be the leader we need, but not the one we deserve in Washington.

In a clip of a talk posted on Facebook, Sasse explains why the decentralization of power away from Washington to state and local governments is a good thing:


Why can’t more people in Washington talk this way?

Sasse touched upon perhaps the issue most responsible for the bipartisan dissatisfaction of the voting public, and general malaise that seems to hover over the federal government.

Over the last century, Americans began to look to Washington more and more to set policy on many of the problems confronting the country. There are lots of reasons for this development, but what matters is that we now inherit a country where every issue must be a federal one.

Gardens, abortion, seat belts, voting age, light bulbs, gas can design, water drainage, crosswalks, gay marriage, open alcohol containers, health insurance, overtime pay, fast food menus, coal mines, bathrooms, school lunches, airline-customer relations, door knob design, handicap parking spaces, and the list goes on.

As Erick noted this weekend, the federal government is designed to be inefficient. It’s a feature, not a bug. Federal legislation can only be passed through immense efforts of deliberation and consensus. Moreover, federal legislation should apply only to a set number of enumerated powers, with the rest of the issues being reserved for the states.

To put it simply, the federal government is not designed to handle all of the issues we demand that it solve. Legislation is close to impossible, and executive orders or administrative edicts are undemocratic and alienate half of the country.

This impulse to nationalize every issue, to which Senator Sasse alludes, is why liberals have gone mad since Trump’s election. The immense power of Barack Obama’s pen and phone are passed into the tiny, orange, yet capable hands of Donald Trump. Executive orders are being issued and the immense power of the administrative state is shifting rightward.

While it is tempting to indulge in schadenfreude as liberals continue to cope with the consequences of the 2016 election, principled conservatives should know better. Conservatives remember all too well the despair we felt in following Obama’s election in 2009, and we know we can expect to be on the losing side again.

Conservatives should not be rooting for a powerful federal government imposing our favorite policies on the whole nation. Instead, we should be advocating for a return to the proper balance of power between federal and local governments. As Sasse points out, this is what the Founders intended. This allows for more responsive and democratic government.

Liberals would also do well to heed Senator Sasse’s advice. Federalism does not necessarily mean an “anti-government perspective,” as Sasse puts it. It means embracing the reality that our public policy must be as diverse as our nation. Don’t make every election an all-or-nothing proposition, and every policy a one-size-fits-all solution.

Unfortunately, federalism isn’t a headline grabbing issue. As of the time of this writing, Senator Sasse’s video has a mere 400 likes on Facebook, and is unlikely to get much attention on Twitter or the evening news.

Even more discouraging, President Trump likely cares about federalism as much as Bill Clinton cares about that trip to a private beach that Hillary booked for the two of them this summer. To my knowledge, Trump has never uttered a sentence that sounds anything like Sasse’s statement. His campaign focused not on restoring a proper balance to dual sovereignty between Washington and the states, but on wielding the overreaching power of the federal government to his voters’ ends.

Perhaps the record bipartisan number of Americans dissatisfied with government will one day shift the electoral winds. Until then, we should treasure at least one voice in Washington prescribing exactly what America needs.

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Andy Crawford

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