The Corner

Politics & Policy

Cafeteria Federalists

ICE agents detain a suspect during an enforcement operation in Los Angeles, Calif., February 2017. (Charles Reed/ICE/Handout via Reuters)

All my life, I had heard conservatives laud federalism and liberals knock it, or stay silent about it. Conservatives liked state and local control. They didn’t like Washington telling people what to do. Liberals were centralizers and top-down folks.

And then came the interesting issue of sanctuary cities. All of a sudden, though they did not call it that, many liberals were for federalism — for state or local control — on this one issue.

Which brings me to this interesting report, from the Associated Press, published today:

In President Donald Trump’s former life as a casino owner, he might have cheered Monday’s ruling from the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law that barred every state but Nevada from allowing betting on most sporting events.

But the Trump administration opposed the outcome reached by the high court at least in part because it could signal trouble in its legal fight against so-called sanctuary states and cities. Seven of the nine justices — five conservatives and two liberals — backed a robust reading of the Constitution’s 10th Amendment and a limit on the federal government’s power to force the states go along with Washington’s wishes.

The federal anti-gambling law is unconstitutional because “it unequivocally dictates what a state legislature may and may not do,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion. “It’s as if federal officers were installed in state legislative chambers and were armed with the authority to stop legislators from voting on any offending proposals.”

There is a direct link between the court’s decision in the sports betting case and the administration’s effort to punish local governments that resist Trump’s immigration enforcement policies, several legal commentators said.

(Full article here.)

I think a lot of us are cafeteria federalists, if you will — we pick and choose. When we favor what a state or city is doing, we say, “Yay, federalism! Don’t tread on me! To hell with Washington!” In other cases, we say, “You can’t defy a federal law, for heaven’s sake. Are we a nation or not? You want George Wallace and Orval Faubus, standing in the schoolhouse door, to win?”

Sooner or later, I ought to settle this, for myself (or remain a cafeteria federalist, forever). I call on — oh, David French — for help.

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