Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Oh, the good old days

Various Virginia bloggers have linked to the letter to the editor by Richmond lawyer Wyatt Durrette, a longtime Republican, whose letter begins: "In bygone days most Republicans championed the principles of federalism, which valued the integrity of state governments and limitations on national prerogatives. They felt strongly that the separation of power and responsibility between state and national governments fostered diversity and best served to protect the rights of our citizens."

I'm sure he knows more about it than I do, but I don't think there were any such bygone days - certainly not during the civil war, and not during reconstruction which included passage of the 14th Amendment, and not since Nixon was elected (who established the EPA, among other things) or even during the day of Reagan (father of the 55 mph national speed limit, or was it the national drinking age). The only such era might have been during what I think of as the Lochner era, culminating in the anti-New Deal decisions by the Republican majority court in the 1930s - the era that said child labor and minimum wage and food safety laws were unconstitutional. Of course, those weren't states' rights decisions, those cases said no level of government could do those things. Conceivably, federalism has made a comeback of sorts in the last 20 years, as the Supreme Court has limited claims against the states and found limits to the power of Congress under the Interstate Commerce clause.

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