For years, with President Obama at the helm of the federal government, Democrats and the media declared that any conservative state or local leader who bucked the feds was dangerous. Local and state rights were declared out of bounds; openly calling for devolution of power to states was considered a heresy. The federal government was the solution to all ills. All who opposed the federal government’s ever-increasing power were closeted secessionists.
Welcome to the bright new dawn for federalism.
All it took was the election of Donald Trump.
On Monday, Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel announced that Chicago would remain a “sanctuary city.” “To be clear about what Chicago is, it always will be a sanctuary city,” Emanuel said. Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said the same thing: “We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.” Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson said, “Boston is a sanctuary city…The police department, if you call them and you need help they will help you, and they will not turn you in to the Feds.”
Trump is threatening to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. Meanwhile, leftist local authorities are essentially telling the feds that if they find out that somebody is an illegal immigrant, they won’t enter it into the databases, so there’s no way for the feds to know without independent investigation who is in the country legally.
The left celebrates this sort of federalism and can’t stand that the feds would threaten local authorities to push them to help enforce federal law. The federal government can’t co-opt local authorities in order to carry out federal law – it’s the federal authorities’ job to do that. The feds can attach strings to failures to comply.
This is the beauty of our federal system: the gridlock and the back and forth, the grinding of the gears. The left loves federalism the moment their enemies control the federal government. But we should all love federalism. It grants local leftists the right to be stupid, but it also allows the right to resist federal overreach.
Perhaps the left will learn its lesson about the federal system.
Don’t bet on it.