Can states’ rights work for liberals?

By Bill Schneider
December 3, 2013

Can states’ rights work for liberals? It has always been a conservative cause. Conservatives use states’ rights to resist federal policies that protect civil rights, voting rights and abortion rights. Today, however, federal action is often blocked. So progressive states are passing laws that bypass gridlocked Washington and advance the liberal agenda on their own.

In his famous keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, Barack Obama criticized pundits who “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” His rejoinder: “I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.”

Obama was wrong. Americans have become more and more politically segregated over the past 50 years. Since the 1960s, politics has come to reflect lifestyle and values, and people often choose to live among others who share their lifestyle and values. And therefore their politics.

The number of competitive states has diminished. In the 1960 presidential election, there were 24 battleground states where the margin of victory was five percentage points or less. In the 2012 election, using the same criterion, there were only seven (Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania). Red states like Texas and South Carolina don’t have a single statewide elected Democrat. Blue states like California and New York don’t have a single statewide elected Republican.

The policy gap between red America and blue America is growing. Look at Obamacare. Sixteen states, plus the District of Columbia, have set up state-run insurance exchanges, as the Affordable Care Act invites them to do. Fifteen of those 17 states, including D.C., voted for Obama last year. States running their own insurance exchanges are experiencing a fairly smooth transition to the new healthcare law.

Twenty states want nothing to do with Obamacare. They’re letting the federal government run the program. Sixteen of those 20 states voted for Mitt Romney last year. In 14 states, the new law is being implemented by a federal-state partnership. Those states split in last year’s election — eight for Obama, six for Romney.

The Affordable Care Act also invites states to expand their Medicaid coverage for the poor. The federal government will bear 90 percent to 100 percent of the cost. The expanded program would give health insurance to everyone with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($23,550 for a family of four). With Medicaid expansion, about half the nation’s uninsured population would get health insurance coverage.

But the Supreme Court ruled in June that states may opt out of Medicaid expansion. Twenty-five states did. Nineteen of them had voted for Romney in 2012. Meanwhile 21 out of 27 Obama states are expanding Medicaid coverage. If you are poor, or near poor, and live in a red state, the new healthcare law probably won’t help you.

Income inequality has been growing rapidly in the United States. Congressional Democrats have tried and failed repeatedly to raise the federal minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since 2009. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage; 15 of them were Obama states in 2012.

In blue America, same-sex marriage is a reality. Sixteen states plus D.C. allow same-sex marriage. All voted for Obama in 2012. Not a single Romney state allows same-sex marriage.

Look at state laws imposing restrictions on abortions. Almost 90 percent of the Romney states have passed laws banning late-term abortions (many of those laws have been enjoined by the courts). Seventeen states provide public funding for medically necessary abortions. Thirteen of them voted for Obama last year.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence grades states from A to F, based on the strength or weakness of their gun laws. Seventeen states were graded A, B or C on gun control. They are all blue states. Twenty-four states got an F. Twenty of them voted for Romney. Red America enshrines gun rights. Blue America means gun control.

We have always had policy differences among the states. That’s what federalism means. What’s happening here is that the divergence between red America and blue America is growing. Progressive states and conservative states are moving farther and farther apart in their policies, just as they are in their politics.

It’s creating two different societies — one where poor people, women and gay people enjoy rights and benefits and the other where they don’t. Does it really make sense that a gay couple can be legally married in Maryland but are no longer married if they move across the Potomac River to Virginia?

We’ve now had four presidents in a row who promised to bring the country together. They all failed. In a famous speech in 1858, when Abraham Lincoln was running for the Senate, he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. . . . I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

The division did end. But it took a civil war to end it. If compromise isn’t happening and violence is unthinkable, there’s only one option left: peaceful coexistence in a hopelessly divided land.

PHOTO: Attendees celebrate during U.S. President Barack Obama’s election night rally in Chicago, November 6, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Andrews 

29 comments

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I despair because of your last sentence. In short, I’ve come to believe for many, violence is not unthinkable. This scares me. I’m in the south and it is incredible how many folks who will quietly say things regarding being armed in anticipation of civil insurrection. This along with ‘take back our country’ language is alarming. While they sound otherwise reasonable, there is a clear perception ‘something is wrong’ and they universally blame those taking advantage of the system, which is code for blacks and others on what they perceive as ‘never ending welfare’. Specifically, they cite resentment of those who receive government sponsored, or ‘free’ cell phones, ‘free’ food (SNAP), and ‘free’ housing (HUD section 8) yet are seem clambering aboard automobiles with several thousand dollars worth of 24″ tire/wheel combos. In closing, there is a dark undercurrent flowing in many parts of America, and I am very concerned violence is considered unthinkable because on inspection this may not be true.

Posted by jbeech | Report as abusive

NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

NSA are partnering with Virginia State Police and local police and are torturing innocent citizens. Read “A Note on Uberveillance” by M. D. Michael. Newport News Police and Virginia State Police had a doctor implant me w/o my knowledge and consent with a biochip. A U. S. Attorney for the NSA/DOJ pretended to be my attorney. It enables torture and thought monitoring. They use it as a sensor and pulse energy projectiles at you. I had a heart attack. It enables voice to skull communication. See LRAD white papers or audio spotlight by Holosonics. See Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence by Springer page 9. See Mental Health and Terrorism by Amin Gadit. See Bio Initiative Report 2012. See Forbes and search Brandon Raub. Law enforcement tases citizens into “excited delirium” (see at nij org) to make them act in ways they normally would not. I believe they are directly responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre. There are 3 reasons to have it implanted 1) mental health, 2) criminal record, and 3) infectious disease. If you don’t meet any of those requirements like me, they’ll falsify your records. All the mass shootings are the work of law enforcement. They want to take away your right to bear arms and make America a police state. People aren’t suddenly going crazy, they’re being tortured. I also believe the biochip to be responsible for PTSD. Read Brian Castner’s book “A Long Walk”. I have the same ambiguous pains, twitches, heart attack, night mares, day mares, gurgling, etc. I never served in the war. What do we have in common? The biochip. Suicide is one way to get relief. Virginia’s suicide rate is higher than the national average and the military suicide rate is unacceptable!

Posted by SJmithB | Report as abusive

Vinman66, 52 states?

The last I checked, we only had 50. I guess you’re including one or more of our conquered territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, Samoa, the Marianas, or the Virgin Islands. Maybe your referring to our own District of Columbia, that has non-voting but delegate status?

Still, just 50. Think before you write Vinman66 and stick with the facts! Difficult for a conservative to understand but at least make an effort.

Posted by Andvari | Report as abusive

One could also say that red states are less densely populated and less urban than blue states. As @pete-murphy knows, statistics can often be coincidental.
@Vinman66, you should try posting on mainstream media sites instead of Reuters. 52 states…LMFAO.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

I can not see a way that liberals and conservative blocks can live side by side without separation (notice I said separation not secession) our interests are polar opposites. Now I fully believe that if given time the liberal version of america will win out its all in population demographics but the question I ask is this: how much damage can the Koch brothers (who own the conservatives) do to America in the meantime? Liberalism is based on a we society while conservstivism is based on a me society but they go further then that. They believe that it is fundementally wrong to help anyone other then yourself and by yourself conservative politicans do not mean the average republican voter (who would be better served by being democrats) who they want to help is the Koch brothers and others of those ilk who do not give a damn about the average republican voters they think of them as useful fools.
The difference between liberal and conservative america is that liberals have no problem with conservatives how often do liberals show up with loaded guns to a presidential speech the short answer is we do not operate like that. We think they are misguided and feel sorry that they allow themselves to be played for fools and would love to help them if they ever saw the light. What we do not want to do is kill or eliminate them where as conservatives view violence as a proper response to anything that they don’t agree with and they are knowingky egged on by republican politicans ie… palins bulls eye map or death panels (as if private insurance companies weren’t withholding life saving treatments to pad their profits there’s your death panels)
I believe in freedom and self determination and in that spirit I believe that conservative america should break off from liberal america or there will be civil war. The conservative states would be free to be as conservative as they want while the liberal states would become too liberal for conservative policies to be seriously considered any more. Speaking as a liberal conservative politicans are a bunch of cave men whos main problem is that its not 1890 any more.

Posted by jcc03004 | Report as abusive

@ azreb check your facts the federal governments lowest share of expanded medicaid reinbursement is 90% and that’s after 5 years it goes from 100% to 95 and finally 90 in prepituity

Posted by jcc03004 | Report as abusive