Opinion

The Great Debate

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 

Comments
29 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

“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.”

Another way of phrasing it would be: one where babies can be killed right up to the point where they are climbing into the world and the other where they cannot. Actually in the former, we have people like Barbara Boxer who would like the right to be able to kill the baby even if he/she managed to climb out alive while the doctor wasn’t looking.

And the combined Democrat-Republican way of phrasing it would be: one where hundreds of thousands of foreigners can be brought in under H-1B and other visa fictions to replace American workers, especially via fraud, and the other where they cannot. Admittedly this is not a blue versus red state issue: let’s call it purple versus red/white/blue.

P.S. People disagreeing with liberals are not always a foaming-at-the-mouth member of the Tea Party and/or Libertarian. And people disagreeing with members of the Tea Party and/or Libertarians are not always liberal.

Posted by baroque-quest | Report as abusive
 

Yesterday i talked “for life” with pretty girl with liberal views and man with views which is russian clone of republican. And suddenly understood one thing – some people can gather data and analyse, some …just don’t.

For distant observer much of american/western “deal breaker” issues is not about a moral choices or getting things better/keepin’ ‘em good – it’s a “religion”. And after both parties entreched over their “religious” choices, suddenly many practical issues were also “privatized” by sides makin’ haphazard “whole” package – ones also becomnig parts of “religion”. And as any religious matter they’re taken to extremes by fundamentalist at each side.
What’s really sad – it’s that lot of people “vote with the heart” or by their ethnicity/faith – while issues promoted as “core” rally don’t count much, and issues which affect lives of generations are swept under the rug.
From the POV of people from countries where political spectrum is MUCH broader – right names for two major american parties should be Swiftian “big-enders” and “little-enders”…

Posted by chyron | Report as abusive
 

It is a very dark view. And having strong arguments. The ones we are aware of.
Still, I believe that the society as a whole has the same vector of development.
Look, North Carolina or Colorado used to be conservative strongholds. However, these (and some other) states have changed. VA is changing pretty fast.
Actually, there are populous regions in TX with people migrated from the North. Gerrymandering and electorate college just made them unheard and unseen. But they are out there.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive
 

Very good article sir.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

@ baroque-quest: “Another way of phrasing it would be: one where babies can be killed right up to the point where they are climbing into the world and the other where they cannot. Actually in the former, we have people like Barbara Boxer who would like the right to be able to kill the baby even if he/she managed to climb out alive while the doctor wasn’t looking.”

And where, exactly, are babies being killed right before they are born? Roe v. Wade allows for abortion up until the third trimester, and I believe that limit is perfectly reasonable, thank you very much.

Posted by delta5297 | Report as abusive
 

I hate to break it to you, Bill, but Lincoln was quoting our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ when he said that line about a house divided.

Posted by PeterBarlow | Report as abusive
 

I believe America’s problem is not a Red vs Blue, or conservative vs liberal divide. America’s problem is of a spiritual nature, and it will not be solved until Americans turn their eyes toward God, soften their hard hearts and loosen their prideful, stiff necks.

Posted by PeterBarlow | Report as abusive
 

Arguing with this author re: his characterizations of red and blue states would be pointless I suspect. However, I do agree that the solution to this intractable division is state’s rights…a rather shockingly simple solution that allows Americans to live together in one country, in peace. Agreed…this current situation will get worse and is not sustainable. It isn’t just the policy differences that divide…the people on the two sides of this cultural war despise each other viscerally. That is relatively easy to fix…live amongst people who agree with you.

Posted by sarkozyrocks | Report as abusive
 

@PeterBarlow, the framers of the Constitution were careful to point out that a separation of church and state was necessary to the successful governing of this country. Now you say you have the answer – “God”. You are the beneficiary of the Framers’ good sense in every way. You have the freedom to practice your spiritualism without restraint, and I have the freedom to not be religious. They knew what they were doing. You don’t.

But when you write, “soften their hard hearts and loosen their prideful, stiff necks” I wonder to whom you are referring. Which political party? The Republicans who are rapidly gaining the reputation of being more than willing to abandon the poor in favor of personal profit?, or the Democrats who don’t mind paying a little bit more for a cheeseburger if it means fast-food workers have a better standard of living. After all, the article was about politics. So I ask you, whose hard hearts and prideful, stiff necks are you referring to?

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@JL4. Our entire nation is prideful and stiff-necked. There is always money for wars and military exercises, foreign entanglements and overseas nation-building while our own people sink deeper into poverty and despair. So many have fallen down in this recession but to help them is “socialism”

Posted by PeterBarlow | Report as abusive
 

“Conservatives use states’ rights to resist federal policies that protect civil rights, voting rights…”

So does that mean that the Democrats who used the states rights argument back in the ’60s to resist federal civil rights, etc. were “conservatives?” It was Republicans, both then and in the years after the civil war until then, who have been the ones pushing for civil rights. So the author lost his credibility with me starting with the very first paragraph of the essay.

Posted by Randy549 | Report as abusive
 

“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?”

Yes. Because the couple is still “legally married in Maryland”. Nothing changed that. It’s not a Federal issue.

The problem is that the gov’t is in the marriage business at all. If marriage was simply recognized as a private contract between individuals; no tax breaks, no special rights or protections unless mutually agreed upon and by all parties, this wouldn’t be an issue. Because the Federal gov’t recognizes this, it is seen as a tool to control people hundreds or thousands of miles away who may share a different cultural point of view, and under a federalist gov’t, shouldn’t be subjected to. This feeds the division.

Posted by Jameson4Lunch | Report as abusive
 

@Randy549, yes. The Democratic Party used to have a wing called the Dixiecrats who, as the name suggests, were against civil rights though nominally liberal. After LBJ, who knew poverty and deprivation firsthand from his own life and those of the children he taught as a young man, signed the Voting Rights and Civil Rights bills into law, the Dixiecrats fled the Democratic party and have ever since been the core of the Solid South which is overwhelmingly Republican.

You really need to learn a bit more about the political history of the party you belong to.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive
 

This is a macrocosm of the essential question facing any thinking member of an advanced society. To what extent will I allow the system (to which I grant authority in my life to govern) to diverge from my moral set? Once that threshold has been established- the questions become far more difficult and the conversations more complex.

Posted by ThinkActBe | Report as abusive
 

borisjimbo is correct. When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, he’s quoted as saying something to the effect of “There goes the South” to the Republican party. The South has made little progress socially and even less politically. I live in the South as a Democrat. It’s politically surreal.

@PeterBarlow, I appreciate your reply. Thank you, and I agree with you about the priorities of the U.S. political machine.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

The federal government will pay up to 90% of Medicaid costs for the FIRST year, but then the percentage goes down and states have to pony up more money even though the ACA is a federal law and has led to the rise in Medicaid enrollment.

Those who govern locally are in tune with local needs whereas the federal government appears to live in a bubble. There is a huge difference in the needs of Vermont and Arizona, for example. Natural disasters affect all states, but the disasters are different – earthquake-prone states, flood-prone states, fire-prone states, hurricane-prone states and so on. State and local governments know the needs – not Washington.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

@Jameson4Lunch

“The problem is that the gov’t is in the marriage business at all.”

You really need to read Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution — The Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Posted by baroque-quest | Report as abusive
 

@delta5297

“And where, exactly, are babies being killed right before they are born?”

Search on “late term abortions” or “partial-birth abortions” and I believe you will discover a limit that is anything but perfectly reasonable.

Posted by baroque-quest | Report as abusive
 

JL4, you really should have studied more. The only reason the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed was because 80% of Republicans in the Senate voted it for. The Democrats who opposed it served out their terms, got re-elected, and eventually died.

Democrats are the original party of slavery and its auxiliary unit, Affirmative Action, you know the song and dance, people of color can’t compete so we have to lower the bar for them.

Posted by Depraved | Report as abusive
 

“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.”

You are a fool Bill Schneider. Gay people, the poor and women don’t enjoy ANY rights or receive ANY benefits in red states? Women have a right to seek an abortion in all 52 states, it’s just that in some states certain procedures such as partial birth abortion aren’t available. Women also have the right to vote in all 52 states, as do the poor and gay people.

Just because some red states refused to EXPAND medicaid that doesn’t mean poor people can’t get medicaid. Poor folks that were receiving benefits under medicaid or some form of it before the Affordable Care Act was passed still have access to medicaid today. Some red states simply didn’t want to lower the bar for more people to qualify for fear that at some future date the federal government decides to stop funding the medicaid expansion, leaving states holding the bag.

Think before you write William and stick with the facts! Difficult for a liberal I understand but at least make an effort.

Posted by Vinman66 | Report as abusive
 

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
 

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