Austin Petersen, writing for The Hill: It's time to restore federalism and make our Founding Fathers proud
This piece — written by Austin Petersen — originally appeared in The Hill on August 8, 2017.
After an embarrassing failure to pass an alternative healthcare plan, and an even more mortifying failure to repeal ObamaCare, Senate Republicans have reached a standstill.
At its most basic, the failure is a betrayal of the American people. Senate Republicans ran for years on promises of a wholesale repeal and replace, but they have showed the world where their true loyalties lie: with the big influencers and special interest groups inside the Beltway, not with the citizens whom they were elected to represent.
But the Senate’s failure here is also indicative of a deeper problem — a problem that has gone ignored by both parties for far too long. The fact that the process has proven so challenging shows us that the federal government is struggling to deal with something it was never intended to deal with in the first place.
Republicans and Democrats have both forgotten one of the most basic principles of our government, namely, the principle of federalism, which reserves all powers not given to the federal government in the Constitution to the states and the people.
We see the consequences of this forgetfulness across all sorts of policy issues. We see it in the current healthcare debacle, as federal leaders struggle with ObamaCare, one of the most egregious examples of federal overreach in the history of our nation.
We see it in other areas, as the Environmental Protection Agency singlehandedly spent a whopping $344 billion during the Obama administration — far more than any other agency — primarily on regulations written by unelected bureaucrats. We see it in our justice system, where federal mandatory minimums have put thousands behind bars for nonviolent drug offenses, wasting millions of dollars on legal fees and corrections.
On July 4, I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. It was an intentional and symbolic choice of date. If elected, I will fight to restore the principles upon which this great nation of ours was founded: federalism and freedom. I will block federal overreach at every step, and strive to return federal power to where the 10th Amendment says it belongs, which is with the states and the people.
Fortunately, I come from Missouri, a state that in recent years has made strides towards restoring federalism and constitutional government. State Rep. Jeff Pogue, for example, authored bold legislation that demonstrates the kind of approach towards federalism our country so desperately needs right now. The legislation essentially nullifies any federal laws that violate the right of Missourians to bear arms. It is a right guaranteed not only in the U.S. Constitution, but in Article I of the Missouri State Constitution as well.
Some might cite the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution against Pogue’s legislation, arguing that it gives the federal government power over the states. But this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the law. The clause gives the federal government ultimate power only in those areas where power has been expressly delegated to the federal government. Since federal law states that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed,” the Supremacy Clause does not apply in this situation, and the 10th Amendment allows Missouri to, in effect, nullify federal gun laws in the state.
We need more of this kind of approach — and not just from our state legislators. We need federal legislators to fight federal overreach so that state leaders like Pogue won’t need to be on the defensive and craft nullification laws like this in the first place.
We need federal legislators who will fight against sweeping “one-size-fits-all” policies like ObamaCare, which abrogate our civil liberties and overlook the right of each individual to pursue happiness as he or she sees fit. And we need federal legislators who vow and then do everything they can to restore the rights of states, counties and individuals to make their own decisions on matters of healthcare, education and religion.
However, restoring this republic will ultimately take more than just a committed, purpose-driven individual. It will require citizens to reawaken their love of liberty, and to join in this campaign for freedom. Our Founding Fathers knew that our rights would only be safeguarded if they were protected by the American people themselves, who are the last bulwark against tyranny here at home.
That’s why they wrote the Second Amendment. The “well-regulated militia” is nothing more than, in the words of George Mason, “the whole of the people, minus a few public officials.” At the end of the day, it is “we the people” who must rise up and defend ourselves against an overweening federal government and the politicians who persistently ignore the needs of the average citizen.
During the Constitutional Convention, an observer asked Benjamin Franklin, “What kind of government have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” He responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.” If elected, I will do all I can to keep our republic, which in this day and age means challenging the status quo and choosing controversy over complacency. I invite you to join me and make this nation once again a land where faith, federalism and freedom can flourish.