Progressives: Trump is the reason you should want a smaller federal government

I don’t have cable TV access, so I don’t usually watch MSNBC, CNN and Fox. I also don’t really watch the traditional networks. But for a variety of reasons I spent the last few days viewing some traditional cable and network TV. I also spent some time on the Facebook pages of many of my progressive friends. I wanted to see what their priorities were coming up to July 4, and I wanted to try, and I emphasize the word *try* to understand their worldview better.

It was very unsettling. There appear to be millions of people who are convinced, or at least they say they are convinced, that President Trump is the next coming of Hitler. They also seem to be convinced that the Mueller investigation will turn up evidence that Trump colluded with the Russians to get elected. They are convinced Trump is the only reason that children are being separated from their parents on the border. They are convinced that because of Trump’s Supreme Court picks women will soon not be able to get an abortion in the United States, and some of them even seem to believe that Trump wants to take away women’s access to birth control.

The purpose of this post is not to refute or mock these beliefs. The purpose is simply to point out that the people who believe the above things live in a completely different reality from me and most of my friends. I see the above list of beliefs as so far from my reality that I cannot even begin to see how I could have a discussion on these issues because we are living in different worlds. If you have seen the movie “The Matrix,” it is as if the people above are living inside the Matrix and the rest of us are not. Or, to use another example, it is as if the people above truly believe the world is flat while the rest of of know it is a sphere.

But I also recognize that my paradigm seems equally strange to these people. If you are a progressive, you probably feel like trying to dialogue with me is like talking to a flat earther (or somebody who is in the Matrix) as well.

So, if there is one thing we should be able to agree on, it is that our beliefs make it difficult to communicate.

The purpose of this post is to convince progressives of another thing we should be able to agree on: if the federal government, specifically the executive and the judicial branches, had less power, you would not have to be as worried about the Hitlerian Trump. A less powerful Trump — and a less powerful Supreme Court — means fewer threats to you and your beliefs.

First, a shot of reality. It is likely that Trump’s Supreme Court pick will be approved by the Senate in 2018. It is possible that Trump may win the presidency in 2020. That means that Trump may get one or two more Supreme Court picks by 2024. And it is also possible that Trump could be replaced by somebody like Mike Pence in 2024.

I say this not because I am *predicting* it will happen. I am simply pointing out that it is *possible*. If Trump wins in 2020 and a Mike Pence type wins in 2024, progressives will have to face a much more conservative Supreme Court with seven and perhaps even eight strong conservatives.

Talk about your progressive nightmares.

So, my progressive readers, can you see how this powerful central government that you helped create can be turned against you? Can you see that self government and states’ rights may be your refuge during this, for you, a potentially very depressing era? Can you see that while the federal government makes decisions you disagree with, your state government of New York or California or Massachusetts might govern in ways you can appreciate?

Well, it turns out that this was the original vision of the Constitution, ie, powerful state governments and a very weak federal government. The original vision of the Constitution was for a relatively weak executive branch and even a relatively weak judicial branch. Power was intended to reside primarily at the state level and, when it comes to the federal government, the House of Representatives. (Remember, progressives, the Dems have a decent chance of retaking the House in 2018).

This post is getting way too long for me to outline the argument for the proposition that the Constitution intended most power to reside in Congress and the states. I would urge you to just read the document itself. Article 1 discusses the legislative powers and clearly indicates that most government power resides in the legislative branch. Article 2 discusses the executive, and is is striking how few things the president and the executive branch are supposed to do. This is even more clear for the judicial branch, discussed in Article 3.

Here is Sen. Mike Lee on this issue:

while the federal government’s three branches were designed to balance one another, they were not created equal. It’s easy to forget in this era of Olympian judicial supremacy and executive Caesarism, but the constitutional powers vested in Congress in Article I are orders of magnitude stronger than those granted to the president and Supreme Court in Articles II and III. Congress alone is empowered to write laws, levy taxes, spend money, and — if necessary — unilaterally defund the other branches or even remove their leaders from office. By contrast, the powers of the executive and the judiciary are reactive, and their decisions contingent on Congress’s consent.

The Constitution’s assignments of responsibility aren’t superstitious taboos. They’re more like instructions in an engineering manual. The federal government is a machine designed to “run on” congressional direction the way a car runs on gasoline. No other fuel will work. This isn’t because legislators are wiser or better than executives or jurists; it’s because in our system they’re closer and more accountable to the people. The particular work done by the executive and judicial branches benefits from some insulation from the public — and so the Founders granted it. But unaccountable power is inherently dangerous. So the Founders gave the legislative branch overwhelming strength to keep the other two in their lanes, and then — belts and suspenders — subjected legislators to relentless democratic accountability: local constituencies with diverse perspectives and opinions; transparent debate and voting; mechanisms — including the Senate — to require compromise and protect minority views; and, above all, frequent elections. Indeed, even the exclusivity of Congress’s legislative powers was purposely devised to be a lever of accountability. It allowed Americans to isolate the source of policy mistakes.

The Founders wrote the Constitution this way to leave legislators nowhere to hide. In the system they designed, if any part of the federal government was broken, Congress’s fair share of the blame was almost all of it.

When it comes to state level power instead of federal power, I would ask progressives to again read the Constitution and concentrate on the 10th amendment. As a progressive, you are in favor of sanctuary cities and state-level legalization of medical marijuana, right? If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, you would want abortion to still be legal in your state, right? That can happen if state powers trump federal powers, at least in some important areas.

Please read this article pointing out that in an era of Republican control, progressive leaders are fighting battles on the state level (as they should).

To sum up, I am going to try to appeal to the common sense of any progressive readers: can you see that a less powerful Trump is a less dangerous Trump? Can you see that a more restrained Supreme Court is a less powerful and therefore less dangerous Supreme Court? Can you see that you may still have progressive polices on the state level even if other states have less progressive policies?

Progressives have been cheering on more powerful executive and judicial branches since the early 20th century. And progressives have had a long string of victories under ascendent executive and judicial branches. (But even during this long progressive era, there have been warnings about unrestrained executive and judicial power — remember when FDR threw Japanese Americans in concentration camps and the Supreme Court said it was legal?) There is a chance, and I would predict a very strong one, that we are about to see a change. An executive under Trump and/or Pence will not bring very many progressive victories — if any. And a federal court system dominated by Trump and/or Pence appointees will be a horrific nightmare for progressive activists.

So, while we have very different worldviews, can we perhaps agree on one thing: let’s work together to decrease the power of the Trumps and Pences and the judges and increase the power of the individual states. It is the truly American thing to do.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

23 thoughts on “Progressives: Trump is the reason you should want a smaller federal government

  1. While the founders did envision a much weaker federal government, they also didn’t envision a need to protect people at a federal level, a change we saw with the 14th Amendment and its Equal Protection Clause.

    One of the reasons it is fun to watch the recent BBC “Sherlock” series is the biting criticism of stupid people, generally. Alas, we all tend to believe that we would not be found stupid by a Sherlock, since each of us believes our own beliefs and actions are appropriate.

    This is why I adore the concept of final judgement, when we each go before an omniscient God who will allow us to see the way our lives stacked up against God’s standard. In the Mormon view, that omniscient God is loving and compassionate rather than condemning. Even so, I imagine moments of extreme discomfort as each of us confronts the manner in which our earthly beliefs and actions caused palpable harm to our fellows.

    This comes back to the reason it becomes so important to go to God frequently (at least daily) to seek His will for how we can bless His children. It isn’t just a one-time “Be a [insert political affiliation].”

  2. Amen! Federalism is a great thing, if we’d only use it. I would also like to point out that the way you reduce the “zero sum game” effect on your life is to diversify what you do. We need to stop obsessing about national politics so much. Find something else to do, or to be invovled in. And your City Council’s decisions will have more of an impact on your life than anything Trump does or does not do.

  3. I agree that the next era for our country is, and will continue to be, a progressive’s nightmare.

    I also agree that a weak federal government is a way to at least somewhat decrease the harm caused by someone like Trump. But given the national and international nature of many of the situations we face a weak federal government is not a “cure” to such damage, it merely reduces the severity. Also a substantially weaker federal government leaves the US open to much mischief and potential harm from foreign actors.

    Unfortunately such a weak government also mostly neuters the power to do good at a societal level. While individual states can still engage in policies which promote the general welfare any who do so will also end up massively subsidizing those states which do not. Meaning the “selfish do nothing” states reap the rewards of better educated people and not having to care for their poor (as those folks would tend to move to more “progressive states” to the extent it is possible for them to do so) and freely polluting the environment, while reducing taxes and imposing significant negative externalities on the progressive states.

    Like all things mortal there are no truly good solutions as long as people have a significant “natural man” aspect included in their decision making processes. One can have a strong federal government which is capable of helping people and righting grave injustices, but one then also has a situation where the same government is enabled to inflict great harm. Or one can a government too weak to inflict great harm, but then one has to mainly sit by and watch as significant harm and injustice is inflicted by natural men on their fellows.

    US history suggests their is no good long run solution. (And I would submit other countries tend to suggest the same.)

    In any event the era of the Supreme Court being a defender of the downtrodden and an institution which was willing to stand up to powerful interests has now officially gone by the wayside. I suspect the shift towards giving away the store to corporate interests, rolling back civil and voting rights, and generally allowing private property to triumph over the public good will now accelerate. The precedents set in the next 20 to 30 years will likely cement a set of very regressive public policies in place far beyond my lifetime, likely well into the later stage of the lives of my grandchildren.

  4. JSH, you wrote:

    “But given the national and international nature of many of the situations we face a weak federal government is not a “cure” to such damage, it merely reduces the severity. Also a substantially weaker federal government leaves the US open to much mischief and potential harm from foreign actors.”

    Just to be clear, we could have much more restrained — and constitutional –executive and judicial branches while also protecting against foreign threats. The federal government in the 19th century did a very good job of protecting against foreign threats — which is a constitutionally approved job of the federal government — with a very small executive and much less activist judicial branch. Just saying it is possible.

  5. Joyce has the right of this. Follow the shenanigans of your local city council. Those people can wreck your life tomorrow if they feel like it. It’s not sexy or fun, but that’s where the real imperatives are.

  6. Geoff, nice try, but you and I both know that the purpose of liberalism is to take over and destroy the United States by the State (fundamentally transform and all that). The fact that a lot of “deplorable” and “rubes” stopped the “progress” of these liberals by voting in someone who uses their tools against them has caused insanity. The first Civil War destroyed the Constitution’s original separation of powers, and it could take another to bring it back if it is even possible. I mean, just read JSH above fearing private property rights, thinking voting rights are going to be taken away (how?), and touting the weak and ambiguous “general welfare” section over the Bill of Rights. I am glad it is a liberal nightmare. Perhaps free Americans can finally get a good night’s sleep.

  7. For more gloom and doom, listen to historian Michael Vlahos in some of these podcasts of a popular radio show on WABC, New York. This is not some crank podcast. It’s a real daily radio talk show on the ABC flagship station. Host John Batchelor has had this show on WABC since Sept 2001.

  8. “The federal government in the 19th century did a very good job of protecting against foreign threats…”
    Uh, the British easily captured and burned our capital in the War of 1812. We essentially lost that war but luckily got out of that nightmare diplomatically and won an insignificant battle AFTER the treaty was signed. The Monroe Doctrine was a joke, except it paralleled British interests, so it gained a little traction beyond the snickers it first received. We did engage in a bit of imperialism in the War with Mexico… but seriously? We were finally taken seriously because T.R. helped build a modern navy. But that was post-Civil War and we were developing a powerful modern state and military.

    And how did the strict federalism model work for the Mormons in the 1830’s? Yep, The federal government looked the other way while Mormons were being looted, raped and driven off of their property. The legal interpretation of the time was that the federal government could do NOTHING in a state matter.

  9. Interesting … this blog seems to be drifting more and more towards being a platform for political views rather than a discussion of issues of Mormonism. That’s fine and all, but remarkable.

  10. Steve, as one of the founders of this blog, I can tell you that we are much less political than we used to be. But, yes, occasionally politics will be discussed.

  11. And as someone who has followed and then participated here I can assure you M* has always been political. Depending on how long a person has been around, you will notice it goes in cycles. During election seasons it is the most political. The place is mostly run by conservative leaning libertarians that standard conservatives like myself disagree with at times.

  12. Religion is now politics. Members are now (well, have always been, but now more than ever) opposing church leadership on political and politically-correct issues. Almost all mainstream churches now, except evs/pents, are SJW.

    Politics is now religion. Some lefty leader (Clinton? Waters?) recently
    said “God is on our side!” A false environmentalism, is now a religion. As is libertinism.

    The results of the sexual revolution and of socialism are in. There is now a track record: 50 years of the former, 100 years of the latter. How have they worked out? (Hint: HORRIBLE results. Over 100 million deaths. Billions wounded and suffering. Etc.)

    Yet, one side of the political spectrum clamors for more of the same, and the other side lets them have it piece-meal.

    Believers better be politically involved. “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The adversary is using politics to destroy souls.

  13. Actually, I think you’re living in the Matrix and are probably a flat-earther. But for the sake of trying to communicate, let’s see if you can carry on an intelligent conversation with this liberal about the following:

    Please defend your belief in supply-side economics. With facts.
    Please explain why you deny what 97 percent of scientists (and your own eyes) tell you about global warming.
    Please explain how the growing economic inequality we are experiencing is not a danger to our society. If you think it is a danger, then please offer a strategy for reversing it.
    Please explain why America has by far the most mass shootings, even though other countries have similar levels of both mental illness and violent video games.
    Please explain your plan for providing quality health care for every American at a far lower cost than we now experience (other countries do this, so I assume you conservatives have an answer).
    Please explain how a feeble central government can rein in the tendency of corporations to harm human life, which is what their profit motive tends to do. I assume you believe that corporations will self-regulate. Why?
    Please explain why Citizens United was such a good thing for our politics.
    Please tell us why a trade war is a good thing for America.
    I could go on, but this should keep you busy for a few minutes.

  14. Wally, I think you missed the point of this post. You may want to read it again. To be clear, the subject is: what do you think about decreasing the power of the federal government in the age of Trump? What do you think about concentrating on local and state issues in the age of Trump?

  15. Wally, that is the greatest “embrace the stereotype” troll post I’ve read today. Well done, sir.

  16. It’s been my observation that “conservatives” are for States Rights, so long as its a right they agree with.

  17. Vajra, yes. Many (but not all) “conservatives” seem to favor states’ rights when it comes to traditional conservative causes, and “liberals” seem to favor states’ rights when it comes to traditional liberal causes. Speaking for myself, I favor states’ rights for just about everything. So, there is that.

  18. At the risk of side-tracking, I would like to take a stab at simplified answers to Wally’s simplified questions.

    America became the world economic super power, with very high standards of living, in a very short period of time, driven by a free market economy. Seems like a pretty big fact there.

    ‘Global warming’ is a loaded term and you know it. What causes it? How serious is it? How fast is it changing? What practically should be done about it? There will be far less agreement when it comes to the specifics. Trying to say that conservatives simply deny facts by your over simplification is a deception.

    Economic freedom will not bring economic equality. We already have significant transfer of wealth through government programs and taxation. The question is if more is needed, or less. The point of this post, is that this should largely be a legislative and state issue, than an executive or judicial one.

    I am not sure about the mass shootings. I think the media makes it seem like there is more of an epidemic than there is. I also think we glamorize the shooters far to much. The question is whether the solution is worse than the problem. And again, for this post, that solution should be legislative in nature.

    For health care, I feel like a question for a question. Why should we expect the government to provide prompt, high quality care for almost free? My sense is that the medical field is so highly regulated now, that we have lost free market principles along the way.

    As far as corporate harm, you are going all or nothing here. Conservatives are not all out anarchists. Again question is do we need more regulation, or have we gone to far? Again, legislative and state solutions are a better path than executive orders or judicial decisions.

    I don’t know much about citizens united. I suppose they should be allowed free speech like everyone else. Why would not allowing such groups bee a good idea?

    As far as trade wars, it comes down to whether you feel our trade negotiations and deals of the past are appropriate, and if other countries are playing fair. Such things likely help some segments of the economy while hurting others. Big picture I might prefer a world without tariffs.

    Anyway, while the above is over simplified too, there are reasonable answers to things even if you disagree. Buy it does get back to the original post. Most solutions are better off being legislated than executive ordered or judicially decided.

  19. Eric, thanks for that nice comment, but there is an old saying that is applicable here: “Don’t feed the trolls!”

  20. The USA has literally thousands of tariffs covering millions of products with hundreds of exemptions. How do you get an exemption? Certainly not something possible for any small business.

    It’s disgusting the extent to which the benign sounding, “Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System” has become a hidden tax on the consumer and justified in the name of benefiting local producers.

    It’s strange to be opposed to wealth transfers on one hand then literally taxing consumers to make some employers more price competitive.

    It’s central management planning to cater to connected big business, that creates a tax on consumers, benefits a few who happened to be in the umbrella of the connected, reducing innovation and efficiency in the process.

    I realize this is off topic and agree with the body of the post. Just got triggered and side tracked with the discussion of tariffs at the troll petting zoo.

  21. So, you’re a troll if you ask questions that conservatives have a hard time answering? Most of Eric’s answers were not answers at all but conservative talking points from inside the bubble. As I suspected, Geoff wasn’t willing to try to give explanations for some basic conservative beliefs he likely espouses, even though he’s eager to insinuate the people who do study the issues and seek realistic solutions are just living in a different universe. And labeling people “trolls” who want you to account for your beliefs is just intellectual laziness. Sorry for intruding on your little comfort zone here. I won’t make the mistake again.

  22. Wally, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. But in the meantime you may want to consider that your comment had nothing to do with the purpose of the post. It is basic common courtesy, and by the way part of our comment policy, that your comment be focused on the purpose of the post. Your comment was a classic “thread-jack.” If you can’t understand that, my advice would indeed by that you stop intruding here. Thanks.

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