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EDITORIAL

Lawless attitude fuels federalism

Monday, July 29, 2013 - 8:16 am

Untethered to law, the Supreme Court or the Constitution,

Hoosiers have a special reason to pay attention to the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder as they mess with Texas over that state’s voter ID law. The Texas law was modeled on Indiana’s, which has already been taken all the way to the Supreme Court, where it won. That puts Holder’s intent to go around a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act somewhere between amusing and appalling.

The court voided Section 4 of the act, which singled out certain Southern states proven to have had discriminatory voting enforcement for “pre-clearance” by the federal government before changing any voting laws. The court said times have changed, and it is now irrational and outdated to supervise states so tightly. It left intact Section 5, which does allow the Department of Justice some enforcement provisions if and when Congress provides a formula for singling out states for such scrutiny. Congress has not done so, so Section 5 should not be in effect now. Holder plans to try using it anyway.

This is more than just one more battle in the five-year war between the Obama administration and Texas, although that is certainly an entertaining spectacle.

It is also another example of the administration’s unique approach to laws, constitutional provisions and Supreme Court decisions that do not conform to President Obama’s view of the world: It ignores them. Whether it involves deciding not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, not to enforce the immigration laws, not to implement employer mandates in Obamacare or not to honor state election laws, the administration is doing exactly what it wants to, completely untethered to any legal or moral justification. It is an utterly lawless approach to government.

That attitude has given strength and energy to what has been called the New Federalism movement, which seeks to take back some of the power long ago grabbed by the federal government. States are going their own way in defiance of federal authority on everything from medical marijuana and Common Core to immigration and health care. And, in defiance of Roe v. Wade’s federal standards, watch for a growing number to jump on the “no abortion after 20 weeks” bandwagon rolled out by, yes, Texas. A recent report from the grass-roots Liberty Foundation of Oklahoma, endorsed by 30 state-based think tanks, is promoting a “return to competitive federalism” in which states can experiment with new policies free from federal interference.

This isn’t a revolution. Too much power has been centralized for too long. But it’s the beginning of an evolutionary process that will get us closer to the freedom once promised by our founders.