Tag Archives: Constitution

David Davenport: Power to the States

One encouraging development is that power is leaving Washington, DC and heading to the states. Policy wonks call it devolution, I call it progress.

 

After 15 years of federalizing K-12 education, for example, Washington turned its back on No Child Left Behind and passed a bill returning power over schools to the states.  There’s no need for Washington to act, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, as a national school board.

 

There’s discussion in Congress that the states should not only manage the trees, plants and flowers in their territory, but wildlife as well, including endangered species.

 

Welfare reform may be the next big issue and any solution is likely to create a larger role for states. Only the marijuana laws are moving the other way, toward Washington.

 

It’s heartening that Washington may finally be reading the Tenth Amendment—that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution belong to the states or the people.  Not everything needs to be a federal case.

 

I’m David Davenport.

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David Davenport: Previewing Trump’s First State of the Union Speech

Compromise

A president’s first state of the union message is an important occasion. But in our era of political theater, there is some danger that this year the sideshow will overshadow the main attraction.

Several Democratic members of Congress say they will boycott the event.  One Congresswoman is encouraging females who do attend to dress in black.

Despite the political challenges, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  If Trump makes this primarily an economic address, he can succeed.  Think about it:  unemployment is down, jobs are up and the stock market is on fire. His big piece of legislation, the tax bill, is projected to lead to even more economic growth. The president has problems elsewhere, but so far so good on the economy and that should be his message.

The Constitution does not actually require this kind of televised state of the union address, though tradition does.  It’s always possible that a nontraditional president like Trump might surprise us and do something completely different.

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David Davenport: Not All Free Speech Is Constitutionally Protected

Compromise

NFL players kneeling to protest the national anthem isn’t going away. Two owners say their players must stand; now the Commissioner wants a rule requiring all NFL players to stand. Vice President Pence famously walked out on the protest.

But here’s one thing you should know that many don’t: Even though the phrase free speech is thrown around, the players have no constitutionally protected right to protest the anthem.

The First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting free speech, not a football team. In fact, sports teams are businesses and their leagues may regulate all kinds of things, from tucking in your shirt to what patches you wear. If there is any legal angle here, it is a matter of labor negotiations between the players’ union and management or the League. But it’s not a matter of constitutional law under the First Amendment.

Sadly our society knows so little about the Constitution, but this teachable moment is about free speech.

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David Davenport: Free Speech Under Threat

Compromise

This summer, Commentary magazine published a forum on the question: Is free speech under threat in the United States?

Ironically, in a country where the Constitution and the courts carefully protect free speech, many people do not feel free to speak freely. Why? Because of a smothering blanket of political correctness that starts in our colleges and permeates our society.

Speakers with points of view that differ from the liberal orthodoxy are not welcome on many campuses, and in some cases have been subject to threats and violence. Students are supposed to be protected from so-called trigger words and microaggressions in the classroom. So much for free speech and the open debate of competing ideas.

The problem is that the First Amendment protects free speech from limitations by government, but the big challenges to free speech come from our culture and our campuses. It will take a strong fight to protect free speech, which is clearly under threat.

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David Davenport: A Silver Lining In the Cloud of Controversy

Compromise

President Trump’s approval numbers are low and controversies are high, nevertheless some good things are happening in our democratic system.

Congress, for example, is stepping up to its responsibilities to debate and decide policy. With Trump less interested in policy particulars, Congress can become what the founders intended, the first of the branches of government. They are debating health care, tax reform and war powers instead of waiting for the president.

Federalism is also flourishing, with states and cities becoming more proactive in policy affairs. I don’t always agree with them, but California and other states have figured out that they can make decisions about immigration or the environment. Again, that’s how the republic is supposed to work.

There’s even a new appreciation for checks and balances and separations of power as the Constitution established them.

Call them unintended good consequences of Donald Trump’s presidency, perhaps, but these are healthy signs for our democratic system.

 

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David Davenport: California’s Bully Federalism

Compromise

California’s travel ban, forbidding the expenditure of state money to travel to states that have policies they don’t like, is what I call bully federalism.

You may remember federalism, the idea that state and local governments retain considerable power in our federal system. Under the 10th Amendment, states can fight back and defend their powers against Washington.

But California’s federalism is not defending against federal power, it is offensive in nature, seeking to force its policies onto other states.

California doesn’t want state officials—or even university students—to travel to states that do not agree with its policies on LGBT issues. With the 6th largest economy in the world, California has the economic power to be a bully.

Do we all have to be like California? Is California the only state that gets things right? Is there no respect for the laws of other states, as seems to be called for by the “full faith and credit” provision of the Constitution?

No one likes bullies.

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