In Support of Federalism
In the shadow of the press conference held on July 27th by Governor Sisolak, and in light of the national conversation regarding public safety, I think it is important and timely to review and reframe the United States’ basic governmental structure: federalism.
Federalism, in short, is the unification of various states for the purpose of creating and exercising a unified, overarching government as defined by a commonly ratified constitution. In the exercise of the common (federal) government, various predefined duties and obligations are distributed to the federal government and conversely retained to the originating states. Uniquely in the United States, there is an understanding that the states are the basic building block of the government, not the federal government. So much so, that the Bill of Rights specifically calls out the preservation of states rights via the Ninth and Tenth amendments… the Ninth specifying that Constitution cannot be construed as a laundry list of sorts, detailing all rights retained by the people, and the Tenth specifying that all rights not specifically granted to the federal government are in fact retained by the states and people.
So what does all this mean? How does this pertain to or relate to the Governor, the Legislature, and the current economic, security, and health crisis? As it turns out, everything.
If one looks at the basic building blocks of our nation, the individual citizen is the root of all rights, and the root of government is the state. We hold that the basis of all liberties is inherently granted to all people by God, and that the basic definition of our nation’s authority, and the obligation of preserving safety and security falls to the state government. Here in Nevada, City Charters must be presented and ratified by the State of Nevada. Taxation at the Municipal level must be first granted by the State of Nevada. Here in Nevada, we even go so far as funding Education primarily from the state to the individual districts.
Governor Sisolak and the Democrat leadership in the Legislature, has decided they want it both ways… and neither in line with federalism. The Governor, when describing his actions towards private businesses, stated “the time for education is over. I will not be sending ambassadors, but I will be sending enforcers.” This was in response to his pronouncements on public health guidelines to be enforced… the guidelines which change weekly and without warning. However, when it comes to Education, a government entity over which he has ultimate authority, he is devolving those decisions to the individual school districts.
Furthermore, the Governor has announced the “end of phases”. Now, the Governor will target specific “bad guys” who refuse to comply with his demands. His reasoning? He has learned a lot over the past several months and will now be applying a different standard towards enforcement… a much more individual standard.
Lastly, the Governor called out Nevadans directly. In so far as he is concerned, Nevadans by refusing to “bend the knee” (as is now socially required in sporting events) to his authority, have brought the spikes onto themselves. Nevadans are to blame. A reasonable person could conclude that the Governor just accused the people of Nevada for their own hospitalizations and deaths.
To bring this full circle, the Governor has lost the plot as to his job and its duties. The Governor of Nevada is the ultimate executive authority in the state, which is itself the basic atomic unit of governance in this nation. The Governor is ultimately responsible for the safety of all Nevadans… not the school district administrators, not the county commissioners. His duty is to set clear guidelines for all activities, execute laws as presented by the Legislature, and when necessary, make the tough decisions. Instead, the default go to position for this governor is to diffuse, deflect, and hide behind commissions, committees, and staff. Even last night, the Governor announced yet another committee to reopen the state which is to work with a previously created commission, LEAP, which he empowered with reopening the state. Getting confused yet?
Tragically, the Governor and Legislative Leadership have abdicated their most powerful tool: persuasion. Does anyone really believe that Nevadans don’t look out for Nevadans? Let’s not forget that Nevadans at the onset of this crisis willingly accepted the “shelter at home” orders because we all knew it was best for our friends and neighbors. It was because of compassion, concern, and patriotism that Nevadans went home and stayed home. When asked, we donned masks. What the Governor failed in doing is keeping Nevadans informed. He further compounded his failure by demonstrating no sense of urgency in mobilizing the state and federal resources at his disposal. Leaders must clearly, concisely, and consistently communicate. His failure in this basic function only served to highlight and accentuate his inept response, and in so doing, lost the state and the people’s goodwill and trust.
Here is the thing… we elect a governor to do a job. Governor Sisolak, we want that job done.