James Madison wrote in Federalist 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which … concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people.”
Despite the importance of federalism in our nation’s Constitution, the principle seems almost forgotten as the federal government attempts to reign supreme. To restore the system our forefathers intended, a new piece of legislation has been proposed: the Re-Empowerment of the States Amendment. The objective of the amendment mirrors its title and, perhaps most importantly, addresses the issue of presidential executive orders.
In our nation’s history of executive orders, some stand out as particular threats and even embarrassments to the ideals of our nation. One of these is President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s order to authorize detention of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, spurring the U.S. to enter World War II. Years later, a U.S. government commission report, Personal Justice Denied, said the order was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
Another such ill-conceived executive order occurred decades earlier, when President Ulysses S. Grant created dozens of Indian reservations and forced Native American tribes to relocate.
At best, executive orders can easily and blatantly disregard the opinions and rights of the American people; at worst they leave shameful black marks in American history books, allow deceitful power to go unchecked, and ruin countless lives.
Under the Re-Empowerment of the States Amendment, any presidential executive order could be repealed with a vote by two-thirds of the states’ legislatures. This landmark amendment is a step in the right direction toward re-establishing the system our Founding Fathers intended.
The threat of repeal would consistently hang over a president’s head, persuading them to work with the states instead of unilaterally producing executive orders as they do now.
With the president working with individual states, laws will become more reflective of the will of the people, encouraging collaboration and unity. The states’ acquisition of a louder voice will have a historic effect on participation in local governments, with citizens feeling a greater capability to contribute to and advance the cause of liberty in their homes and communities, returning the government to one by the people, for the people.