Let Texas be Texas: A solution for our polarized nation
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Texas and Massachusetts are very different states. For starters, one of them could fit inside the other 25 times (not that we’re counting). Ideologically, Massachusetts residents have tended to support much higher levels of government control, leading the state to enact an ObamaCare-style system years before ObamaCare was forced on states like Texas by the federal government.

As conservatives from Texas, we do not understand that kind of thinking. But if Massachusetts wants socialized health care in their own state, why not let Massachusetts be Massachusetts? If Texas decides that health care freedom is the way forward, why not let Texas be Texas?


The federal government has increasingly claimed the authority to enforce one-size-fits-all policies on the states, but that was not the original plan. James Madison explained that the “powers delegated by the…Constitution to the federal government are few and defined” and were largely contained to areas like “war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” But the powers “which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

This system - called federalism - puts the federal government in charge of areas that it can handle better, like national defense and border security. It would not make sense to have fifty states controlling their own separate nuclear arsenals, after all. But most issues - like health care, education, disaster recovery, etc. - are not easily managed by a sprawling bureaucracy thousands of miles away from our state.

This is largely because you have more control over issues run by your state and local governments. Your vote in the 2016 presidential election was one of about 130 million. That’s more than 15 times the number of votes cast in the most recent election for governor of Texas – not to mention your latest city council election. Deciding important issues closer to home makes government more responsive to the people it affects.

Federalism also protects states from each other’s ideas. Programs that work well in Texas might not work well in Massachusetts. Federalism means they don’t have to.

And in our era of increasing polarization, federalism can allow Americans with very different political beliefs to coexist in the same nation. Deciding an issue on the national level leaves no escape for the losing side, fueling the bitterness and dysfunction we see today. Allowing states and communities to decide important issues for themselves - and providing those who disagreed a real chance to influence the debate or even relocate to a community that shared their values - might prevent so many all-out struggles over winner-take-all federal policy debates.

Unfortunately, our federal government has selfishly claimed control over countless issues which would be much better handled by states.

Washington imposed standardized testing on states through laws like No Child Left Behind and shifted control over education decisions toward federal bureaucrats and away from teachers, parents, and communities - those closest to the individual students. School districts spend significant resources meeting counterproductive federal requirements.

The federal takeover of our health care system drove up costs for millions of Americans. But now the push is for nationwide “Medicare For All” - a staggeringly costly proposal that would drive up taxes, reduce quality of care, and smother medical innovation.

And Washington has had its hands in fitness standards for local fire departments, pond usage on privately owned farmland, and regulating all kinds of day-to-day decisions by ordinary Americans. 

The disorganized recovery process following Hurricane Harvey demonstrated the downsides of federal control. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set up temporary housing trailers at a cost of more than $200,000 – the price of a fairly nice permanent home – because that’s all the federal bureaucracy knew how to do. But even FEMA Administrator Brock Long acknowledged that Texas and its local governments, more in-tune with the actual needs of our residents, could have spent that money much more effectively.

Our federal government has a poor track record of managing its citizens’ lives. Individuals have much greater influence over their state and local governments. And a federalist approach would allow different states to pursue policies that best served their own citizens while remaining a single, unified nation.

That is why our Constitution made the federal government supreme over a few well-defined areas like national security and left the bulk of the important decisions to the states and the people. To move forward, our nation needs to recover the wisdom of federalism.

U.S. Congressman Michael Cloud represents the 27th District of Texas. U.S. Congressman Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyTexas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state GOP lawmakers call for provisions barring DOD funds for border wall to be dropped Lawmakers mark anniversary of Martin Luther King 'I have a dream' speech MORE represents the 21st District of Texas.