Yes, conservatives still care about Federalism even if Republicans run the government

An article yesterday by Eric Boehm asked whether conservatives still care about Federalism now that Republicans run the federal government. The premise is that there are conservative governors who still promote the concept, but they are obliged to do so for self-serving reasons. Do average conservative citizens still care? Did their invocation of Federalism die with the end of the Obama administration?

To answer these questions, let’s look at the four groups with which politically-minded conservatives roam.

  • Conservative DC politicians have been cautiously silent. There have been a handful of remarks here or there from people like Justin Amash and Ben Sasse, but for the most part conservatives have focused more on individual tasks such as repealing Obamacare rather than wading into discussions of reducing DC’s stranglehold on governmental power.
  • Conservative media has been a little more vocal. More accurately, a higher (albeit low) percentage of publications and pundits have spoken out on overreach, particularly the rapid-fire executive orders coming out of the White House.
  • Conservative activists have been split. Listening to friends at CPAC who are talking up Federalism and the Federalist Party has revealed a 1/3rd-breakdown of attendees. About a third are very much pro-Trump and fully embracing nearly everything coming out of DC, including overreach that they justify as reversing President Obama’s agenda. Another third are skeptical and actively promoting small-government principles. The other third are waiting and seeing, supportive of the Republicans in power but not blindly so.
  • Conservative grassroots… let’s talk about them in more detail.

What I know based upon daily conversations with conservatives is that they do still care about Federalism. Since those who reach out to me are normally doing so out of interest in the party, it’s important to know that there’s bias present. Moreover, it’s anecdotal. With that said, many are skeptical in the beginning of these conversations while invariably they leave with a good feeling about the future of the party and the country if we’re able to secure power and win elections. Most conservatives seem to be hoping the Republicans will succeed but reserved in their predictions of success. They want a backup plan, and while we don’t see ourselves as the backup but rather the rising solution, we’ll accept their support in any way they’re willing to give it.

Here’s an excerpt from Boehm’s piece on Reason:

Local control of government policy is no guarantee of liberty, of course, and any appeal to federalism made by the chief executive of a state government is necessarily, on some level, self-serving. Governors have a strong incentive to push back against the federal government to let them make more decisions,

Still, as Ducey pointed out on Thursday, there’s an element of competition that exists between states but is absent at the federal level. States that make good policy choices can attract businesses and people, while one-size-fits-all federal policy is rarely good (or bad) for everyone.

It’s a point that Walker—fresh off an unsuccessful presidential run and gearing up for a likely re-election campaign in Wisconsin in 2018—illustrated with a move that smacked of a campaign stump speech. Pulling a dollar out of his pocket, and asking the assembled crowd to do the same, he asked whether they would “rather send it to Washington, where you get pennies on the dollar back, or would you rather keep it back in your local community and your states, where you can fix your roads and your bridges?”

The choice to keep the dollar in one’s own pocket, notably, was not given.

Give it a full read. It’s short yet very telling of the questions facing the Republican Party and the country.