One of the difficulties of adhering to constitutional federalism is that liberals always, always want to use conservative acknowledgement of any acceptable role for the federal government as an excuse to require federal government control of just about everything. The slope is very slippery, indeed.
No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency.
This was all that Rand Paul needed to admit, after his victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, when NPR and Rachel Maddow asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“As a principled critic of federal power,” he could have said, “I oppose efforts to impose Washington’s will on states and private institutions. As a student of the history of segregation and slavery, however, I would have made an exception for the Civil Rights Act.”
This compromise, however, is a hole large enough for liberals to drive a truck through. And that truck is not civil rights, it is the entire liberal nanny state.
So observes a blogger at one of the few left-wing blogs I admire (shhh, don’t tell anyone), TalkLeft, in taking on Douthat’s column today:
The questions to be asked are obvious – what other “exceptions” should conservatives concede? Does Deep Water prove an “exception” is necessary for government regulation of commercial activities that affect the environment? Does the 2008 meltdown prove that an”exception” for government regulation of financial markets is in order? The “exceptions” swallow Douthat’s conservative principles.
Yes, that is the problem. Give an inch, and they take a mile. The problem is not the conservative principles, however, but those who are driving the liberal truck.
As I have pointed out before, maritime affairs (no, not Monkey Business) is an area in which federal involvement is recognized in the Constitution, and regulating securities markets is a pretty unobtrusive interpretation of the Commerce Clause. You see, the Constitution does not prohibit the federal government from acting, but it also does not enable health care mandates and salt police.
Even so, sometimes the inch needs to be given. Even to a truck run amok.