The Decline of States’ Rights

Posted: January 16, 2009 by April Watkins in Current Issues, Issues, Our Government, Politics, U.S. Congress, U.S. Senate
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constitution1The current scandal involving Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has really meant very little to anyone except the citizens of Illinois – until this past week when a state’s politics became a national issue. The impact of this situation, as it relates to States’ Rights and unchecked Federal manipulation of an individual state’s politics and governance, will test Constitutional lawyers for some time. 


Gov. Blagojevich was impeached Friday by the Illinois House of Representatives in an astounding majority vote of 114 to 1.  Blago, as the media has dubbed the disgraced governor, was arrested on a list of Federal corruption charges, which includes trying to sell the empty Senate seat of now President-elect Barak Obama.   The details of the investigation read like a John Grisham novel.  Actions within the Illinois state legislature will now turn to a state Senate trial which will determine whether or not to remove the disgraced governor from office. 


We have now learned that U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) has been covertly involved in choosing a successor to Obama’s Senate seat.  Records show that Reid made at least one call prior to Gov. Blagojevich’s appointment, to prescribe a list of candidates that he [Reid] thought acceptable.  Evidently, Reid’s list did not include IL Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. or former IL Attorney General Roland Burris.  Later, Blago named Burris to fill the vacant Senate seat, much to the irritation of Reid – who has refused to seat Burris and had the man escorted from the Capitol.  To his credit, Roland Burris has conducted himself as a gentleman in dealing with this humiliating situation with a quiet grace. 


When I watched the live events on TV last week, the issue that disturbed me was not about the scandal saga.  It was the blatant egotism of Reid in his position as Senate Majority Leader and his growing assumption of power.  Power – that can dictate who may or may not be considered to hold office in the United States Senate to a state and its (as now) sitting legitimate governor.


Reid and his staffers have subsequently offered explanations as to why the Leader has taken such drastic actions, but it has been too little and too late.  The appearance of impropriety has further painted Senator Reid as a backroom dealmaker and partisan leader…but, perhaps he doesn’t care.  Reid has wielded his sword in an arc wide enough to make an intimidating impression on both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate:  You play my way, or not at all.


We have seen other instances of federal encroachment into a state’s authority, such as the Supreme Court’s decision that Louisiana could not make final decisions regarding death sentences to criminals who have committed murder or rape within the state (both of which fall under a state’s jurisdiction – not federal jurisdiction).  Obviously, our nation must have some laws that override a state’s jurisdiction, such as with international trade or Homeland Security issues.  However, we cannot simply stand back and allow actions such as those of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go unquestioned and tacitly condone them as common political practice.   If we do so, we will certainly be on the road to totalitarianism…and that is…Why It Matters.



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