How to truly unite the states

An American flag.
An American flag. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

‘Before the war,” Civil War historian Shelby Foote astutely noted, “it was said ‘the United States are.’ Grammatically it was spoken that way . . . After the war, it was always ‘the United States is,’ as we say today without being self-conscious at all.”

The late Mississippian’s historical chestnut is in no danger of repeal: America is a singular nation far more than it is a collection of states. But once again — first with a (mild) crackdown on immigration enforcement and now with U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord — President Donald Trump has managed, in fewer than 200 days, to incite individual state leaders to begin banging the drums of autonomy again.

The great irony is that the drumbeat is coming from liberal “blue state” governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo, California’s Jerry Brown and Washington’s Jay Inslee. They wasted no time in capitalizing on Trump’s Paris accord decision by announcing a new “United States Climate Alliance” composed of individual states committed to abiding by the Paris agreement’s strictures.

It was hardly a sacrifice: Each of those states already has emission requirements more stringent than those required under the international agreement. And normally states’ rights advocacy comes from conservatives forever wary of a forever-encroaching federal government.

But why stop with emission standards, governors? How about joining with conservatives in demanding an across-the-board return of powers to the states as spelled out in the 10th Amendment? (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”)

The timing is perfect: Progressives foam at the alleged inappropriateness of Trump’s cabinet picks. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are targets of special ire.

So you know what? Shut down those agencies — and about 100 others. If states can develop their own environmental standards, they hardly need Washington to micromanage classrooms.

New York taxpayers lose in every exchange with Washington, about a dime for every dollar we send south. How about keeping more of that money and letting New Yorkers decide how and where to spend it?

Imagine it: Trump the glue that bound the left and right.

What say you, governors?

William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.