Politics, the Team Sport

by Scott Hill

Widener University Political Science Major

On February 22 there was another GOP debate in Arizona. The first half of this debate seemed to be a fight of who could claim the title of “the most conservative”. During the primary, Republican candidates will try and prove that they are conservative because they know the people that vote in the primaries are the most active and generally most conservative.

Ron Paul attempted to show that Rick Santorum was a “fake” conservative during the debate based on his activities as a Senator. The issue arose from an audience question on what the candidates would do about No Child Left Behind. Santorum voted for the No Child Left Behind Act and during his answer he said he would repeal it. One of the issues is, why vote for something that you do not believe in? During his response, he said that politics is a team sport and even though it was against his principles he still voted for it. While I do agree that not much can get done without support but do we want someone who will go against what they believe in just to go along with their party?

I believe that Ron Paul is right when he says that the problem is that the people in Washington are just going along. They shouldn’t follow the obligation of the oath to the party but the obligation of the oath to the people. If something is against your principles do not vote for it. It is easy to make excuses but it is hard to follow what you believe. I think Ron Paul shows that best in his argument against preemptive warfare. He is against it and while his view might not be the most popular, he has his reasons and believes firmly in them. If we are going to send troops into war where soldiers will die we must go to the people and we need a declaration of war by congress who represent the people to get it.

Federalism and the Republican Presidential Debate

Let the pundits argue about who won the Republican debate by not losing it, who emerged as the “new” fresh face and who didn’t assert themselves strongly enough.  Since theamericanpartnership.com is devoted to the coverage of federalism issues we’ll focus on how the candidates addressed issues related to state and local government as well as intergovernmental relations. For the most part there was very little substantive debate concerning federalism – other than the federal government should get out of the way and allow states to innovate. Further, the candidates provided little detail on specific ways that states would design and implement programs differently than the federal government.

The discussion of health care policy elicited the most references to federalism with the concept of individual mandates receiving attention from a number of candidates.  Former Governor Mitt Romney (MA) gave his typical response that his healthcare plan was good for the particular circumstances in Massachusetts but would not be good for the entire country . He also announced that on his first day in office he would release an executive order directing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to grant a waiver to all fifty states allowing them to opt out of “Obamacare”. Both former Governor Jon Huntsman (UT) and businessman Herman Cain claimed that it was not appropriate for the federal government or the states to create an individual mandate for health care.

Governor Rick Perry (TX) took the most strident position on healthcare and federalism by claiming that the people of Texas would like the “federal government out of their business” and that healthcare would be a start. He argued that Medicaid should be block granted back to the states because the “one size fits all” health care mandates from DC resulted in higher costs and less effectiveness. When questioned about the large amounts of uninsured people in Texas, Perry blamed it on a lack of flexibility from the federal government in allowing the state to provide their own choices in healthcare.

The rest of the discussion of the federal government’s relations to the states was piecemeal by issue and individual candidate.  Representative Ron Paul (TX) argued in favor of devolving regulatory powers to the states. He claimed that “if you need the detailed regulations you can do it at the state level, but the federal government is not authorized to nitpick every little transaction. The way they use the Interstate Commerce clause is outrageous.” Paul claimed that he was not necessarily against regulations, he just wants them at the state level if they are going to be enacted.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (PA) argued that welfare reform was successful because it gave flexibility to the states by block granting the program and encouraging innovation. He intimated that the same could be done for other programs such as food stamps and public housing.

Perry avoided a question concerning his comment in Fed Up! That Social Security tossed aside states rights. However Romney revived this concept when he claimed that Perry’s book argued that states should be able to opt out of Social Security. Romney defended the program and argued that it should be strengthened, not eliminated.

Herman Cain seemed most inclined to turnback programs to the states, but offered little in the way of concrete proposals in how states would handle the programs better than the federal government.  He stated that the federal government was not good at “micromanaging” programs like education, Medicare or immigration. He argued for “empowering the states to do more and limit what the federal government does with those types of programs”.

Finally, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (GA) argued for more of a role for the federal government in education. He had positive statements on Obama’s Race to the Top Education program – particularly support for charter schools because they result in parental choice. He was vague as to whether he would mandate charter schools or if they would be a voluntary choice of state and local governments. Unlike Cain, he voiced no opposition to federal government being involved in educational policy.