The reaction to Trump’s victory last month has taken some strange shapes—it has spurred a growing movement to have California secede from the Union, for instance—but most prominent among the reactions has been a kind of hardening of political outlooks, a sort of stick-to-it-iveness in response to what Trump represents. Take, for example—-again—and also please—California:
Foreign governments concerned about climate change may soon be spending more time dealing with Sacramento than Washington.
President-elect Donald J. Trump has packed his cabinet with nominees who dispute the science of global warming. He has signaled he will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. He has belittled the notion of global warming and attacked policies intended to combat it.
But California — a state that has for 50 years been a leader in environmental advocacy — is about to step unto the breach. In a show of defiance, Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and legislative leaders said they would work directly with other nations and states to defend and strengthen what were already far and away the most aggressive policies to fight climate change in the nation. That includes a legislatively mandated target of reducing carbon emissions in California to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
Now, on the one hand, you can imagine the response were the shoe on the other foot: if, say, Texas vowed to “work directly with other nations” in contravention of Hillary Clinton’s policy goals, liberals would be howling “treason” from every solar-panel-covered rooftop they could find. Then again, on the other hand, you can imagine a red state potentially attempting an end-run around a Democratic president’s policies “in a show of defiance;” it’s not the most unlikely thing in the world.
You might be tempted to conclude that both sides are given to hypocrisy, supporting “defiance” when their side is doing it and decrying such “defiance” when the other guy does it. Well, maybe, sure. But in the end this is less a commentary on base political inclinations and more a commentary on the genius—and paramount necessity—of federalism. Under a properly-arranged federalist framework, after all, there is no reason that a state like California shouldn’t be allowed to pursue its own environmental and climate policies, however daffy they may or may not be. I am not sure whether or not Article 1, section 10’s limitations on international state treaty-making would apply with whatever goober regulations Jerry Brown might come up with, but there’s a case to be made that, within an admittedly narrow context, such treaties might be perfectly acceptable, at least insofar as they do not affect or implicate other states or the federal government itself.
That is the genius of Madison’s constitution (or at least it was): the compartmentalization of certain powers at certain levels of government, with all power ultimately resting within the only true sovereigns themselves: the people. We have forgotten that to a large degree, both politically and culturally, which is why the policy foibles of a single state can seem so scandalous when, under our system of government, they really shouldn’t be that remarkable at all. In a very odd way, Jerry Brown’s climate crusade is what the peculiar American variety of small government should look like. Here’s to hoping we see more of it under the Trump administration—from every state, no less.
Source: The Intentions of Your State