Commentary: Escape to a Good State, but Don’t Ruin It

by Dan Gelernter


My elementary and high school teachers never did a good job of explaining American federalism. They left me and, I suspect, many of my fellow students confused. Perhaps they were a little confused themselves: If the federal government’s laws are supreme and can overrule state’s laws, why not just have all laws uniformly adopted at the federal level?

The federal government was not, of course, intended to be what it has become: the daily manager of every citizen’s life. The founders envisioned a federal government that remained in the background, available when it was necessary to get all the states fighting together to win a war, present to help explain a unified foreign policy, and above all to guarantee that goods and people could flow freely from one state to another with no impediment. (That last point is the reason for the interstate commerce clause.) Any national government more aggressive than that would never have been adopted by the liberty-minded states that had just won the Revolutionary War, and even that proved a hard sell: Two years and the addition of a Bill of Rights were required before a sufficient number of states were willing to ratify.

But now the interstate commerce clause is used as the justification for the entire regulatory regime. Every federal regulatory and enforcement agency, from the EPA to the CDC to the FBI, cites its authority for existing as that one fraction of a sentence (that Congress shall have the power “to regulate commerce . . . among the several states”).

The federal government gets away with this, meanwhile, because the Supreme Court has usurped from the states the right to determine which laws are constitutional. The original version of the Supreme Court was simply the court of last appeal to settle disputes between states. But when Chief Justice John Marshall invented the concept of judicial review out of whole cloth, no one at the time had the foresight to say, “Wait a minute . . .”

In 250 years, the federal government has grown up from a whelp to a monster that, apparently, can shut down businesses and lock people in their homes at its whim. Ironically, with this assertion of new federal superpowers, federalism, too, is reasserting itself.

When I was in school, it was hard to see any major difference in government from one state to another, except perhaps in the prevailing tax rates. But now it’s obvious: New York wants me to show health papers to go to a restaurant. Oregon is moving to make its indoor mask-mandate permanent. In Florida, meanwhile, there are no masks and essentially no COVID.

Federalism is now a grand stage for leftist hysteria to play itself out against American freedom. American freedom is winning: People are leaving California and New York and moving to Texas and Florida in record numbers.

But as Americans continue to frustrate the attempts of government to contain them, to restrain them, and above all to take their money, the federal government will become ever more aggressive in attempting to enforce a uniform—and uniformly leftist—way of life.

There are few state governors who have the courage to stand up to the federal government. We need more governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis and fewer (or none) like Georgia’s Brian Kemp. And for those who are urging DeSantis to run for the presidency in 2024: Hold your horses. A good governor is going to be just as important in 2024 as a good president, and these people don’t grow on trees. In fact, there is not another governor in the country who can hold a candle to DeSantis in those matters of personal freedom fundamental to American life.

This leaves us with the problem of leftists moving to free states and ruining them. This is exactly how Connecticut went from being the one state around New York with no state income tax to being the state with the highest income tax. (Meanwhile all of its manufacturing has collapsed and died or gone elsewhere.) My proposed solution is simple: People should only be allowed to vote in the states in which they grew up. If you move to a new state, you’re rejecting the style of government in the state you just left—but you may not understand why. To quote the lady who got off the plane in front of me on my last trip to Florida: “Everything is great here except the politics . . .” Let your children grow up in the new state you’ve chosen, surrounded by a culture of greater freedom and independence. Chances are they’ll understand it better than you do.

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Dan Gelernter is a columnist for American Greatness living in Connecticut.
Photo “Welcome to Florida Sign” by Joel Kramer CC BY 2.0.




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8 Thoughts to “Commentary: Escape to a Good State, but Don’t Ruin It”

  1. Quartermaster

    Fed law is supreme only when pursuant to the US Constitution. Most fed law is not pursuant to the constitution.

  2. berglander

    Like look like I don’t like know like why you like rednecks like are so like unwelcoming to like Californians! Like OMG it’s so bad there!
    Like why don’t you have more like diversity here and like why are there like so many guns and like everyone is like White! Like we like need some like refugees!

  3. paracelsus

    and there is nothing to prevent the itinerant from going to a (say a red) state, renting, registering and voting in that state, and then returning to their original (say very heavily blue) state nor is there anything to prevent students from registering and voting where they are studying and voting by mail in their home state, as well

  4. LM

    What , exactly , is it we need to be careful not to wish for, again? I’m still not understanding why we need a bunch of leftists from other states.

  5. william delzell

    Just my point, many people who are fleeing California, for example, do so for different and even opposite reasons from one another. Some flee the business-regulation climate of California. Others flee the major disasters like the fires that have seared and asphyxiated several regions of the state to human uninhabitibility. Others to flee the traffic gridlock that continues to strangle the state when people refuse to choose mass transit instead of over-reliance on the private automobile.

    Since these people have different reasons from each other to flee California, each of these groups fleeing to other states will bring different sets of values with them. So, just because Californians flee to Tennessee, it does not necessarily mean that they share the socially right-wing attitudes of many Tennesseans or that they necessarily love the higher rate of crime that Tennessee has in per capita comparison to California. Even those who flee excessive business regulation might recoil in horror over the Bible Belt mentality that many Tennesseans share. They might also recoil at the lack of basic government-provided services like public school funding, the lack of adequate mass transit, the state’s hostility to the Fine and Performing Arts, and the presence of a violent militaristic gun culture that claims the lives of numerous Tennesseans. So, dear conservatives, be careful over what you wish for; it may come true!

    1. 83ragtop50

      What a big puff of smoke. Pontificate on, William, you are so out of touch.

    2. Steve Allen

      All of the reasons you listed in you first paragraph are created by the liberal government. It’s so obvious that leftists need to stay in their liberal states, they made their bed, now they should sleep in it. All you have to do is look at the crime, rioting, looting, etc. to see the results of their failed and ill thought out policies.

      We fled Vermont in 2018 because it has turned into a massive liberal s**t hole. We put up with immoral liberal stupidity for 30 years and couldn’t take it any longer. Liberalism is a plague that needs to be eradicated from our Nation. I’m far more comfortable sitting in a room full of armed Conservatives than in a room full of gray haired ex-hippie liberals.

      And to respond to some of your points. Public school funding, the liberal controlled public education in many parts of America is nothing more than socialist indoctrination camp that promotes gender confusion, homosexuality, and proclaims that white people are responsible for the failing of people of color. And instead of focusing on the students who struggle with understanding basic curriculum, the bar gets lowered to the point that many students who would excel never reach their full potential.

      With the exception of major metro areas mass transit is a joke.

      As to the preforming arts, while I agree somewhat…I cannot find a classical music station on the radio, but on the other hand, the Endowment for the Arts is full of leftists and the perfect example is how public money is given to VPR, which is so blatantly left leaning it’s pathetic.

      And lastly, I would much rather live in what you refer to as “the bible belt” than in a city full of antifa and BLM rioters, smash and grab looters, black teenagers who indiscriminately attach Asians, or any of the other ills that liberalism breeds.

      Liberalism is the ideology of the anti-Christ and needs to be wiped from the face of the earth.

  6. LM

    Somebody finally said it – Lefties go home! Stop fleeing to the southeast like rats off of a sinking ship if you are bringing your commie ideas with you!