September 11, 2017-
Conservative politicians love to celebrate states’ rights, using a rhetorical commitment to local control as an excuse for blocking progressive policies. Standing behind the idea that states should have the final say has become an almost rote response of Republican members of Congress when they are pressed on social issues. Conservatives emphasized on states’ rights when it came to slavery and Jim Crow, and they continue to do so with regard to hot button issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and separation of church and state.
Tellingly, when Vice President Mike Pence was asked about the removal of confederate statues, he did not say that monuments to treasonous racists should be taken down, he instead argued, “Obviously, I think that should always be a local decision.” He said the same about the confederates displayed in the U.S. Capitol, the removal of which he said “should be a state decision.” For many Americans, the states’ rights argument is attractive, even though (or, sadly, perhaps because) cries to respect states’ rights historically were used to defend state practices that discriminated against minorities.