As Washington hits the campaign trail, the states are making choices that will translate policy into action.
During his visit to America in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville noted "that equality of condition is the fundamental fact from which all others seem to be derived." The principle of an "equalitarian society" lies at the heart of American politics and the social fabric of our society. The recently announced intentions of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are proof positive that "anyone can grow up to be President."
Sadly, their candidacies represent another trend: a federal government that has hung a "gone campaignin'" sign on its doors and abrogated the hard work that a representative democracy requires to forge a national consensus on key issues. At a national level, there seems to be little or no accountability other than to party politics. Ours is a Senate that can't even agree to debate the most serious problem facing the nation today—America's continued military presence in Iraq—let alone those that bear on the average citizen's ability to raise a family and pass "the American dream" onto their children: access to a quality education, earning a 'living wage,' a just immigration policy and affordable health care.
Out of the glare of cameras and TV talk shows, however, the nation's state legislatures seem to be doing just that: thinking about and making the tough choices needed to formulate and translate public policy into demonstrable results. This edition of PT reports on a number of the thoughtful programs that state representatives from Arkansas, California, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have initiated to address these issues.
All of which leaves us to ponder: if the national government cannot fulfill its responsibilities in a federal system, and the states are, indeed, the governments making the hard decisions, then maybe its time that the states take a less passive role in the partnership.