Lenny Goldberg

Recent Articles

Come the Devolution

You say you want a devolution? Then pay very close attention to the details, most of which stick the states with more liabilities -- and fewer resources.

O ne of the Republicans' many ideological coups has been their ability to cast important questions of federalism in wholly conservative terms. In the new Republican demonology, liberals are centralists, favoring Washington while resisting local decisions and initiatives. Conservatives offer a decentralist new paradigm, returning, in the immortal words of born-again decentralist Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, "power to the people." Dole's appropriation of a 1960s new-left slogan unintentionally acknowledges the ambiguity of the decentralizing impulse. In the 1960s, community activists sought to empower local groups and individuals in the opposition to a corporatized, centralized warfare-welfare state. In the 1990s, the right uses the same power-to-the-people rhetoric to attack 60 years of liberal policies that have been anchored by federal laws, standards, and fiscal resources. The empty slogan, of course, avoids all the important questions of government: what power to what people...