Ferguson Underscores the Inability of State and Local Governments to Handle Big Toys and Bigger Issues

(Photo: Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO) with Highway Patrol Chief Ron Johnson.)

Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) temporarily jumped onto the Ferguson bandwagon after having previously suggested that it’s okay to kill (an American) liquor store thief using a weaponized drone. As often as the freshman senator opportunistically flip-flops, Paul is, at heart, just like his crazy father: a states’ rights, nullificationist libertarian who invariably belches the phrase “let the states handle it” whenever he’s asked about anything.

And the chaos in Missouri is almost entirely illustrative of what happens when state and local governments are given too much latitude and too many big-boy toys.

From there, citizens are tear-gassed on their own property. Journalists are randomly incarcerated. Peaceful protesters are treated like insurgents. Mayhem wins the day because mayors, police chiefs and governors are ill-equipped to handle much of anything beyond traffic tickets and lotteries. Dennis Miller, back when he was still thoughtful and pragmatic, once observed about leaving education up to the states: “States can’t fucking pave roads.”

He was and still is absolutely right.

How the hell, then, can we possibly expect a team of nobodies — small-town yokels in positions of authority to correctly handle the intricate nuances of racial and social unrest with centuries-old roots? Such tasks are uniquely suited for the (relative) grown-ups at the federal level. Now, big caveat here: this isn’t to suggest that the federal government is always competent. One look at a random hour of CSPAN paints a horrendous picture. But compared with the Three-Stooges-Fix-The-Plumbing disaster on display in the corridors of power in Missouri — or New Jersey or Texas, etc — the feds look downright Olympian by comparison.

Yet Paul and other states’ rights throwbacks, while offering a token nod to the protesters, would prefer that states have more power — including the power to overrule the federal government. However, what we’ve observed during and especially the last five years hasn’t been more freedom and liberty at the state-level, but far less. Voter ID laws, transvaginal ultrasound laws, stonewalling the Medicaid expansion as a cheap political stunt, not to mention the disaster in Ferguson — these and many other similar stories have contributed to the reality of elected infants operating out of their depth, attempting to make grownup decisions and failing miserably.

When state and local authorities try to act like the Defense Department, Ferguson is the outcome, and as long as they continue to be empowered by Paul and others it won’t be the last time.

  • Rolf

    The solution is to get rid of states and form a powerful monolithic government which will rule over entire America, handing out binding decisions straight from Washington. One brain and one body of a nation under it.

    • A. Cawthorne

      There’s a much straw in that comment Rumpelstiltskin might well stop by.

      • Bosma

        Nice. I’m totally stealing that..

        • A. Cawthorne

          Be my guest!

      • Rolf

        I am super cereal.

        • A. Cawthorne

          I am super cereal.

          Yes, thought so. Your initial comment suggested something in line with the intelligence of shredded wheat.

    • formerlywhatithink

      That’s pretty much what loons like Rand want on the state level, a monolithic government which will rule over the entire state, handing out binding decisions straight from the Governors Mansion, with the power to veto any Federal statutes.

      • Rolf

        Last time I checked, no law has been passed to grant states a power to veto the Fed, Govt. But if it does happen, than every state will be turned into a de facto independent country. It would be just a matter of deciding whether you like to be ruled by some local people, or authorities stationed thousands of miles away.

    • Regina Wanassa

      Greetings Rolf. You know, abolishing the states altogether was put forth as a consideration during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 because like today, the states were the sources of chaos, corruption and decay for the entirety of our fledgling nation.

      In the 21st century we’d do well to embark on a meaningful discussion for strengthening our federalist structure in order to substantially reduce the power of the states. The states are weakening and eroding America from the inside out.

      • Rolf

        I totally agree. Back in the XVIII century most wealthy landlords and property owners were supporting a stronger central government, to protect their interest. Of course, back then the situation was more manageable, considering there were only 12 states, all in the east, but where there is a will, there is a way.

        • D_C_Wilson

          And today, the wealthiest Americans like the Kochs, want the states to be sovereign because state officials sell themselves much more cheaply than their federal counterparts.

          • Rolf

            The solution might be to abolish both states and the central government. Initiate a fresh start, if you will.

          • Regina Wanassa

            Oh my. Where to begin? “Back then” Westward movement hadn’t begun, eh? Wrong and Balderdash. Redouble your research efforts, Rolf. Start by tracing the development of the Northwest Ordinances, but go further back to when King George III rescinded land grants from territory beyond the Appalachians and effectively ended Western speculation following the French and Indian War.

            No need to abolish the federal government. We need to modify it; we need to considerably strengthen it – and in so doing eliminate the toxicity of regionalism and state authority. If there’s anything glaringly apparent about our time, it is that equal rights for all people in every sphere of life will never be achieved while states are granted as much power as they currently possess. States and local governments are the seats of regressive Conservatism, oppression, and dysfunction. It is time to curtail their toxic influence.

    • D_C_Wilson

      Because false dichotomy!