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.