The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”- 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
President Obama has a love/hate relationship with the 10th Amendment, which prevents the federal government from exercising any rights not explicitly given to it in the Constitution, reserving those rights to the various states. He loves to hide behind it but, most of the time, pretends that it doesn’t exist.
In fact, he tramples on is so regularly that you can imagine our surprise when he supported it this week. Turns out it was just a lame attempt to play both sides of an issue.
Obama’s disdain for the 10th Amendment is nothing new. In 2009, five weeks into his presidency, eleven states already felt forced to fight back. These states refused to take stimulus money, thereby asserting their rights. The stimulus bill would have required states to spend any money received in specific ways, and states were unwilling to give the federal government this kind of power.
Arizona’s immigration laws were another example of Obama’s disdain for state sovereignty, this time in 2010. Arizona passed legislation regulating immigration in their own state, and gave state and local law enforcement the power to enforce those laws. Obama considers this to be unconstitutional (although he does not appear to be going after similar programs in his home state of Illinois or in Rhode Island), and it is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.He is willing to go to the highest court in the country, at taxpayer expense, to deny rights to individual states. Lax enforcement of illegal immigration would only help him with his base come election time, although it looks as though he may lose this one
Perhaps the 10th Amendment issue which is most in the news these days is Obamacare. The federal government has been slowly encroaching beyond their bailiwick for decades, but this leap into our healthcare is the breaking point for many states. They are fed up. Not only does it expand the size and scope of federal government, it subverts the states at the same time. Obamacare is also being considered by the Supreme Court, so the president may have to stay out of our business on this issue as well.
Regardless of the Supreme Court decisions on both immigration and healthcare, the important point is that Obama wants to be involved. These are issues over which Obama wants power. These are issues which belong to individual states or citizens which he very much wants to take over. Why, then, is he suddenly so sensitive to state sovereignty when it comes to gay marriage?
This week, North Carolina voted in favor of a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The left was apoplectic and this, in conjunction with a classic Joe Biden gaffe, shed light on the uncomfortable truth that Obama was also known to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Not only did Biden force his hand, Obama’s polling numbers are not as strong as he would like, and it was time for him to do something that would energize his base. However, this is an issue on which his base is split. What’s an incumbent to do?
What Obama chose to do was hide behind the 10th Amendment. Although he said that he supported same-sex marriage personally, he added “I think it is a mistake to…try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue.”
One can’t help but wonder what makes this issue different. That has certainly never stopped him before if he wanted to get involved.
The difference here is that he is able to use the 10th Amendment to convince both sides to think he is with them. Those against gay marriage will understand that he has no intention of doing anything about it on the federal level, and those who support it will only hear “I think same sex couples should be allowed to marry.”
He is already fundraising over this “evolution” (remember when we used to call them “flip-flops?”), and basking in the spotlight. And per usual, the media was in the tank for Obama. He gave them a nice little soundbite, and they bought it hook, line, and sinker.
Let’s hope the voters are a little bit smarter than the media would prefer, and that our government learns to respect state sovereignty as something more than a PR excuse.