A lot is made these days of partisanship in America and how it is a bitter divide. Absolutely, to a degree, many votes come down to party line votes and legislators will often line up like good soldiers when the generals pass down an order. But occasionally, party lines will break and politicians will show a conscience in defiance of whatever the party advances.
The issue here is an attempt to designate a portion of Maine’s North Woods as a national monument. While many Democrats appear eager to stand with the party on the issue, some showed they are willing to stand with Maine.
Many state this move is symbolic and in the end, the Federal Government will reign supreme.
An assistant Maine attorney general told a legislative committee in March that no state law could accomplish LePage’s goal and environmentalists said it violated the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause, which holds that federal laws take precedent over state laws.
The Supremacy Clause? Maybe it’s this same supremacy clause:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Note in Article VI, Clause 2 where it specifically notes that what is supreme is federal laws that are “made in Pursuance” of the Constitution. What is pursuant to the Constitution is pretty clear and the document itself is not a complicated legal mess like what modern law has become.
Article I, Section 8 specifically enumerates the powers of the federal government, whereas Section 10 lists the specific powers prohibited to the States. This is relevant because the Tenth Amendment reinforces these articles. Passed as the tenth and final piece of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees Americans things such as the freedom of speech and various other protections, it is aimed to limit the scope of the Federal Government.
The Tenth Amendment text reads:
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.
Indeed, we do live in the age of lazy constitutionalism where many have it ingrained in their heads that whatever the federal government says is the gospel truth and shall not be challenged. This does not necessarily make it true.
But admittedly, the odds are stacked against Governor Paul LePage, Republican legislators, and the eight Democrats who put Maine first. In a lot of struggles, either the States cave or the Feds flash a badge. The idea of limited government, as provided by those who ratified the Constitution, is a dead issue in modern America.
“I know we can’t stop it,” said Rep. Stephen Stanley, D-Medway, the bill’s sponsor, “but I think we should go on record saying we are not in favor of a national monument.”
But that’s exactly what you should do, Representative Stanley. Positive change often comes with struggle and many good things do not come without a battle.
Governor LePage and the Republican legislators, alongside those eight who put Maine first, need to keep standing their ground. Whether or not a majority of Democrats predictably sell out and President Obama takes over part of Maine, the pressure needs to stay on.