Spamming States’ Rights

Disqus has apparently decided that I am a spammer. Because spammers always read posts like this and leave comments like this: 


The structure of the US Senate is a very real problem. Relying on states’ rights as a solution is a terrible, terrible, terrible idea.

States’ rights are not a friend to progressivism. The political philosophy of states’ rights was used to uphold slavery and Jim Crow. It is the reason why, after Texas exercised its states’ rights and defunded/closed almost all women’s health centers in the state between 2010 and 2014, maternal mortality *doubled* there, in only a four-year period. States’ rights have literally hurt and killed millions of marginalized people throughout American history, not because it’s a value-neutral political philosophy that just so happens to be wielded by shitty people, but because the entire purpose of states’ rights is to concentrate existing power structures.

Relying on the political or moral wisdom of John C. Calhoun will never get us to anything like justice, because that guy was garbage, as absolute and irredeemable as the states’ rights philosophy he propagated.

What do we do instead? Lots of things. Lots of small, difficult things, that add up to a more representative, more just society. We can’t change the Senate without scrapping the Constitution altogether — it is written into the original document that the “two senators from every state” design cannot be altered by amendment (the only time such a distinction is made in the Constitution) — and, as appealing as a Constitutional convention might sound, it’s something that the right-wing has been preparing for for the last couple decades, so the likelihood that a new Constitution would do anything but take us substantially backwards is low. Instead, we’ve gotta work with what we’ve got.

We can’t change the principle of two senators from every state — but we can resolve our colonialist holdovers and incorporate the likes of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and of course DC as states. (Sure, it’ll only happen with a Democratic supermajority, but if we put in the work, that’s not impossible.)

The Senate might not be amendable, but other anti-democratic features of the federal government are. If we can’t end the racist, elitist legacy of the electoral college (which was created primarily as a mechanism to enact the 3/5 compromise) via Constitutional amendment, then we can continue the efforts of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to find a legislative workaround. We can support efforts to end gerrymandering, and advocate for a constitutional amendment (at both state and federal level) requiring all Congressional districts to be drawn by non-partisan commissions. We can expand the size of the House of Representatives, to eliminate the absurd disparity between representation in populous states versus low-population states.

And we must, absolutely, work to protect and expand voting rights, to extend the franchise to EVERYONE. Voter registration matters. Felon re-enfranchisement matters. Fighting against voter ID laws matters. Early voting matters. Voting by mail matters. Accessibility of voting — for the disabled, for non-English speakers, for everyone — matters. Combating the baseless and pernicious right-wing fantasy of voter fraud matters. Voter mobilization just elected a Democratic senator in frickin’ ALABAMA. It must, absolutely, be the heart of *every* progressive political strategy, because without it, we have no chance whatsoever.

The appeal of states’ rights is that we can do things better if we can just go it alone — but “going it alone” requires that those of us in places like California and New York abandon all those at-risk women in Texas, or the hundreds of thousands of committed voters — especially people, especially women, of color — who turned out to elect Doug Jones. It’s a strategy of sacrificing others to save ourselves, and that shit is neither just nor progressive; it’s the ideology of John C. Calhoun, and that guy can fuck himself.

The only way for America to ever live up to the ideals professed (but not embodied) at its founding is for those of us who believe in those ideals to stick together and fight together — because, to borrow a phrase, we’re stronger together, and because justice for some is no justice at all.


In the few moments the comment was live, it got multiple upvotes before getting flagged. Not sure if that’s a reassuring measure of the Internet commentariat, or if it makes Disqus’s ‘spam’ designation even more absurd… but if we’re having a national discussion about the mechanisms by which our various Internet/social media algorithms hinder our collective political discourse, well, I might have found another one.

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