2017-11-09 / Views

Bergman being called a ‘federalist;’ what’s missing?

Is federalism a bad thing?

We ask because after placing letters to the editor in the Leelanau Enterprise for better than 20 years, we don’t recall a past writer calling a politician a “federalist.”

Now we’ve had two in a row, last week and this, with both referring to Cong. Jack Bergman. Both letters were written by residents opposed to Mr. Bergman, so we assume the connotation was meant to be revealing at best, but more likely derogatory.

To be fair, apparently Mr. Bergman referred to himself as a “federalist” during the campaign. Whether the reference helped or hurt him, we have no idea. Our guess is that most voters don’t have a clue as to how such a declaration might affect his policies.

So why did Mr. Bergman use the term during his campaign?

We are left scratching our heads.

Isn’t the U.S. Constitution based on federalism, which refers to shared power between a centralized government — in America, the federal government — and the 50 states?

We know the term was controversial as America searched for sound footing while boldly embarking on its grand experiment. The states and federal government jockeyed for power. In fact, the Federalist Party was the first political party in America. It advocated for a strong central government.

More lately, though — at least in general terms — Democrats seem to have supported more centralized federal programs while Republicans, again in general terms, have sought to retain and strengthen the role of states in governing.

So at the risk of being seen as out of touch with the latest in political trends, we’re declaring that we see nothing wrong with the term “federalist” or “federalism.” It seems that an elected official who swears an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution is also pledging an allegiance to federalism.

If an elected official’s embrace of federalism is being used as a “gotcha” term, a civics class is needed.

Perhaps some focus group somewhere determined that the term “federalist” provides a positive connotation among conservatives and a negative reaction from liberals.

What are we missing in our interpretation of this term?

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