The fight over the poorly named “For the People” Act was a political battle for the ages. Democrats saw an opportunity to all but eliminate their greatest fear: losing a reelection campaign. Republicans knew that they were fighting for the very existence of free and fair elections. As everyone expected, the showdown was intense.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) let the cat out of the bag when she admitted that passing H.R. 1 would make it easier to pass new gun controls. After getting Obamacare through Congress with the notorious remark that “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” Pelosi made the mistake of admitting that she had to pass H.R. 1 so that Democrats could pass other unpopular legislation without fear of being defeated.
On the other hand, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota rightly described H.R. 1 as a “piece of legislation that needs to die, and die quickly.”
What Thune and others understood all too well was that H.R. 1 was an attack on the separation of powers between the state and federal governments. This separation is known as “federalism.” Federalism has been a cherished part of American government dating all the way back to the era of the Founding Fathers.
Today’s Congress should not be federalizing election law so Democrats can displace state election laws to tilt the process in their favor. Instead, current federal law requiring that Election Day be on one day should be enforced without allowing extended periods of early and mail-in voting lacking verification of authenticity.
Federalism is a beautiful system because it gives more power to the people by keeping the decision-making process at a more local level. A Monmouth University poll discovered that 91% of Republicans, 87% of independents, and 62% of Democrats support requiring photo ID in order to vote. Federalism gives the will of the people a chance to be expressed through a patchwork of state laws. The “For the People” Act sought to override the will of the people by destroying the careful framework of federalism.
Conservatives need to remember that federalism will always be the friend of the grassroots activist.