Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

States Re-Emerge as Power Centers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

States Re-Emerge as Power Centers

Article excerpt

On National Public Radio the other day, the durable Daniel Schorr hailed, as a sign of revolutionary possibilities, the bipartisan cooperation of the National Governors' Association on the vexed issues of welfare and Medicaid reform.

Schorr's notion is that with Washington deadlocked, the hour may be ripe for creative state government. He recalled that when he came to the national capital 40 years ago as a young CBS reporter, the universal feeling was that state government was washed up - crusty, backward and tired. The exciting horizon in government was Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, a top-down bestowal of federal benevolence upon the people, bypassing the state capitals.

Ah yes, we remember it well.

But Schorr overlooked a material point. If a renaissance of state government impends - if the view now is that certain duties and responsibilities have proved to be centrally unmanageable and must be devolved upon the states - it is hardly new. Even as the Great Society was aborning in the mid-1960s, a creative study of the states and the federal idea was proceeding unnoticed.

It was happening 250 miles to the south, where the former governor of North Carolina, Terry Sanford, was directing a Ford Foundation study of the states. Sanford was the right man for the job. He had done creative and interesting things on a shoestring, with a governor's meager powers. He took it as his task to search out life signs in the dormant body of federalism.

If you were around then, and reasonably alert, it was no mystery why the states were regarded as finished and their obsequies widely pronounced. They had tolerated, in some places promoted, outrageous racial discriminating in voting and officeholding - a situation only beginning to be corrected by the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Rural cabals had run egregiously malapportioned state assemblies; and that, too, was but in an early stage of correction.

In a stunning series of decisions, beginning with Baker vs. Carr, the Supreme Court had ordered the states to obey their own constitutional mandates and treat urban areas more equitably. But in all this, state government still looked like a backwater. …

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