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One Lesson We Must All Learn from Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

By: Ron E. Peck, Esq.

Many – from neighbors to the media – are buzzing about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, handed down by the Supreme Court.  Of course, many (most?) of those people discussing this case might not even know the name of the case; referring to it instead as the “Roe v. Wade” case, or the case that overturned Roe.

Regardless of your opinion – both as it relates to the cases (Roe and Dobbs), or abortion in general – one lesson we must take from this recent case, and the fallout that has followed it, is a matter about which few are discussing.  The subject about which I am referring is the nature of our nation’s State-based structure, and the importance of State and local governance.

In my humble opinion, many people in this Country generally don’t truly understand or appreciate the State vs. Federal infrastructure.  Leading up to, and following the American Civil War, and in increments since then, the influence and dominance of the Federal government has grown and grown.  As a result, the citizenship has lost their understanding and/or appreciation for State and local government.  As a result, whenever an established process (such as Presential elections) hands power over to the States, or power is otherwise turned over to the States by law or litigation (see the Dobbs case), people aren’t prepared for it.  Whether it is a case like Dobbs assigning to the States the power to legislate abortion, or a presential election being decided in favor of someone who wins the “electoral college” but not the “popular vote,” people always seem to be – and still are – flabbergasted when a State or the nation’s rules don’t reflect the opinion of the net (total) population of the United States.  They are shocked to see that the “majority” of Americans – localized in a few metropolitan areas, are not deciding the laws that apply from coast to coast.

In a lot of ways our assignment of power to the States, instead of the national population, can – arguably – be seen as outdated.  “Back in the day,” it took months of deadly travel to get from NY to TX.  As anyone who has ever played Oregon Trail knows, those who dared to cross our great nation risked death by Cholera or snake-bite every day of that arduous journey.  Nowadays, the biggest risk of a cross country journey is that you may be stuck in a middle seat between someone eating an airport burrito and a crying baby.  Instead of dysentery, the risk we face is that the in-flight entertainment may be down.  In many ways, the States were like their own sovereign nations when travel between them was akin to an intercontinental journey.  Now, we can be there and back in the time it took our forefathers to load the wagons.  Our nation has, for lack of a better term, grown smaller – and for many, they wonder why the rules haven’t changed accordingly.

For many, it “feels” like States don’t make a lot of sense anymore, because – as mentioned – between travel and other technology, you can get anywhere in the time it used to take us to get to your neighbor’s farm.  Yet, our government is still the same as it was then, handing power over to the States.  That is how it is, but most Americans don’t get that.  It has gotten to a point where many people ignore their local and State government (and elections) entirely, acting as if there is only one government – the Federal government.  They assume the Federal government makes all the laws, and will enforce the will of the net total population.  Many people who voted in the Presidential election, and can name the last 3 presidents – don’t know the name of their own State’s governor.  This attitude or philosophy is the same thing that causes people to get upset every year when the Presidential election takes place, and the electoral college tally is a much closer thing than (or sometimes the opposite of) the popular vote.  People simply can’t wrap their heads around how powerful and influential State and local government still is. 

As a result, (as mentioned) they assume the Federal government will enforce the will of the total national population, whether it be a presidential election or right to abortions.  Yet, States with a smaller population can make or break efforts at the Federal level almost as easily as those that house the majority of the national population.  At the Federal level, what the “total national population” wants doesn’t mean that is what it gets.

I wish people understood how important their State and local governments are, and put more effort into getting those governments to better reflect their values.  Sadly, statistics show that huge portions of our population do not participate in State and local elections, resulting in State and local governments that reflect the majority of voters – not the majority of those being regulated. 

In summary, the Federal government doesn’t do what the majority of Americans want because the majority of Americans are squished together in a few major urban areas… and as the government is currently structured… states with a tiny fraction of the population have a say at the Federal level.  Unless and until State governments are abolished altogether and the Federal government somehow enforces the will of the net total population of the entire nation (even if that population is mostly clustered in a few locations) – (NOTE: I am not advocating for this!), we need to recognize the influence of the States, and work harder to ensure all governments – National, State, and Local – represent the will of the people.  Otherwise, as they say, if you didn’t vote, don’t complain.