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Forget Big vs. Small Government. For the Rightwing, It's Only About Power

'When it comes to government,' writes Flanders, 'we've bought a myth that there are high moral principles at stake: big or small, federal or local?' The truth is, it's all a charade for power. (Photo: stock image)

Conservatives need to figure out where they stand on local power. Their views present a paradox, suggested The New York Times recently.

Causing the confusion are so-called pre-emption laws passed by states to stop local governments from enacting their own policies. Eight states have passed laws scuttling local sick days rules. More have sought to pre-empt local regulations on things like local contracting, big box retailing and non-violent drugs. Most doggedly, the well-endowed National Restaurant Association has worked to block cities from raising restaurant workers' wages.

The business lobby’s cabal, the American Legislative Exchange Council has made passing pre-emption laws a priority, and Republican dominated state legislators have gone all out even as they jaw on about conservative values of individual liberty, don't tread on me and the evils of big government.

Hence the quandary. Curious: are conservatives for local control or against it?

The answer’s a lot more simple. Big business sees the writing on the wall. Even citizens in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted overwhelmingly for raising minimum wages last time around. Philadelphia recently became the 20th place in the states to enact a law guaranteeing workers paid sick days. In the same month, after rallies and protests and thousands of emails from state residents, New York’s Governor Cuomo announced a raise for his states 400,000 tipped workers. Cuomo knows a popular move when he sees one.

Especially given the deadlock in DC, voters want local government to take power back from far-off legislators and corporations. So it's no wonder that groups like the NRA and ALEC have turned cold on local power and big on big govt preemption.

Paradoxical? Not really. When it comes to government, we've bought a myth that there are high moral principles at stake: big or small, federal or local?

As the unseemly hypocrisy over pre-emption laws reveals, the fight’s really over power. And politicians, especially conservative ones, will squirm through no end of contradictions to keep their hands on it.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media.

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