US Capitol Building
PC: National Parks Service

Before the Civil War, the common way to refer to our country was ‘these’ United States of America. Separate but equal, focused on our own success yet pulling together – the states knew that they all played unique roles in nation building.

The horrors of the Civil War ran their course, and the aftermath was brutal. Somewhere in the wake, we stopped being referred to as ‘these’ United States; instead, we became ‘the’ United States.

Two simple letters dropped from the middle of a word, and a country’s mindset began to change. I firmly believe that the shift in mindset has made a difference, but not for the better.

It’s understandable why our culture would have wanted to start painting a more unified picture as Reconstruction began. After all, we did just end a war that divided the states down a singular line. Nobody can blame a society scrambling to pick up its pieces.

Yet the years progressed, and instead of attempting to regain the individuality of the states, we pulled closer and closer together, the federal government growing into an all encompassing beast. Rolling through the Great Depression and multiple wars, terrorist attacks, and the like, we have now become a country where the significance of the individual state is greatly lost.

Even while states still are able to, thankfully, legislate to an extent within their own borders, everything is done in the long shadow cast by Washington D.C. Whether it be through Congress or the bureaucracy, there is no place a state can go that has not already been grasped by the groping fingers of an overly helpful national government.

Common Core. The Environmental Protection Agency. Federal lands. The federal government strikes blow after blow to the individuality of the states in an effort to create one-size-fits-all solutions, a spirit of political camaraderie. Yet, the very scope of the federal government is what will keep it from providing viable solutions to the problems it attempts to fix.

You know who can best solve water quality problems in the state of Iowa? Iowans, not bureaucrats in our nation’s capital. Who can best care for the lands of a state, healthcare of a state, education of a state? The citizens of those states.

No bureaucrat or Washington insider is going to care as much about a state issue as the residents of that state will. No federal program will be as effective as a state led initiative.

We will never be able to revert completely back to ‘these’ United States – it is a sad truth. However, we can continue to  work to shift from a statist perspective back to a federalist one, emphasizing state solutions and downplaying the reliance on and role of the federal government within each state.

When choosing who you will support during the upcoming elections, ask a simple question: Will this person strive to maintain and increase the individuality and independence of our state, or are they simply going to increase the scope of THE United States?

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