Federalism offers best path

The recent letters to the editor from the Revs. Foster and Ryan that disagreed on gay marriage illustrate perfectly the ideological divide that plagues our nation. What one side sees as fair and just is often seen by the other side as unfair and unjust. People don’t want to compromise their values, so finding an acceptable middle ground is difficult. When we turn to Washington for solutions we get gridlock.

We need to remember that no set of laws can be completely fair to every citizen. The fairest thing for everyone is to give both progressives and conservatives the opportunity to live in communities with laws that match their very different political beliefs. Fortunately, our country has a political structure that allows us to do exactly that.

Our founding fathers faced the difficult task of uniting colonies that had very different political beliefs. Their solution was to create a governmental system that gave specific and limited powers to the federal government and broad freedom to the states to create their own laws. Our best path forward as a nation is to reapply that constitutional concept of federalism.

I don’t mind at all if Californians want strict gun laws, broad abortion rights, gay marriage and government-run health care as long as Louisianans are allowed to have laws that match our majority’s cultural and political beliefs. I think most conservatives would agree with this approach.

It is my hope that a prominent Republican — Gov. Bobby Jindal perhaps — will run a presidential campaign that makes federalism its primary theme. This is both good policy for our nation and good politics for our party. In the last election, Democrats were very successful portraying Republicans as cultural bullies who wanted to force their values on the entire nation. We can’t let that happen again. We are supposed to be the party of liberty and choice.

This change in approach re-establishes us as the party that supports diversity and freedom, and most importantly, it isolates the Democrats as the party that really does want to force one progressive ideology on our entire nation. Republicans need to make it crystal clear to voters that we have no intention of forcing our Southern social conservatism on any other region of the country.

The federal government has grown way too powerful in recent years, especially in health care and energy policy. We are at our best when political power is diffused and when each state is allowed to be a unique community making valuable contributions to our nation. By returning more decision-making power to the states, we can once again be the nation our founding fathers wanted us to be.

Keith E. Nelson

former teacher

Baton Rouge