Monday, October 29, 2018




Outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown attracted little local attention a month or so ago, when at the very end of California government’s bill signing-or-veto season he signed a bill guaranteeing “net neutrality” for all computer users in his state.

This didn’t attract a lot of attention in most quarters, coming as it did during the confirmation battle over new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But there was one outfit that saw the Brown move for what it is: the Donald Trump administration, which considered the move a major declaration of defiance by the one state that has resisted its agenda most.

Net neutrality essentially stops internet service provider companies (ISPs) from charging some websites more than others to use their service; it won’t let them pick and choose which websites to slow down or speed up, nor does it allow ISPs to block contacts they don’t like. These previously illegal practices were legalized nationally last June by the Federal Communications Commission, acting at the behest of firms like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Frontier.

          The new California law asserts the state has the right to protect its citizens from these practices and it is the only state law of its kind in America. It was backed by a large coalition of consumer groups and tens of thousands of individuals, the conflict perhaps causing Brown to delay his signature until the last possible moment.

          Although it got little news coverage, the new law got plenty of attention from the Trump administration, which within minutes filed a lawsuit to quash it.

“Once again, the California Legislature has enacted an extreme and illegal state law attempting to frustrate federal policy,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who also opposes California’s anti-smog and climate change mitigation regulations and its immigration sanctuary laws, among many others.

Unlike other disputed issues, net neutrality involves nothing ideological, nor even social policy. This dispute is about money and freedom in an arena where everyone has previously been treated with complete equality. It cements a huge change in one of the Republican Party’s most central ideological stances of the last 160 years: The belief that states have the right to control policy within their borders on anything where the Constitution does not explicitly give authority to the federal government.

During all those years, the GOP portrayed itself as the champion of decentralized government. But the latest battles, net neutrality now a big symbol of them, expose Republicans as opportunists: So long as states’ rights meant they could exempt states they controlled from things like voting rights for minorities, pollution controls, abortion and equal access to education, the GOP was all for the concept.

          But with Republicans controlling the presidency, the judiciary and most of Congress, the party began revealing its true colors. No less than Democrats when they are in power, the GOP wants to assert its agenda everywhere in America, and never mind what any state and its populace might want.

          There’s a lot of future danger here for Republicans and their longtime agenda, chiefly because of the pendulum swings natural to politics. Whichever party is in power often assumes it will wield that authority forever, when history shows power in America is almost always fleeting.

          So when the GOP attempts to impose its policies on states that want no part of them, using the Constitution’s supremacy clause that gives federal laws priority when they conflict with state or local ones, it risks major losses once the Democrats regain power, as they surely will within two, four or six years.

          But the GOP, under Trump’s management and leadership is anything but foresightful, generally acting with little or no delayed gratification but rather demanding instant satisfaction and obedience.

          Yes, it’s common for opponents of heavily centralized government to change when they gain power, but today’s pattern as it’s playing out over net neutrality suggests a more lasting position for the national Republican Party, which is doing all it can to perpetuate its hold on power.

          But all the GOP needs to do is persist in its current approach and today’s crescendo of resistance to its ideas and policies by state governments and individuals will grow so loud the Republicans’ hold on power won’t be able to withstand it.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

No comments:

Post a Comment