Does Sarah Palin Understand the Meaning of the Word Federalist?

According to everything I’ve learned, the term “federalist” referred to those who believed in a strong central government. Jefferson was a federalist and Adams was an anti-federalist. Adams believed that power should be centrally located in the hands of an elite few — alternatively, Jefferson believed that centralized power lead to corruption.

Why does Palin — in one breadth say — she believes that Roe v. Wade should be a state issue and then characterize herself as a “federalist”? I’m confused.

Note: I originally noted that Adams was an anti-federalist and Jefferson was a federalist when I posted this question. This was an error that I corrected — thanks to the people who pointed it Sharon Kyle

Sharon Kyle is the Publisher of LA Progressive

Articles by Sharon Kyle


  1. Frank says

    In all due respect Sharon, it is you who does not understand the definition or meaning of “federalism”. The original meaning of the term is that of a political philosophy that promotes a de-centralized government; however, during the constitutional convention of 1787 and the debate following it prior to its ratification those who supported the constitution’s framing of a strong centralized government appropriated the term unto themselves. This meant, then, that those who would oppose their position had no choice but to be cast in the guise of being “anti-federalists”.

    So dear Sharon, Sarah Palin understood precisely the true philosophy of federalism – it is you who do not understand and therefore owes Ms. Palin an apology and a retraction of your comments above.
    .-= Frank´s last blog ..Demo: Concept Attainment Strategy =-.

  2. wii the jury says

    Well, let’s put it this way: she was talking about the 10th A/, but she probably was merely parroting someone who has at least a rudimentary grasp of constitutional theory. Most anyone who’s spent any time hanging around the Federalist Society could have handed her this talking point.

    What I love about her recent 1st A/ gaff is that it’s a triple absurdity: 1) the 1st A/ protects politicians against the press instead of vice versa — the same way black is white and peace is war on the hate-talk express; 2) her 1st A/ rights are so fragile that it doesn’t even require prior restraint (censorship imposed prior to publication was the chief target of the part of the 1st A/ tegarding press language) — no, Sarah’s 1st A/ rights crumble like a house of cards if someone merely criticizes her; and (last but best) 3) Obama apparently has no 1st A/ rights — she gets to attack him 20 times a day with lies and coded language invoking racism, but if anyone points out that she’s lying, then HER rights are violated — and she “just don’t know what the future of the country would be.”

    How is it that there is even one person in America who fails to see through these transparent liars? McSame and Failin have taken hypocrisy and dishonesty to a level never before known in this land.

  3. wii the jury says

    Generally, the federalists supported adopting the constitution; the anti-federalists supported keeping the articles of confederation and would support only minor amendments to it. Clearly, the articles weren’t working because none of the states were paying taxes needed for minimal maintenance of public interstate infrastructure. Moreover, there was a hodge-podge of tax schemes and regulation of business from one state to another.

    When the convention of 1989 was held, it was supposed to be for the purpose of amending the articles. The constitution that came out of that convention was, essentially the product of a coup, because the delegates sent to the convention had not been asked to start over from scratch.

    In the public debates that followed the convention and preceded ratification by the states, the federalists and anti-federalists wrote numerous newspaper essays for and against (respectively) the proposed constitution.

    The anti-federalists wanted no over-arching federal government at all but wanted to retain the loose confederacy that had existed between the end of the war and 1989. The federalists argued that the constitution represented the best balance achievable between the rights of the states and the collective need shared by all states for a unifying government that could solve the problems caused by thirteen seperate sovereigns sharing a continent in common.

    The ninth and tenth amendments were added, as were amendments one through eight, specifically to address concerns raised about the constitution by the anti-federalists. When Pailin says that she’s a federalist on the question of abortion, she’s referencing the tenth amendment:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    I personally prefer the ninth amendment:

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    • wii the jury says

      I meant to reference the convention of 1789, not 1989 — this campaign has dragged on so long, thinking back a year seems like going back ten years, so by that math, 200 years ago must have been somewhere in the 1980s!

  4. Kara Touby says

    No, no, no, you’re completely wrong and you’re embarrassing me because I’m voting against that dingbat Palin, but she’s right and you’re wrong. For at least thirty years, having a “federalist” view on legal issues means leaving it up to the states. Oy. This is embarrassing; it’s especially embarrassing that none of the commenters have caught this error.

  5. waynew says

    Actually, the original poster here got it right. Palin, not surprisingly, got it wrong.

    When you are a federalist, you support the federal government’s authority to decide. When you are anti-federalist, you support state’s rights to decide.

    There’s nothing wrong with this … except Palin doesn’t understand what the term means. … and she is anti-federalist in other regards, including ANWR (she supports Alaska’s right to decide whether to drill vs. letting Washington, D.C., decide). … and McCain on many, many occasions has pointed out that he is a federalist.

    Don’t believe me? Google “I’m a federalist” and john mccain … you’ll see tons of references to McCain being a federalist on many issues, including gay rights issue … and he has stated MANY times, “I’m a federalist.”

    He and Sarah aren’t on the same page on this. That’s OK.

    But she should not call herself something if she doesn’t know what it is ….

  6. deepharbor says

    The woman obviously doesn’t understand the term. The have coached and crammed her with facts but she isn’t smart enough to process the information. The average Combined SAT score where she started college was 735 out of 1600, she makes George W appear smart.

  7. Elana says

    I must admit that I am very confused about this and cannot seem to find clarity around this issue at al on the web.

    I was mortified when I heard Palin say that she believed in state’s rights and was thus a Federalist — that seemed as though it went against everything I’d ever learned in 7th grade Civics class. But no one commented on this gaffe. Right after her comment aired, Obama supporter, Paul Vegala, even stated on CNN that Palin seems to have a solid view of Federalism.

    Can anyone completely clarify this issue? I am dissatisfied with the answers thus far and baffled about why this has not been covered more extensively.

  8. GTP says

    Actually, Jefferson was an anti-Federalist. Sometimes there is confusion because of his first Inaugural speech in which he claims that “we are all Federalists” but that is his concession to his political enemies and a way to work towards reconciliation. Jefferson believed that a strong national government ran the risk of the monarchy and could easily trod upon the rights of the individual. He was a Democratic-Republican, believing that the people were best served by government as close to them as possible (the state level) and that the national government was there to provide safety in numbers.

    However, I agree with you that I am not sure she understands what Federalist means. Hamilton, the quintessential Federalist, supported a stronger national government to keep the states from impeding due process, promote national unity and regulate the national economy (and thus international trade). Most Federalists would expand the authority of the national government and support its role in controlling the right to abortion. This seems diametrically opposed to what she is saying . . .

  9. Crista says

    Sound bytes to nowhere

    (thanks for posting about this, I’m surprised I haven’t seen more about it, it’s absurd)

  10. Matt says

    Jefferson was definately not a federalist, but federalism if the idea of power shifting from the states to the federal government, which is never good for the people.

  11. bambin0 says

    Per the wikipedia, you are misunderstanding what it means to be a federalist:
    Federalism is the system in which the power to govern is shared between the national and state governments, creating what is often called a federation. Proponents are often called federalists.

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