It's a Bad Time to Start Rewriting Vast Parts of Our Government System | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Ellis Henican during a Newsweek episode of The Debate about a convention of states. You can listen to the podcast here:

The old "states' rights" and "let's take power out of Washington, put it into the states" idea — it works a whole lot better if you've never met a member of a state legislature before. Oh, my God, those people make congressmen look like geniuses.

Look around the country. And you tell me whether you like the things that are going on in state legislatures across the country. I come from Louisiana, so I grew up with the notion of states' rights, which was always, always an excuse for opposing racial integration. And then it's popped back into my life again around the the the issue of abortion. My God, look at some of the crazy stuff these states are doing. So yes, I hate Washington, until I start looking at what some of these state legislatures are intent on doing.

Capitol Building Blue vs. Red
In addition to North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Florida, five other states are polling in the single digits as well. In this image, the U.S. Capitol is seen on October 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. Photo illustration by Newsweek of photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images

What's happened over the years is that we've dealt with bigger and different issues that our Founding Fathers had to wrestle with. Air pollution is certainly one of them. But in the end, it really comes down to who you're going to trust, right? And it's always dangerous to trust any politician. Political bodies that do things I don't like every single day.

But if you asked me, and I think if you ask most people other than hardcore conservatives on this question, "Who do you trust more, a federal government, or the members of the local state legislature — not just in your state, but in all the other states around the country whose actions affect you?" I mean, again, go meet some of those people. I wouldn't let them then cater a barbecue, much less control the future of me and my family.

If we're going to really take a look at rewriting vast parts of our governmental system, I would suggest that now is not a really good time in history for that. There are huge divisions in our country, a tremendous amount of distrust across the aisle, large numbers of political officials who are undermining the very concept of democracy. Maybe now isn't the best time in history to expect Americans to show the most understanding and broad based attitudes, and come together on something as important as this.

Ellis Henican is a New York Times-bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, and regular contributor on The Debate Podcast at Newsweek.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.