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You’ve heard about the Republican establishment’s distaste for GOP nominee Donald Trump. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller gave a reason for long-time Republicans to think twice about Trump.

Trump has shown no concept of the proper role of states vs. the federal government, Zoeller told me during a recent visit to the Region.

Zoeller also was critical of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who wants a larger role for federal government, but at least she’s open about her philosophy.

This is a big philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats, a debate that dates back to the nation’s earliest days, when the Founders differed on whether the federal government should be strong or weak.

Democrats have argued for a greater role for the federal government to address issues the states can’t or won’t touch.

Republicans have long argued for a limited role for federal government. Reagan got Congress to cut taxes as a way to starve the beast, but his ramped-up spending on the military drove up the deficit.

However, Reagan never argued against states raising taxes. He was a fan of block-grant programs allowing states to make their own decisions.

Let them experiment and sink or swim on their own. That was Reagan’s philosophy.

If a particular state program didn’t work, then let the state try something else.

When Mitch Daniels was governor of Indiana, we saw this with the privatization of welfare administration. It didn’t work, so the state sued to end the contract with IBM early.

That’s a traditional Republican view on the role of federal vs. state government.

We’ve heard a lot from Trump about how he will do this or do that — meaning how the federal government will undertake those actions — but we haven’t heard his views on the role of the federal government.

Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which don’t give much room for detailed explanations on a candidate’s philosophy.

Zoeller has long been an advocate of states’ rights, something that resonates in Indiana’s Statehouse.

Gov. Mike Pence expanded Medicare, but he did so under the state’s own terms, creating the Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 rather than under the easy terms of the federal Affordable Care Act that some governors chose.

Pence also turned down the opportunity to pursue $80 million in federal money for early childhood education because he wanted the state to shape its own program, for which he now is open to receiving federal funding.

It’s all about state’s rights and limiting the role of the federal government.

We know where Pence stands, but what about Trump?

Zoeller has regularly sued the federal government to test what he sees as federal overreach — and not just by President Barack Obama. He also took the feds to court over executive orders Zoeller thought infringed on states’ rights.

Think about some of those high-profile lawsuits over the years:

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restrictions on the use of coal.

same-sex marriage.

Obamacare — twice.

Syrian refugees.

Indiana law on immigration enforcement.

auto industry bailout.

“Where is the appreciation for, and respect for, the role of states?” Zoeller asked.

Trump’s career as a developer hasn’t offered a great education on the role of the federal government, Zoeller said.

“I hope Trump listens to a strong federalist viewpoint from Gov. Pence,” he said.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer’s.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.