Generations ago, a lot of people died so that we could have the Constitution that we have. This nation, "conceived in liberty" was an experiment in personal freedom based on a belief that rights are of God and not of man. The Constitution was a grand compromise based on varying models of government. It was states rights vs. national power, federalists vs. anti-federalists. However, in the end, a brilliant new government structure was founded. The separation of powers (i.e. 3 branches of government) built into the structure of the federal government was a concept that existed prior to our founding. We borrowed this idea. However, the concept of states' rights - having 2 governments instead of one with the stronger government being the one closest to the people (the state) was a purely American idea. It was a structure unseen by the world prior to our founding, and something we should be proud of.
The Constitution clarified that the powers of the federal government are limited and enumerated and the power of states is extensive: 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. 10th Amendment, US Constitution.
Over the years, the balance between state and federal powers has been altered quite a bit based on the question that has arisen at the time and who is in power. During the Re-constructionist era, states' rights were comparatively reduced as the power of states to decide whether or not slave ownership was legal was eliminated. Looking back, it is impossible to view this as an incorrect decision at the federal level. Clearly, the country needed a uniform view of whether or not slavery was legal, and clearly the correct decision is that it should be illegal.
However, the proliferation of federal directives during the 20th century was increasingly unprecedented and clearly exceeding power granted to the federal government by the Constitution or based on any precedent set during the 19th century (i.e. the programs implemented after the Great Depression). However, as the 20th century passed, court precedents reinforced this version of the balance of power such that it is unlikely it will be unwound.
Now we find ourselves in another point of history where we have a president who trying to solve our nation's problems via increased federal power. And, given the issues at hand and the suffering of many in our society, Constitutional limitations of the types of directives that come from Washington seem to be an afterthought.
The most recent example is the effort to reduce gun ownership in this country. More and more Americans either don't understand or support the "right" of individuals to own guns. They see the sadness of violence and think that if we removed guns, the violence would decrease. I truly believe that this opinion comes from a place of compassion for the victims of these senseless crimes, but I also see that fewer and fewer citizens seem to appreciate why the 2nd Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights in the first place.
This desire to implement policy that is counter to the Constitution seems to be pervasive these days, for instance: the individual mandate, the removal of all religious references in the public square, regulation from Washington that exceeds any rational reading of the Commerce Clause, requiring religious employers to provide contraception insurance, etc.
So, the question comes - what do we do when our society does not view the Constitution as a limiting document? Where are we then? If this country was founded on the idea that rights are not of man, but pre-exist governments and come from a Higher Power and the structure of government was designed to protect those rights, then what does it mean for us when more and more people do not believe these things? What is to be done when federal power overshadows state power in every meaningful way?