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Of course slavery is a dramatic example, but Creationism isn't. Even on the state level, it wouldn't necessarily need 51% to pass. It would just need to pass through the local legislature. That's the kind of thing you risk by giving the states too much power. It needs to be a balance of power between the state and federal level. Let the states govern themselves as much as possible, but have the federal government there when you get these insane people who try to teach that Dinosaurs and people lived at the same time...
I agree absolutely, but who's keeping the federal government in check? The Texas standard that Walrus mentioned, did the federal government stop it? Gay marriage should be legal, but the federal government hasn't stepped in and done anything. The drug war is a failure, but it hasn't stopped. So I don't know that the federal government is currently doing the job you say it should be.