Focus 2


Federalism in Our World Today

        The very first idea of federalism came into light in 1789, “when the nation’s new rulers engaged in an ongoing debate from the onset” (Gitelson) and that still continues to this day. Many different participants play key roles in the U.S. federal system. Federalism lets two or more parties govern over a specific piece of land; explaining why each state has its own constitution and power.  Along with the national government, the major players include the state and local governments, and the citizens of the United States. Everyone has a pivotal role in the federal system.

        Since its origin, the federal system has changed and expanded, but continues to grow more and more complex, with each passing day, as the people of the United States continue to rely on it. As part of the national government, the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House play key roles in the building blocks of federalism. The American’s should not “change the text. Change the attitude with more judicial engagement in enforcing existing, critical constitutional features — in particular: federalism” (New York Times). In the 1980’s the Supreme Court indicated a willingness to give state and local governments more power on issues such as abortion, local campaign financing, and sobriety tests used for drunk drivers (Gitelson). Congress plays a vital role in the federal system. During the past few decades, Congress has expanded its authorization of grant programs. Here, local and state government have a chance to get federal funding. Also, White House initiatives have sought to expand the role of state and local governments in the federal system when “Clinton ordered members of his administration to administer programs that allowed states to experiment with innovative ways of dealing with the nation’s health and welfare problems” (Gitelson). Small changes such as this truly impacts the federal system.

        In addition to the national government, the states have a key role in federalism as well. They are responsible for areas in education, criminal justice, and enforcing laws in safety and health regulations.  The states also aid in helping with public problems and concerns. For example, California changed building standards to help with energy costs, reducing air pollution, and reducing gas emission. The citizen’s opinion always plays a key role “in determining the

extent of the state’s influence” (Gitelson). Over the past years, the opinion of the state has become more positive. How powerful these local governments appear is decided by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a decision that local governments are allowed to take private property. Eminent domain allows the government to take property for public purposes, such as clearing slums and replacing them with public housing. “As of 2012, there were 90,056 local governments in the United States” (Gitelson), which includes general service governments; local governments that run services for people within their boarder. Of these 90,056 local governments, 38,266 of them are special district governments that deal with specific government functions, such as education, fire protection and public transportation (Gitelson). The state’s governments may not seem to have many roles at first glance, but it is clear that it has many functions to better their local areas.

        An important aspect that U.S. citizens should uphold as part of their civic duty is voting; whether it be the Primary Election or General Election. Everything in government is linked together. We need to vote people in office to carry out our needs, and they in turn, must carry out their positions. The Primary Election is where the voters propose a candidate to represent them in the upcoming election. This is different from a Closed Primary, where a voter would have to be registered in that specific party before being able to vote. These are vastly different from the General Election, which for California, happen “every four years on the same first Tuesday in November that national mid-term elections for Congress take place in each state” (Scarpelli).      Whether the voters are planning on voting in this upcoming November election or not they are ready for this showdown to come to a close. This election is different. It seems to be more personal than in past elections. For instance, Donald Trump has made headlines over countless controversial statements. Some people’s lives are being turned upside down by this political campaign and “this is not just about the potential damage a Trump presidency would do. It is also about the damage his candidacy is doing to people right now” (Washington Monthly). How the president of the United States is chosen is not by who has the most vote, they are chosen through the Electoral College as stated by the United States Constitution. Instead of having the mass public having to vote for their president, “the result was a system in which each state would select a group of electors who would cast ballots for President” (Scarpelli). For a candidate to win the presidency, he or she must obtain at least 270 electoral college votes. Each of these components play a key role in federalism and the basis of our government would collapse without the voters and without the candidates.

        The former governor of Texas, Rick Perry, once said, “Crucial to understanding federalism in modern day America is the concept of mobility, or ‘the ability to vote with your feet.’ If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol – don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California”. Through cooperation, there are many different branches and officials that help to make federalism work. The key players include the state and local governments, as well as the citizens of the United States, just to name a few. “Federalism isn’t about states’ rights. It’s about individual liberty” (New York Times) and the willingness for two or more parties to govern over a specific piece of property.


Works Cited

AM, September 1 201610:55. “A Personal Note about Donald Trump’s Candidacy.” Washington Monthly. Diane Straus, 02 Sept. 2016. Web. 06 Sept. 2016. <;.

Elizabeth Price Foley. “Revisiting the Constitution: Restore Federalism.” New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., n.d. Web. <;.

Gitelson, Alan R., Robert L. Dudley, and Melvin J. Dubnick. “Chapter 3: Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.” American Government: Myths and Realities. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

Scarpelli, Craig. “Chapter 3: California Elections.” California in the American System. N.p.: McGraw Hill, 2012. N. pag. Print.





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