This essay has been written by Name of Student of Class of Student of Name of College
American Federalism has progressed through the course of history. Balance of power between the state and the national government has shifted significantly on a varied pattern, however, from the start of the twentieth century, national government got more power and expanded its role. The expansion in the role of federal government continue in the twenty-first century. There are factors that have allowed the concept of federalism to shape the American political behavior and American policies are directly influenced by the relationship between the US federal government and the state. All such factors and the policies are the source of growth for American federalism.
During the first 150 years (from 1789 to 1945) of America as a republic, America had dual federalism (Moore, 1912). American constitution had provisions for two types of government, the state government and the national government. The national government dealt with the issues pertaining to foreign policy, national defence and commerce. The state was responsible for all the local issues to include criminal laws and economic regulations. During this era, both state and national governments operated in their own spheres and distinct areas of jurisdiction with little overlapping where required. Few disputes that led to the initiation of civil war from 1861 to 1865 were caused by the dual federalism. People in the South believed that important decisions as legality of slavery was the task of only the federal government. People who believed in the rights of states opined that the state had more authority over federal government as it was state government that ratified the constitution to create a federal government. As a result of more powers vested in federal government, many states in the South separated from the Union to protect their rights. Abraham Lincoln and people in the North believed in the Union and victory in the civil war strengthened the federal government and closed this debate forever. After the civil war, the fourteenth amendment was ratified, and it included the clauses that clearly limited the state powers and gave protection to the basic rights of a citizen. First clause declared the responsibility of the state to not to deny any citizen of America, the privileges and immunities entitled to him as an American citizen. Second clause put limitations on state from depriving citizens of their legal rights. Clause three provided equal protection of law to all citizens of America.
At the start of twenty first century, two things changed the nature of politics and government in America and federal government got enhanced and more powerful role (Moore, 1912). First was the industrialization of the national economy which suited for handling by the federal government. Regulatory role of federal government, thus, gradually increased from start of twenty-first century. Second was the emergence of America as the global power due to the huge economy and global economic supremacy (ushistory.org, 2014). The globalization added to the centralization of powers in the federal government. Great depression of 1929 was the most severe economic jolt to the American economy that caused many people lose their jobs and fail many businesses. President Roosevelt initiated the new programs and policies for the revival of the economy and to stop any further losses to the economy. The new programs included banking regulations and a variety of programs for poverty alleviation. Roosevelt also introduced the individual social security plan. Federal government grew in leaps in order to ensure implementation of these programs (SparkNotes Editors, 2010).
Federalism took the new shape of cooperative federalism after the World War II. Period from 1945 to 1969 is termed as a period in which federal government and state governments have been closely collaborating with each other on a variety of issues (ushistory.org, 2014). Both state and federal government adopted an integrated approach, and the state governments completed many state and local programs with the assistance of the federal government.
After 1970s, it took the form of new federalism as the federal government grew more powerful. Political leaders and scholars argued for giving back the powers to the states. Under the new federalism, states regained some powers but federal government still enjoyed the most important and powerful position. President Richard Nixon during his period from 1969 to 1974, supported the new federalism and since then, every President of America continues to support the transfer of more powers to the states (SparkNotes Editors, 2010).
Concept of American federalism has affected the American political behavior and has greatly shaped the American policies. Family is the first factor that shapes the political behavior. People tend to vote the way of their parents as families have everlasting influence on youth in developing their political outlook. However, when people grow old, they may adopt to a divergent view from their families. Second factor is the gender as women got the right to vote only in 1920. More women tended to vote Republicans and not Democrats, however, by 1960s; most of the women shifted their opinion in the favor of Democrat. Very recently women have strongly supported the Democrats as they think Democrats are more supportive on women issues. Religion is the third factor shaping the political behavior. Christian coalition has more than two million members and they make a difference through their vote for a particular party. Jewish voters support the Democrats, Catholics show flexibility on economic issues and tend to support more conservative candidates for the office. Race and Ethnicity is the fourth factor that affects the political behavior of the people. African Americans are more Democrats, and recent two elections have proved the same. Latinos also tend to vote for Democrats. Cuban Americans support Republicans while Mexican Americans vote for Democrats. Region is the fifth factor that shapes the political behavior of the people. People on the coast are more liberal than people living in the center of America. People from Southern states vote for Republicans. These factors are merely the indicators, and there are always exceptions.
There are two factors that have improved the relationship between states and American federal government and has contributed to the creation of national policies. First factor is putting limits on the powers of federal government and second factor is giving states the increasing powers. Devolution of powers to the states is equivalent to putting limits on federal powers. Decentralization of authority in the states makes states more powerful and federal government otherwise, however, the balance in the distribution of authority and power is essential to make a workable and sustained political environment. Welfare reforms of 1996 allowed states to spend the federal funds at the places of their choice and as deemed necessary by the states. Such decentralization of powers has helped in improving relations between the states and federal government. The states are more effective in their areas as they understand the issues and the circumstances. However, federal government uses a number of ways to ensure states follow the given policy and guidelines. Also, congress can order the states to follow the given policies and if required, can withhold the funds of states not following the given rules of business.
Moore, John Bassett.(1912). Four Phases of American Development; Federalism-Democracy-Imperialism-Expansion. Library of Congress.America.
SparkNotes Editors. (2010). SparkNote on Federalism. Retrieved May 14, 2014, from http://www.sparknotes.com/us-government-and-politics/american-government/federalism/
Ushistory.org. (2014). What Factors Shape Political Attitudes? Retrieved May 15, 2014, from http://www.ushistory.org/gov/4b.asp