Federalism involves the sharing of powers between different levels of government. In the United States this relates to the government at national level (the federal government) and those at the level of the state. The United Kingdom is not a federal state instead it is a unitary state where power is held in one place (parliament). Federalism is the process of sharing power between a central government, in America’s case Washington, and the States. The US Constitution dictates what areas the Federal Government have control of and the areas that the States have control of. Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights dictates that any area that is not a power of Congress, President or Supreme Court it is up to the States to decide. Dissimilarly to the UK, Britain has adopted the unitary system which means that there is just one main body of government as opposed to powers being distributed across the nation.
Over time, federalism has adapted and changed and the theory of New Federalism was introduced after Nixon’s and Reagan’s administration and was further mentioned under George W. Bush’s presidency. Some of the features of federalism include the different powers that are seen within the central and state governments. Within state governments it can be seen that issues on crime and punishment can vary between states as states are awarded the power to choose different policies on these issues. This is why some stats still adopt the death penalty and others have abolished it. At the central level of government it can be seen however that issues such as war, diplomacy and the powers of defence are issues that the central government must control as it can be seen that local governments will be unable to handle these major issues successfully.
One of the most important powers which the States have control of, is the power to conduct elections in whichever way they see fit. An example of this would be that Iowa choose to elect their Presidential Candidate through a caucus and New Hampshire elect theirs using a primary election. This causes massive problems in the Presidential nominating process as some States will front load, put their Primaries before others, so that they will have more significance. The problem with this is that some States are massively insignificant in the Primary race. It can be seen the federalism in the USA has changed overtime. Federalism is significant in the USA as it has evolved over time. New Federalism emphasised state’s rights, small Government and getting government’s off the back of the people. New Federalism has been especially seen in George Bush’s presidency. It was seen that George Bush had to evolve the republicans into a more federal party due to the events that happened within his presidency. Similarly to this it can be seen that the creation of federalism is also significant in helping the overall maintenance of the United States of America.
In 1787 the founding fathers mad e number of important considerations when drafting the American Constitution. Included in those was the desire to limit the power of any single political institution in the New Republic. This means that the fact that Federalism means that power is shared amongst different levels of government it prevents an overpowered central government as different parts of the government will still have power to do specific things. This is important as it established an intricate set of checks and balances which the government have to adhere to and conduct effectively so that the government can run. Even though the powers of the state are not enumerated, Amendment 10 of the constitution declares that those powers not granted to the central institutions are assumed to remain at the level of the state. It can also be seen though that Federalism is significant as it can be seen that if events where to take place that states could not handle. Such as the acts of terror in 9/11 the central federal government will be able to take charge in order to help out with the problems that states are finding challenging.
This can be seen with the different phases of Federalism. In times of crisis governments would carry out a Co-operative Federalism. This term refers to the partnership that evolved between the two levels of government with the central federal government assisting the states to cope with any new demands. This shows that federalism is significant in the USA as the different phase of federalism mean that governments can change when they cooperate and when they let states get on with their own thing. Federalism was further entrenched in the founding of America due to the Connecticut compromise. The compromise was created because small States felt that they would be under represented and dominated by the larger States at the time. The compromise therefore dictated that a bicameral house would be created, one that would be created with the population of the States in mind and representation being distributed in this format, the House of Representatives, and the other House would have two representatives per State, the Senate.
Although, this does not directly link to Federalism it shows that the States are constantly wary about being dictated to by the central government and this is shown through the Connecticut compromise. Therefore, Federalism will always be significant in the US as it is entrenched in the Constitution. A minor factor that makes Federalism significant in the US is the fact that Congressional representatives are always said to be running scared. This means that they are always trying to please their constituents so they get re-elected every two years. The fact that elections happen so frequently makes members of the House aim more to please constituents rather than to build a central government. This heavy focus on the States gives them more power, and decreases the power of the central government. So although Congressmen/women running scared is not directly link to federalism it does make the central government less powerful and the States more represented; making federalism minor-ly more significant.
Within the constitution it can be seen that federalism itself is not clearly defined. Although in Article 10 of the constitution it stats that those powers not granted to the central institutions are assumed to remain at the level of the state it does not clearly define what those ultimately federalism is. This may be because certain things have changed since then so the need to define what it is much greater now, than when the founding fathers first drafted the constitution. This means that because times are changing frequently because federalism is not defined clearly in the constitution it means that it will not be outdates in recent times. To further add to this as a result of federalism in the United States of America. It can be seen that it can lead to Presidents not getting there way on certain things. This is because due to the powers of federalism states do not have to follow what the president says if they do not wish.
This means that if the president wants to have something to happen certain can choose not to cooperate with the demands of the president. This was seen with Bush’s ‘No child gets left behind’ policies with this issue certain states chose to ignore this policy as it interfered with their own. On the other hand to this it can also be seen that if states wanted to try different policies then it would make it easier for this to happen. If states wanted different policies that did not apply to the whole country it would make it is possible for this to happen as a result of federalism. This can be seen in California when this state tried to control carbon emissions. In conclusion it can be seen that Federalism within the United States of America is evolving since the constitution was first created by the founding fathers.
It can be seen that because federalism is not clearly defined it means that as things change the constitution will allow stats to adopt different thing. It can also be seen that federalism is significant due to the different phases of it. If events did take place that states where unable to handle then the central government would be able to cooperate with the states in order to make sure that help is provided. Overall it can be seen that Federalism is significant to the USA as the way that power is shared between state government and a central government means that each state is allowed to have varying policies which means states will have policies that suit them.