What is Federalism
Separation of Powers enhances the workings of democracy and increases the likelihood of equality of opportunity for American citizens. The idea of the separation of powers was to give the people more power and give the government less power. This is where the technique of checks and balances comes into play. Powers were split between two houses and three different branches. Another system used to help our new system function properly is the (IGR) Intergovernmental relations. Intergovernmental Relations is a system fairly used in federalist states. “Its primary functions are putting the provisions of the Constitution into action, resolving conflicts between the federal partners, adapting governing and policy arrangements to changing circumstances, fiscal/financial issues: sorting out revenue and expenditure arrangements, negotiating fiscal transfers, typically from the federal to provincial and regional governments and regulating intergovernmental competition, policy overlap, and policy coordination (McCoy, Iraq Intergovernmental Relations, slide 7-8).” Intergovernmental relations play a vital role in our government processes as it helps our federation function properly.
Decentralization is also another method that the United States of America has transferred towards in order to have a successful democracy. The process of decentralization is to put more power in the people’s hands and less in the hands of the government. Drawing from the lectures and readings, this essay will compare state vs federal powers to discuss the advantages of separation of powers as evidenced by decentralization to equality of opportunity for American citizens. This paper will also explore the differences between centralization and decentralization and the impact the United States of America is having on the rest of the world. Decentralization is not always an easy task and so that will be expressed in this paper so we may grasp a greater understanding of the challenges our government faces on a daily basis in the process of creating a greater government besides that we originally endured in our past.
“In Authoritarian Governments, power is centralized. There is minimum participation and minimum rights to oppose and compete for power. By virtue of America’s Constitutional Democracy, power is decentralized. Power is disbursed among branches of government. Also, there is mass participation and extensive rights to oppose and compete for power (McCoy, Federal vs State powers, slide 4).” The election of president Trump has raised some concern and surprise as our previous president had very opposite views from president Trump. Many are saying this change may increase the odds for decentralization. “The social welfare state is certainly under attack, here and elsewhere, yet we have also seen how the popularity of many programs, such as Social Security and Medicaid, proves to be a powerful counterforce to conservative retrenchment. Few people thought that the two-terms of the first African American president, someone who is pretty progressive on international and domestic policy, would end with the election of Donald Trump and a right-wing, nationalist, America-First campaign that seemed like a throwback to the era of George Wallace (Zelizer,2017).” Federalism is making a comeback and becoming quite popular even among the opposed groups. Liberals are turning to states and localities as the idea for progressive change and federal programs still hold considerable appeal. Roosevelt’s argument is still standing on whether Federalism is best for our country. Federalism seemed at the time disastrous but now people are seeing that it may be the changed everyone was hoping for. The United States has such an influence that many other countries are switching from a centralized government to a more decentralized government.
There is a thin line that separates the power of the federal government and the state and that is due to Federalism, “the decision made by the Founders to split power between state and national governments (Lenz and Holman, Chapter 3).” There are three types of power given to National government: “ 1. Delegated (sometimes called enumerated or expressed) powers are specifically granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. This includes the power to coin money, to regulate commerce, to declare war, to raise and maintain armed forces, and to establish a Post Office. 2. Implied Powers are not specifically stated in the Constitution, but may be inferred from the elastic (or ‘necessary and proper’) clause (Article I, Section 8). This provision gives Congress the right ‘to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and other powers vested in the government of the United States.’ Since these powers are not explicit, the courts are often left to decide what constitutes an implied power. 3. Inherent powers are not specifically listed in the Constitution, but they grow out of the very existence of the national government. For example, the United States has the power to acquire territory by exploration and/or occupancy, primarily because most governments in general claim that right (Lenz and Holman, Chapter 3).” Reserved Powers are those that belong to the state. They are protected by the tenth amendment and are not specifically written. Shared or Concurrent powers are utilized by both state and national governments. “They include taxing and enforcing laws and the “Elastic clause” allows Congress to stretch its delegated powers to deal with unexpected issues (McCoy, Federal vs State Powers, Slide 7).” The advantages of the separation of powers are that it protects us from tyranny, involves more citizen participation and enhances the incorporation of new policies. The only disadvantage is that the balance of power has been a major concern for more than a century as citizens try to figure out what laws should be governed by whom.
There are many challenges to decentralization in America. One of those challenges are the barriers to voting. It was not until the 1970’s that everyone over the age of 18 had the right to vote. As of November 06, 2018, voting rights have just been reinstated for felons. Many people choose not to vote either because they don’t trust the government, they feel it’s inconvenient or they disagree with the process. Over the years the voting turnout has not been as high as it should be as politicians try to get more younger voters involved. Another process that can lead to challenges of decentralization are gerrymandering voters and redistricting. “Redistricting is the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts to adjust for uneven growth rates in different parts of the state. Reapportionment is the redistribution of seats in the United States House of Representatives among the 50 states, based on the census. Each state gets at least one seat. Gerrymandering is manipulating electoral boundaries to give one group an advantage over another (McCoy, Barriers to voting, Slide 14 &17).”
Gerrymandering and Redistricting are both techniques that politicians use in order to take advantage of the two houses based on their political party. Whichever party has the majority in each house gets the most control over what bills and legislation gets passed. There are three types of Gerrymandering. Partisan Gerrymander is when the majority party draws the district lines to maximize the power of their own party. Sweetheart Gerrymander is when the people in charge of redistricting draw district lines to ensure that incumbents of both parties win reelection. Racial Gerrymander is the drawing of districts to either minimize or maximize the power of minority voters. A majority of voters normally vote during the primary elections when the biggest office is up for grabs, the presidency. The midterm and local elections take a back seat to the primary elections but are equally important. In fact, most people don’t know it but the local and midterm elections may be even more important than the presidency due to the checks and balance system. With the checks and balances system, most of the decision making comes from the House of Representatives and Senate. Those elected into the House of Representatives and Senate is voted in the midterm elections.
The media has a huge impact on educating citizens on powers and elections. Instead of only portraying information during voting season, information should be addressed year round to express the importance of voting and the impact it will have on our lifestyles as citizens. The separation of powers is a necessity to the foundation of the United States. “The modern American presidency and regulatory-welfare-warfare state date from FDR, the Great Depression and the New Deal, and World War II. Existing judicial and congressional restraints were substantially reduced during the decades of Democratic ascendancy, the demands of the civil-rights revolution, the steady growth of entitlements, and the Cold War. Democrats Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, each in their own way, added to the scope of the office, whereas Republicans Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and the Bushes diminished neither presidential authority nor the expanding state. So far, Trump’s conduct of his office has been hardly more self-effacing. The hostile media is as quick to dwell on his assertions of power as it was to minimize Obama’s growing taste for direct action. This may well have the effect of strengthening the view that the presidency could be reduced in its scope and authority.
Now it is well within the realm of probability that both Republican and Democratic members of Congress could find common ground in a more constrained presidency. The reassertion of congressional and judicial authority, and a renewed, state-based American federalism, seem to me more within reach than at any time in living memory. True, the likelihood of this happening may not be very high. But Trump’s limited appeal, the obvious inability of the present system of American government to respond to popular wants and needs, and the growing evidence that the problem is international and not just American, make it worth discussing (Zelizer,2017).” All in all, decentralization is an important concept to keep in mind as our country continues to move forward to greatness.