Part1: Question 3, Federalism
Federalismrefers to a system of government that allows at least two entities toshare power over the same geographical region. In case of the U.S.,power is shared between federal government and the state governments.Federalism is based on the notion that people are more likely totrust the government that they can control. Federalism expands theplatform and the willingness of the citizens to participate in issuesof governance. Federalism has improved democracy in the U.S. in fourways. First, federalism has increased the ability of the governmentsto accommodate local issues, which improves democracy through thedecentralization of politics and policies (Bodernhamer 1). The stategovernments are able to formulate policies that are widely varying,but on the same problem. This enhances democracy by giving citizensan opportunity to live in states that develop policies that suittheir experiences, needs, and values. For example, the U.S. isgeographically diverse which would make it difficult to facilitatethe participation of all citizens in the process of making policiesthat accommodate their needs. Similarly, the U.S. has experienced ahigh rate of immigration throughout its history, which makesfederalism the only tool to facilitate the growth of democracy in adiverse society.
Secondly,states in the U.S. are considered as laboratories of democracybecause most of the policies developed by the federal government areeither tested or borrowed from different states. It is easier forstates to invite the members of the public to take part in theprocess of developing policies and government programs (Bodernhamer1). This results in the establishment of innovative programs andpolicies that inform the processes of developing similar programs atthe national level. For example, the idea of giving women and AfricanAmericans the democratic right to vote had been implemented indifferent states long before the federal government could consider itas a constitutional right. Similarly, many states, especially in thenorth had established antislavery policies long before the federalgovernment could abolish slavery in all states. Therefore, federalismallows states to incubate innovative policies that improve democracy.
Third,federalism has enhanced democracy by increasing the levels ofgovernment. This has increased the citizen’s access to decisionmaking in other ways, other than the office holding approach. Thiscan be confirmed by the fact that interest groups that are blockedfrom making their contribution to a given issue by one level ofgovernment can raise their issues to another level of government. Forexample, civil right groups faced a lot of opposition from the stategovernments, especially from the South, but they received supportfrom the national government that helped them advance the issue ofracial integration between the 1950s and the 1960s (Bodernhamer 2).Similarly, supporters of the environmental and labor regulationssucceeded in passing legislations at the state levels, which allowedthem to bypass the national government that had stymied them in the20thcentury (Bodernhamer 1). Therefore, federalism increases the numberof options and access to platforms on which citizens and interestgroups can raise issues of concern.
Fourth,federalism allows people to take part in the government and politics,besides participating in the processes of decision making. Bycreating more levels of government, federalism increases the numberof political offices that citizens can hold or vote the people oftheir choice to occupy. For example, the U.S. citizens vote forthousands of political leaders at the state and the local levels, asopposed to the president and the vice president who are elected atthe national level (Bodernhamer 1). This promotes representativedemocracy since citizens have a large number of representatives whotake the local issues to the respective governments. Moreover, thelower levels of government that are provided by the federalism act asthe training ground for leaders who take up political offices at thenational levels. For example, a study has shown that four out of thefive last presidents of the U.S. acquired their leadership experienceby occupying the leadership positions at the state level (Bodernhamer1). Therefore, federalism enhances democracy by providing progressivelevels on which leaders can learn the importance and theimplementation of the principles of democracy.
Advantagesand disadvantages of states having a strong role in the Americanpolitical system
Thereare two major advantages of the states having a strong role in thepolitical system. First, strong state governments are able tocontribute towards the concept of checks and balances. This impliesthat strong state governments are able to criticize the ineffectivepolicies developed by the national government. For example, severalstates (including Alabama, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas) opposedthe transgender policies initiated by the federal government (Trotta1). The states accused the federal government of overriding itsconstitution mandates by attempting to write the transgender rules.In addition, the state governments have been able to use their powersand reject policies (such as the legalization of marijuana),irrespective of whether they are supported by the federal government.
Secondly,strong state governments are able to make unique policies thataddress the needs of their citizens. For example, several states(such as Vermont, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) have legalized thesame-sex marriage to meet the demands of the large number of gays intheir respective jurisdictions, irrespective of the fact that theyare not legally recognized by the national government (StanfordUniversity 1). In addition, the state of California has uniquepolicies (such as Hispanic and LEP Population Growth) that allow itto address the learning issues of its large number of immigrants(Stanford University 1).
Althoughallowing the states to have a strong role gives the governments achance to address the unique needs of the citizens, it createstension between the two levels of governments. An example of therecent tension between the two levels of government was witnessedwith regard to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Forexample, the state of Missouri jeopardized its implementation byrefusing to expand its Medicaid funding (Ollove 1). Another exampleof tension occurred when the Federal government empowered theDepartment of Defense and the Congress to consolidate or close theNational Guard centers as deemed appropriate, where many statesopposed this decision (Ollove 1).
PartII: Madison democracy
JamesMadison redefined the concept of democracy in a manner that resultedin controversies on whether the U.S. was a republican or a democraticstate. The Madisonian democracy is a concept that is used to refer tothe rule of the people, where the rights of the minority areprotected from oppression the majority (Fukuyama 84). The uniqueaspect of the Madisonian democracy is the fact that adequate checksare put in place in order to ensure that the majority are preventedfrom abusing their strength to oppress the minority groups. Based onthis fact, Madison concluded that the U.S. was a republic, which wasdefined as a state with representatives who decide on differentissues in competition with other government agencies (Fukuyama 84).
Acomparison between the concept of Madison democracy and civil rightsmovement events as well as their outcome is an effective measure ofthe quality of the U.S. democracy. The key events associated with thecivil right movement took place between the 1950s and 1960s. Althoughthe constitution protected the rights of all people, the minoritygroups (including the African Americans) could not enjoy civil rightby the year 1954. The inequality and mistreatment of the minority isconfirmed by a series of events that occurred in the education andthe transport sector. For example, the local authorities arrested ablack woman who refused to give a sit to a white man in a bus in theyear 1955, which is an indication of inequality that was common inthe transport sector (Digital Library of Georgia 1). The case ofBrownv. the Boardof Education in 1954 was brought before the court to prevent thesegregation of schools, where the people of color were forced bycircumstances to learn in underfunded institutions (DLG 1).
TheAlbany Movement of 1961 was conducted with the objective of enhancingequality in all aspects of life. Some institutions of learning (suchas the University of Mississippi) had refused to integrate, whichresulted in a series of riots across the U.S. as the people of colorfought for an equal treatment. For an instant, the Ole MissIntegration was a riot that occurred in 1962 as students in theUniversity of Mississippi tried to force the institution to integrate(DLG 1). The March on Washington was a major event that was held inWashington 1963, bringing over quarter a million Americans todemonstrate the importance of enhancing equality.
Aseries of boycotts prompted the legislators to formulate the CivilRights Acts in 1957, which is one of the key achievements of thecivil rights movement vents. The act outlawed the incidents ofdiscrimination of Americans on the basis of their social as well asdemographic characteristics, such as religion, color, or race (DLG1). Several institutions of learning adopted the ruling made in Brownv. the Board,which required schools to integrate and accommodate all learners,irrespective of their racial backgrounds. Some of the schools thatwere integrated include the New Orleans school in the 1960s and theUniversity of Georgia in 1961 (DLG 1). Although the students of colorcould experience some race-based conflicts with the white studentsand educators, the process of integration minimized the segregationof the minority groups. The establishment of the affirmative actionin 1965 is another policy change achieved as a result of theseevents. This could allow the people of color to get jobs and a betterpay, which was an indication that America was in the process ofdeveloping its leadership to achieve the Madison’s definition ofdemocracy, where the minority are protected from the abuse of themajority.
Althoughthe U.S. claims to be the father of democracy, the series of eventsthat are associated with the civil rights movements indicate that theoverall quality of democracy is still poor. Based on Madison’sdefinition of democracy, the U.S. failed to protect the rights of thepeople of color in the labor market, the education sector, and allspheres of life until they turned violent to claim their recognition.This confirms that the U.S. is still a “majoritarian democracy”,where the only the majority have their way and the rights. However,the progressive change in policies is a confirmation that the U.S.has been increasing its protection of the minority from beingoppressed by the majority.
Bodernhamer,J. Federalismand Democracy.Washington, DC: The U.S. Department of State. Web.
Ollove,M. State resistance to government goes back to U.S.A’s beginnings.USAToday.22 August 2013. Web. 21 June 2016.
StanfordUniversity. Hispanic and limited English proficient (LEP) populationgrowth in North Carolina. StanfordUniversity.2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
Trotta,D. and Wiessner, D. States ratchet up transgender battle with lawsuitagainst U.S. Reuters.25 May. 2016. Web. 21 June 2016.
Fukuyama,F., Sander, T., Putnam, R., Schitter, C. Plattner, F., Diamond, L.,Levitsky, S., Whitehead, L., Way, L. & Gilley, B. “Democracy’spast and future”. Journalof Democracy21 (2010): 81-92. Print.
TheDigital Library of Georgia. Documenting America’s struggle forracial equality. TheDigital Library of Georgia.2013. Web. 21 June 2016.