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A renewed sense of federalism?

As the United States navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, both federal and state governments have worked tirelessly (sometimes in unison, other times at odds) to try and curb its spread. This has brought state and local politicians to the forefront, specifically our governors. In a recent article (https://apnews.com/8a9a13ad533d0ed5fe8b9df9dbb9b3d8), The Associated Press noted this marked transition, especially how the public has changed its perception of the balance between state and federal sovereignty.


While this may seem like news to some, this has been an important aspect of our Constitutional republic, dating back to 1789. James Madison explained this distinction in Federalist Papers 41-45. In Federalist 45, Madison defended the importance of this balance. He wrote, "Powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State." Keep in mind that this was written as the Founding Fathers were trying to fix the failed Articles of Confederation. One primary reason the Articles of Confederation failed was because states were given too much authority and often disobeyed the federal government. Despite this problem, Madison still argued in defense of state governments, trusting a large portion of governing power to them.


Unfortunately, the 20th century marked a drastic shift from this position, as progressive political ideology called for a stronger, centralized executive. (For more info on how this change occurred visit: https://law.jrank.org/pages/6814/Federalism-Federalist-Papers-History-Federalism.html). Will current circumstances reorient this balance, or is this a temporary fix to fight an extraordinary problem?




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