In this essay assignment, you will consider arguments about our Federal system, and the role of the Federal government and the states in policymaking. Remember that most countries in the world are what we call “unitary” systems of government and do not divide power this way. The usual story about how the political parties argue over Federalism is that Republicans tend to stress the “benefits” while Democrats tend to stress the “drawbacks.”
One interesting feature of the political moment our country is in right now is that the two political parties seem to have shifted in their views of Federal power, and your task will be to consider this shift as it relates to one of two policy areas: environmental policy and immigration policy.
Take a look at the following sources:
1) A journalistic account of this shift:
2) Robertson – more background from a political scientist who writes about the history of Federalism
3) Heather Gerken – a “progressive/liberal” legal scholar on this shift (progressives are usually Democrats):
4) Ilya Somin – a “conservative” legal scholar on this shift (conservatives are usually Republicans):
5) (optional) video of an exchange between progressive and conservative legal scholars (both Gerken and Somin above are on the stage)
POLICY articles and information about state variation on these policies:
State environmental policy
state/local enforcement of federal immigration law
WRITE AN ESSAY IN WHICH YOU DO ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:
1) briefly summarize the background described in the first 2 articles above (Include at least one direct quote from Robertson);
2) tell about the shift as described by Gerken and Somin.(Include at least one direct quote from each of them.)
3) Choose ONE of the policy areas above (environmental policy or immigration policy), a) describe the way in which responsibility for the policy area is shared between the Federal government and states, b) what kinds of variations exist between policies of different states, and c) tell about the specific conflict between the Federal and state governments described in the article.
4) Given all of this, what would you say is the most important “benefit” and the most important “drawback” of federalism as they relate to the issue you chose, and, what do you think SHOULD be the roles of the Federal and state governments on that issue ?