Federalism and the Making of America
Though Americans rarely appreciate it, federalism has profoundly shaped their nation's past, present, and future. Federalism -- the division of government authority between the national government and the states -- affects the prosperity, security, and daily life of every American. But while the debate over the proper role of each level in public policymaking often gets stuck in heated debates over principle, Robertson shows that federalism is best understood as a strategic tool. These philosophical disputes usually cloak the real purpose behind the struggle over state versus national power: to get government to do something that they want it to do, or to prevent government from doing something they want to prevent. Robertson also shows that past choices shape present circumstances, and that a deep understanding of American government, public policy, political processes, and society requires an understanding of the key steps in federalism's evolution in American history. Once its framers fixed federalism in the U.S. Constitution, Americans became accustomed to it and built it into new government activities, leading to further fragmentation in the political system. This nuanced and comprehensive overview of federalism allows students to see that both major political parties throughout the country's past have swapped positions on the debate when it has suited other goals, such as conflicts over race and economic growth. Both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, still use federalism as an expedient tool to deal with difficult issues such as the corporate behavior, the environment, education, abortion, gay rights, and other pressing policy agendas. Federalism and the Making of America is a sorely needed text that treats the politics of federalism systematically and accessibly, making it indispensible to all students and scholars of American politics.
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