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Study Notes

Unit 4 Essay Advice: "How significant is Federalism in the United States?"

AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

This Study Note lists many of the key terms you would need to understand and use if you answered this question in the exam, and also 10 super examples to help you gain the highest possible marks.

Make sure you can explain each of the terms below:

  • Federalism
  • Federal Government
  • State Government
  • Article I of the Constitution
  • Article II of the Constitution
  • Article IV of the Constitution
  • Federal Supremacy
  • Block Grants
  • Elastic Clause
  • 10th Amendment
  • Cooperative Federalism
  • New Federalism
  • Dual Federalism
  • Executive Power
  • Limited Government
  • Commerce Clause

Contemporary Examples

Federalism is significant in the United States:

  1. Federalism has allowed states to make decisions on a local level and in effect become ‘policy labs’ such as pollution permits in California in 2008
  2. Federalism allows better representation of people, allowing those who voted for the party other than the Presidents’ to feel represented such as Florida, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin that have Republican Governors but voted Democratic in 2012 Presidential election
  3. The State of Colorado legalised cannabis in 2014, which shows the flexibility of Federalism in the United States

Federalism is not significant in the United States:

  1. President Obama has seen a reduction in the significance of federalism, moving from states as a welfare provider to the Federal Government with the Affordable Care Act 2010
  2. George W Bush’s presidency saw huge rises in Federal Government power with the PATRIOT Act and expansion of education and Medicare, resulting in more power to the centre.
  3. Federalism promotes regionalism over patriotism as seen in the efforts made by some to get Texas to secede in 2015

Historical Examples

Federalism is significant in the United States:

  1. Federalism itself was a compromise by the Founding Fathers who wanted a balanced system of government after the failed Articles of Confederation.
  2. Federalism has allowed the Federal Government to support states financially for projects which they would otherwise be unable to afford on their own. The Tennessee Valley Authority is a good example.

Federalism is not significant in the United States:

  1. There was a huge rush of power to the Federal Government during the 1930s as a result of the New Deal programme instituted by Franklin D Roosevelt.
  2. Federalism allowed states to give different rights to minorities in the state. Southern states ignored the 14th and 15th amendments until the Civil Rights Act of 1964

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