Federalism and State Democracy

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  • April 5, 2017

Schleicher’s Article addresses the consequences of second-order elections—voting occuring in state and local elections that merely reflects voter preferences about the President and Congress with little or no variation based on the performance or promises of state officeholders and candidates—for federalism doctrine, policy making, and theory. First, it argues that virtually all of the ends of federalism—responsiveness, respect for diversity, laboratories of democracy, variation to permit foot voting, and so forth—are premised not only on state governments having authority but also on the success of state democracy at reflecting local needs and wants. Second, it shows that proponents of greater federalism focus largely on questions of state authority rather than the quality of state democracy, leading to proposals and doctrines that frustrate federalism’s normative goals. Third, the Article sketches several new paths for proponents of federalism that aim at reform of state government and state elections rather than changes to federal policy. Lastly, the Article shows that research on second-order elections reveals the emptiness of several prominent theories about federalism, particularly work about the “political safeguards of federalism.”

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