By Joe Badalamenti
The past four years have been a wild ride, to say the least. While the current election has produced many uncertainties, one thing which I can say for certain is that the American people are divided. This polarization did not come out of nowhere; it has been growing in the last decade and amplified by multiple bad actors, such as politicians and the mainstream media. If not checked properly, this growing polarization will lead to more severe internal conflicts in the United States. It is in the common interests of US citizens that we overcome these divisions. One path would be to adopt a federalist approach of taking into account local concerns with national concerns.
There have been plenty of signs which point to the growing polarization of America. A recent YouGov poll found that the growing openness to political violence among both Democrats and Republicans has increased greatly from 8% in 2017 to 33-36% this year. The possibility that more and more people are considering violence as a solution to political problems should be very concerning. This partisan divide can also be seen in the outcome and reactions to the recent 2020 election. This election had record turnout, with Biden and Trump receiving around 77 and 72 million votes, respectively. While it may seem odd that Joe Biden could outperform Barack Obama, given the apparent enthusiasm gap, if you consider voters who are only motivated to remove Donald Trump, then the results make more sense. This also explains the unexpected performance of Republicans in Congress. Speaking of the right, most viral responses either cast doubt on the election process or imply cheating from the other side. While this election had an unprecedented amount of mail-in votes, most states took measures to prevent massive election fraud. It’s very disappointing to see all these likely false rumors spread. Meanwhile, many on the left are disappointed that anyone would vote for President Trump. Some, such as the execrable AOC, suggested that people should archive the names of Trump supporters. For someone who is the supposed future of the DNC, she appears to get into controversy almost as often as the current President. It’s clear that things have been progressing in a negative direction and that something needs to change.
America needs to find a way out of the downward spiral of polarization. One way to do so is to use the federalism approach. Federalism is the idea that more power should be concentrated into local and municipal governments as opposed to the federal government. In other words, most problems should be addressed and solved by local governments. This is simply because local politicians have a better idea of the needs of their constituents than the federal government in DC. A great way to understand federalism is to see it applied to current issues. The current pandemic is a great example to showcase the failures of the federal and state governments. Not only were scarce resources mismanaged, but lockdowns were heavy-handedly enacted for prolonged periods, resulting in massive economic downturn for many local counties. In a system more influenced by federalism, local officials can communicate with institutions to ensure proper measures are taken without completely shutting down. Another avenue where federalism can be applied is in law enforcement. If communities can organize events in which police can interact with their citizens, then it is less likely that incidents of police brutality will occur. As communities begin to focus on local issues using a federalist approach then many will see their lives improve.
While federalism comes with many benefits, there have been several hurdles that enabled many to abandon its principles. One obstacle has been the growth of the internet. The World Wide Web has allowed people to connect with distant friends and strangers at a moment’s notice. One consequence of this has been a growing focus on national issues. In today’s world, many seem to think of the United States as an invariable place with only certain problems. In reality, life in New York or California is much different than life in Arkansas or Wyoming. Living your life on the internet would make you believe that healthcare and climate change are the biggest problems in America. Another obstacle is the exponential increase in federal power. Ever since the Progressive Era, the federal government has gained more and more power. Moreover, much of this power has been concentrated within the executive branch as well as smaller bureaucracies. This has given many the impression that either the government can just legislate away our problems, or worse, that a president or governor can just fix our problems via executive order. In reality, these solutions either turn out to be ineffective or cause some unrelated problem from the interference of the national government. While the idea of federalism has been around for centuries, the massive growth of the federal state, in addition to the power of the internet to bridge distance barriers, have enabled many to abandon federalism in order to seek change in the national government, mainly through an overreaching executive branch.
As national issues continue to occupy a large segment of popular concern, Americans will continue to stay divided and stride further towards conflict. While this is a complex issue with no clear solution, a federalist or local approach would allow many to see solutions that are not obvious, given a national approach. Given the climate of current affairs, some sort of solution is urgently needed.