Federalism is one of the core principles on which the United States is built. It is a system of government in which authority is divided equally among the federal government and the states (Schmidt et al., 2018). The Constitution outlines what power each side holds (Schmidt et al., 2018). In the United States, federalism provides an opportunity for the country to remain organized and all people to have political influence.
This political system provides many benefits, such as better handling of a country with politically diverse views, giving more influence over political events to the people, and the potential for the specialization of industries (Schmidt et al., 2018). However, there are downsides to federalism, such as greater inequality among citizens and differences in state standards that lead to confusion (Schmidt et al., 2018). This divided state can lead to prosperity through diversity or chaos.
The novel coronavirus that appeared in early 2020 had done a tremendous amount of damage to many nations across the globe. While some countries, such as India, continue to struggle with the outbreak, many others have successfully mitigated the possible harm. Health experts provided the outline for an impending crisis in March, yet the initial spread of COVID-19 was underestimated by government officials (Kettl, 2020). The United States had a unique response to the virus due to its system of government, which led to numerous deaths and multiple delays in reaction to the rapidly developing situation.
Decentralization of power in the United States has put the healthcare system at a major strain during the peak of COVID-19 cases per day. The American healthcare system had lost a significant portion of its resources over the past few years, which only worsened the situation (Rocco et al., 2020). There was also a discernible difference in decision-making regarding COVID-19 between Democrats and Republicans. While Democrats were more focused on implementing and upholding state-wide lockdowns, Republicans were concerned about the impact of this lockdown on the country’s economy (Rocco et al., 2020). Rocco et al. (2020) state that Republican politicians were “slower to implement social distancing policies” (p. 2). Moreover, some of the states focused more on the prevention of an economic crisis than on citizens’ health (Rocco et al., 2020). The former president Donald Trump also added to the issue by downplaying its significance (Kettl, 2020). With its high levels of fragmentation of authority, the United States had troubles with instating nationwide measures that combat the virus spread.
It is also worth noting that the reaction of the federal government to the recessing economy was delayed as well. Congress took measures to provide economic relief with a large margin for error due to a significant number of uncertainties (Rocco et al., 2020). Investments went into different crisis prevention programs with substantial differences that did not account for the progression of COVID-19 in the United States (Kettl, 2020). This combination of inadequate decisions from the federal government, unwillingness to cooperate among the state governments, and the issues in the healthcare system can be attributed to federalism. As a result, while the U.S. government produced a recommended guidelines for treatment and prevention of COVID-19, the lack of a uniform policy significantly hindered its efforts. Most of the actions regarding the virus were left for the states to decide, and the unfocused approach led to numerous unnecessary deaths across the country.
Kettl, D. F. (2020). States divided: The implications of American federalism for COVID‐19. Public Administration Review, 80(4), 595-602. Web.
Rocco, P., Béland, D., & Waddan, A. (2020). Stuck in neutral? Federalism, policy instruments, and counter-cyclical responses to COVID-19 in the United States. SSRN Electronic Journal. Web.
Schmidt, S. W., Shelley, M. C., & Bardes, B. A. (2018). American government and politics today (18th ed.). Cengage Learning.