In 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the views on the issue of national supremacy were divided, and these disputes still reemerge during important political discussions. Some of the delegates were concerned that giving more powers to a new centralized government would threaten democracy (The great debate, n.d.). However, there are important reasons why federalism is crucial for the proper functioning of a democratic state.
The principle of national supremacy ensures that consistent governmental policies are exercised universally across the country. The concept of implied powers allows the government to introduce new legislation if it appears “necessary and proper” (U.S. Const. art. 1, § 8) to provide U.S. citizens with legislation which responds to their changing needs. Both principles are essential for the Constitution to withstand time.
If, as in the Articles of Confederation, there would be no national court system, the country’s unity would be exceptionally fragile and any form of central legislation, essentially, meaningless, as each state would be able to exercise fully independent policies. The Supreme Court, by reviewing the controversies and providing rulings that become the basis for federal laws, serves as the mechanism that helps to establish the core principles of the country’s legislation.
There are several controversial issues that illustrate the need for the centralized approach. For instance, if it were not for the federal law’s precedence, some states, most likely, would still prohibit abortions and same-sex marriages. Even within the current system, some conservative states employ policies that undermine their citizens freedoms. For instance, although the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in 2015 (via the case Obergefell v. Hodges), some states have continued clinging to outdated bans (Moreau, 2020). Other governments continue to impose medically unnecessary restrictions on using abortions (Ellmann, 2020). The proponents of state sovereignty may argue that a person who is dissatisfied with the current policies may move to another state. However, in a democratic country, no one should be forced to leave their home and family because their human rights are not fully respected.
To conclude, the principle of federalism is essential for ensuring the unity of the state and the universality of its legislation. The country’s citizens should enjoy equal rights and opportunities without regard to the state they were born to. Hence, the U.S.’s democracy relies on the successful functioning of the Supreme Court that helps to ensure that legislation employed by all political entities is based on similar principles.
The great debate (n.d.). Constitution Facts. Web.
Moreau, J. (2020). States across U.S. still cling to outdated gay marriage bans. NBC News. Web.
Ellmann, N. (2020). State actions undermining abortion rights in 2020. Center for American Progress. Web.