2016 Special Issue on Political and Ideological Polarization and Its Impact on Subnational Governments
Michael J. Scicchitano, University of Florida, Editor
Political and Ideological polarization in the United States is evident at all levels of government—federal, state and local. While this polarization is interesting from a political or electoral perspective, it also has profound implications for governance. The impacts are certainly felt at each level of government but also through the intergovernmental system.
There are at least four plausible dimensions or scenarios resulting from political and ideological polarization. First, polarization at the national level can have a rippling effect on state and local governments. Perhaps the most obvious example would be in a policy area like immigration, once thought to be the province of the federal government, where pressing problems associated with it must be resolved by state and local governments since the federal government has been unwilling or unable to craft solutions. Witness the actions of a number of states that have tried going it alone in dealing with the fallout of no federal government action to deal with the issue of illegal immigration. Other examples can be found in policy areas (e.g., homeland security, transportation, education, health care, taxation, and economic inequality) where over the years the federal government has articulated an express and overriding interest via federal fiscal assistance or mandates. Here again, the inability of the federal government to craft realistic solutions or instead sends mixed signals ultimately means that these problems are passed down to the states and even to local governments where they cannot be ignored. Examples abound like the federal government keeping school districts across the nation in limbo about compliance with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by procrastinating for years in renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Another example has been Congressional delay in enacting legislation (referred to as a marketplace fairness act) that would produce much-needed additional revenue for state and local governments from Internet sales and other out-of-state retailers. (more…)