Many people worry about our democracy today because our political parties have become more purely ideological. But federalism harnesses such partisanship and puts it to good use. Because of greater partisanship, we are seeing more states with a unified government in which Democrats or Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature. They are then able to enact a relatively pure version of their parties’ very disparate political positions. With the support of a Republican legislature, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has reduced the power of public sector unions. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has very substantially cut personal and business taxes. In contrast, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy was reelected after raising taxes and making no substantial changes to union power. In California, Jerry Brown was victorious with much the same policies.
Such partisan federalism now gives us the chance to observe the results of such policies over the longer term.