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“New Federalism” is a term that is most generally connected to the Nixon administration. To understand this term, let us first look at what “federalism” is. This is a system in which powers are divided up between the states and the national government. The Constitution divides these powers up and assigns certain powers to each level of government. A government in which the national government has all the power is called a unitary government. The New Federalism held that the US was becoming too unitary. It held that states should have more power than they did at the time. Some aspects of the New Federalism continue to exist today though the term is not used much anymore. Perhaps the clearest example of New Federalism is the trend in which states have more say over how they run their welfare programs.
If New Federalism were implemented, the implication would be that the US states would become more different from one another. Different states might, for example, have rules on things like welfare or environmental protection that were very dissimilar. This would mean that Americans in different states would live under very different governmental systems. This would make our country less unified.
New Federalism, instituted by President Richard Nixon, involved shifting money and responsibilities away from the federal government to the states. Under the mantle of New Federalism, Nixon shifted the burden of school desegregation in the south following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to local committees. In several southern states, he appointed biracial committees to do the work of desegregating public schools. The work succeeded--the percentage of African-American children in southern segregated schools declined from 70% to 18% after the work of the local committees.
The implications of this policy are many and not always clear cut. For example, while New Federalism was supposed to represent a devolution of power away from the federal government to the states, it could be argued that the federal government's power has grown in many ways since the institution of New Federalism. In addition, while Nixon argued that New Federalism was intended to institute a progressive agenda (because it would produce results in line with what local constituencies wanted), its results have not always been progressive in nature.
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