The federal nature of the US political system can also explain, in part, why President Trump did not adopt strong mitigation measures. In a federal system, in the face of a complex policy problem with limited information, policymakers may delegate to other levels of government to solve the problem in order to avoid having to take responsibility (Greer et al. 2020). Republicans also tend to support state-led solutions to policy problems rather national-led solutions. Additionally, states can be laboratories for policymaking. Lawmakers at both the state and national level can learn from other states about which policies are effective and which are not (Boeckelman 1992; Shipan and Volden 2012; Shvetsova et al. 2020b, 2021). In sum, for a variety of reasons, the federal nature of the US political system may explain why the national government adopted a limited approach to mitigating the spread of COVID-19.


How come Republicans are more likely to support state-led solutions rather than national-led solutions? Is there a historical, cultural or political reason for this? It seems that in the U.S., Democrats tend to support national-led solutions while Republicans tend to support state-led solutions.


1 Answer 1

  1. We presuppose that the result of ongoing market process between parties results in an equilibrium. Whenever one party would have an overall dominant political position, their sponsors and stakeholders could demand they use their dominance to enact policies for their selective benefit, burning up some of their political advantage in the process. The long term result would be a near-equilibrium

  2. In the event of a two-party equilibrium: The asymmetry in the US legislature makes the equilibrium so that one party gets the Senate via a majority of smaller states, and the other gets the House via a majority of congressional districts (ie total population). In a departure from this equilibrium, if the party controlling the most states also controlled the most congressional districts, they would be dominant in both chambers and there wouldn't be an equilibrium. Then point 1 above would return us to equilibrium.

  3. In the event of three parties, the rules of Presidential election give a special advantage to the one controlling more states -- because in the case of a plurality (less than 50%) coming out of the electoral college, the election goes to the House, and the votes in the House are counted in per-state groupings. Thus far this seems to have created a strong disincentive against multi-party politics in the US.

And so, in the current era, the party of Molson has small states, and the party of Labatt has the large states.

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