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Choosing Conflict

Choosing Conflict

The Emerging State Challenge to Federal Power

(p.1) Chapter One Choosing Conflict
Conservative Innovators
Ben Merriman
University of Chicago Press

Conservative state-level executive officeholders devised a remarkably successful resistance to key Obama administration policies. This chapter describes the basic goals and commitments of those officials, as well as deeper historical processes that enabled their success. The officials studied in this book endorse familiar conservative goals: low taxation, limited regulation, and increased state control of policy. They pursued those goals through an innovative, improvisational combination of administrative and legal behaviors. Several circumstances made this possible. First, the long-term development of a cooperative model of federalism drove enormous growth in the relative power of state executive branches. Second, shifting judicial doctrines have increased scrutiny of the federal administrative state, and made it easier for states to sue the federal executive. Third, ideological and geographic polarization produced persistent single party control of most state governments, but routinely divided national government. Under these conditions, the Obama administration’s turn toward a unilateral, executive model of policymaking after the Tea Party mobilization left its major policies highly vulnerable to concerted state opposition. State executives could take an uncooperative stance in implementation or invoke a wide range of legal objections. Conservative ideological convergence and expanded state executive power, coupled with a galvanizing national opponent, simplified multistate cooperation.

Keywords:   Obama administration, Tea Party, polarization, federalism, cooperative federalism, conservatism, administrative law, administrative state, state government, executive power

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