chapter  9
Federalism and Conservative Governance after 1980
Pages 17

Liberal activism triggered growing opposition in the 1970s, and conservative Republicans rode this backlash into the White House in 1981. These conservatives inherited an active intergovernmental system of services and regulations led by the Federal government. Republican leaders like Ronald Reagan and his successors endorsed federalism in principal, but used both decentralization and centralized Federal government power strategically to turn this system toward their principal goals, to promote market-driven economic growth and traditional social values. In many ways, conservatives expanded Federal power and hemmed in the states. This period of conservative dominance encouraged a resurgence of state

policy leadership and policy innovation. States initiated major changes in anti-poverty, health, education, and environmental policy. The presidential administrations of Bill Clinton and GeorgeW. Bush sometimes used “waivers” to encourage state experiments that would produce outcomes they favored. These state innovations allowed both liberals and conservatives to advance their goals, and in turn allowed state interests to influence major changes in Federal policy.