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Summer 2007

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Demarcations and assessments of particular periods of American federalism typically focus attention on national–state relationships, and ignore the independent activities of the 50 states. Labels applied to a period are often based on the federalism stance taken by a president. One can think of Lyndon Johnson's “creative federalism,” Richard Nixon's “new federalism,” and Ronald Reagan's “new, new federalism.” President George W. Bush, unlike some of his recent predecessors, has not proclaimed his own distinct vision of federal relationships, and consequently efforts to describe and assess the character of federalism during his administration must rely on a review of policy actions (or inactions). Because a sole focus on national–state relations ignores the ability of state governments, either singly or in combination, to adopt policies different from those of the federal government, it is also necessary to examine this independent policy activism as part of any assessment of an era in American federalism.

This article begins with a discussion of state government response to the centralizing thrust of Bush policy proposals and his reversal of his party's previous stance supportive of states’ rights. To capture more fully the condition of federalism during the Bush presidency, the analysis then moves to an examination of independent policy action by state governments, or what Elazar (1972, 174) termed “federalism without Washington.” The essay concludes with an effort to explain how and why the “middle tier” in American federalism has been so assertive during the George W. Bush presidency.


This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Publius: The Journal of Federalism following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Krane, D. (2007). The Middle Tier in American Federalism: State Government Policy Activism During the Bush Presidency. Publius: the Journal of Federalism, 37, 3, 453-477 is available online at: