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Summer 2003

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The national unity formed last year in response to terrorism soon vanished as more typical political infighting returned. Although overshadowed by the buildup to and the conduct of a second war against Iraq, political issues grounded in the nation's federal character contributed to a rise in divisiveness. The mid-term elections of 2002 and redistricting battles in several states drove partisanship to new heights. The continued sluggishness of the nation's economy also exacerbated interparty bickering. Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, yet some of the president's policy initiatives encountered more serious resistance in his own party than from the opposition. Many of the feuds within the majority party rested on state and regional interests typical of federalism politics. State and local governments remained trapped in the third year of a fiscal crisis, and even large reductions in expenditures did not extricate these governments from the financial fix. Despite their pleas, state and local officials were unable to obtain any significant relief from the federal government. Federal-state relations, as a consequence, exhibited more contentiousness than cooperation.


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. (2003). The state of American federalism, 2002–2003: Division replaces unity. Publius: The Journal of Federalism, 33(3), 1-44. is available online at: