The Promises and Pathologies of Presidential Federalism

Presidential Studies Quarterly (Forthcoming)

30 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2018

See all articles by Nicholas F. Jacobs

Nicholas F. Jacobs

University of Virginia

Connor M. Ewing

University of Toronto; University of Toronto

Date Written: April 2018


State and local politics have dominated the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. Despite promises to reinvigorate states’ rights both before and after his campaign, Trump has used the administrative powers of the modern presidency to pursue his policy agenda at the subnational level. From waiving certain provisions of federal programs, to filing lawsuits against states and localities, Trump has taken advantage of the opportunities crafted by his predecessors to use subnational politics for the presidency’s own ends. We place these nascent developments in historical and theoretical context to suggest that “presidential-federalism” at once signifies the continued strength and relevance of subnational governance, while providing occasions for further administrative aggrandizement. Trump, despite remaining highly unconventional in a number of ways, might further reinforce the presidency’s centrality to modern American federalism.

Keywords: Federalism, Executive, Constitution, Presidential Power

Suggested Citation

Jacobs, Nicholas F. and Ewing, Connor, The Promises and Pathologies of Presidential Federalism (April 2018). Presidential Studies Quarterly (Forthcoming). Available at SSRN:

Nicholas F. Jacobs

University of Virginia

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Connor Ewing (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8

University of Toronto ( email )

100 St. George St., Room 3018
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3

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