Distinguished Scholar in Residence Lecture: A User’s Guide to Progressive Federalism

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I want to start by thanking the extraordinary faculty of Hofstra Law School for this honor. It’s wonderful to be here, and you have treated me with extraordinary graciousness.

Today I’m going to offer you a “user’s guide” to progressive federalism. I should emphasize that while I’ll be attaching the word progressive to federalism, my main point is that federalism doesn’t have a political valence. We often associate federalism with conservatism, but that’s pure foolishness on our part. Federalism is a powerful weapon no matter what your political preferences. It can be a source of resistance and, more importantly, it can provide incentives for moderation in the long run. The reason I’ll talk to you today about “progressive” federalism is that, at least until the inauguration of President Trump, progressives have been pretty skeptical of federalism. If you are trying to convince people that states and localities play a useful role in our democracy, it’s progressives you have to win over.

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