Federalism &
 Honors 3030 &
   Political Science 3390

Professor Dave Robertson 
Office: 801 Tower; Phone 314-516-5855, Fax 314- 516-5855; e-mail:

Office Hours: 9:00-12:00 am Thursday; 10:30-11 am Monday & Wednesday; and other times can be easily arranged


Click here for a printable version of the syllabus



Though Americans rarely appreciate it, federalism has profoundly shaped their nation‘s past, present and future. Federalism – the division of government authority between the national government and the states – affects the prosperity, security, and daily life of every American. The most bitter and spectacular political conflicts in American history have been fought on the battlefield of federalism – over state‘s rights to leave the union, government power to manage labor and business, to institute political reform, and to initiate responses to problems of race, corporate autonomy, poverty, climate change, abortion, gay rights and many more.

This course traces the impact of federalism on American life and politics since the Constitution. It emphasizes that federalism has been used as a political weapon to shape every major political conflict in American history. It also emphasizes that federalism‘s impact on American politics, policy and life has developed cumulatively over time. Drawing on the perspective of American Political Development scholarship (or APD), it emphasizes that past choices shape present circumstances, and that a deep understanding of American government, public policy, political processes and society requires an understanding of the key steps in federalism‘s evolution in American history.

Our Contract.  By enrolling in this course, you and I have agreed to a contract with each other.  l'll work hard to be prepared, enthusiastic, fair and respectful of every student and their opinions.  I'll be accessible and try my best to return graded materials after no more than a week.  By enrolling in the class, you've agreed to (1) attend every class, (2) to participate by asking questions and joining in class discussions, and (3) reading the assigned material and completing written assignments on time.  Of all the consumer purchases you make, don't let your University of Missouri education be the one expensive purchase where you expect less for your money.


There are 4 important sources of readings. The most important text for the course is draft of the book, Federalism and the Making of America.  I will provide you with printed versions of the chapters of this manuscript.

There are two purchases required for this class. They are available at the UM-St. Louis bookstore. 

Finally, a number of assigned readings are .pdf files located on My Gateway - Course Documents. Prior to class, you must read these files online or print them and read hard copies.


Yes. This is a seminar course depends on the discussion of course readings.  Attendance is required, and I will record it. You are expected to participate in all seminar sessions and to contribute thoughtful and informed questions and comments to the discussion. If you do so you will receive an "A" for this part of the grade. Remember, this seminar will succeed only to the extent that you participate. Its success depends on you.

Your reading assignments are listed on the attached class schedule. I expect you to have read the material before coming to class, and that you will be prepared to discuss it. In advance of each class, I will distribute handouts with discussion questions for that session.

I would prefer not to use quizzes, but if you are not prepared to discuss the readings in class, I will implement quizzes.

4. GRADING  The grade for the course will be determined in the following way:

            Participation:          20% of the final grade           
            Journal:                  20% of the final grade
            Exam                     25% of the final grade
            Paper:                    25% of the final grade

NOTE: You are not are NOT competing with other students for a grade. There is no curve in this course. Each student can get an A, or can get a D. It's up to you.


You will keep a Federalism Journal during the semester. Each week, you'll read 1 magazine or newspaper story about relations between the national government and the states, or the states among each other.  You also may read an editorial, a historical article (from the New York Times or Time magazine archives, for example), or an extended blog entry).  Every two weeks, you'll hand in a notebook in which you have two entries.  Each entry should spend no more than one paragraph summarizing the main points of one story, and at least on paragraph reacting to it by exploring its significance for understanding the federalism (not just an individual state).  Actively use ideas from course discussion and readings, and apply them in your reactions.  

The object of this journal is to develop three of your critical thinking skills: 1), your ability to summarize succinctly exactly what someone else is saying; 2) your ability to connect material from outside the course to the key themes of the course; and 3) to provide a cogent, reasoned response to the information you read. Each entry should be about two paragraphs: one paragraph to summarize the article, editorial, or opinion piece, and one paragraph to react to it.  Again, you will write about  one entriy a week, two entries in all for each submission, or a total of 10 entries. You will hand in the journal about every other week until the late April. the journal is due on September 8, September 22, October 6, October 20, November 3, and November 17. Please leave room for comments after each entry.  Each time you hand in the journal, please include all the previous entries and comments. The best way to include everything is in a thin spiral notebook.  LATE JOURNALS lose 1 point a day.

The journal assignment will require you to pay closer attention to developments in federalism this semester. You can do this by reading the New York Times, available on campus for free.  Governing is a magazine that covers American federalism, and Publius is a political science journal that deals with federalism from an academic perspective.   I urge you to think creatively, choosing historical topics, or important Supreme Court cases, or interesting philosophical problems. Whatever your interest -- the arts, social justice, strengthening free markets, issues like abortion or gay marriage -- there are robust discussions about the role of the states and the relationship of the states and the Federal government. 

You will be graded on (1) demonstrated effort and research, (2) thoughtfulness and creativity, (3) effective execution (good writing).

6. THE FEDERALISM RESEARCH PAPER. This is a conventional research paper on a topic on federalism that interests you.  You can look at contemporary U.S. policy and its relationship to federalism; federalism in political theory; or federalism in other nations. Topics should be arranged with me by September 20 at the latest, when you turn in a written topic statement of about 1 paragraph. An annotated bibliography and an outline are due on October 20. The paper is due on December 1.

7. THE FINAL EXAM. There will be a take home final exam. You will have the questions in advance, and you will have a week to compose your answers. It is due Monday, December 14.

8. PLAGIARISM. Plagiarism means taking the written ideas of someone else and presenting them in your writing as if they were your ideas, without giving the author credit.  Plagiarism (a word which comes from the Latin word for kidnapping) is deceitful and dishonest.  Violations that have occurred frequently in the past include not using quotation marks for direct quotes and not giving citations when using someone else's ideas; using long strings of quotations, even when properly attributed, does not constitute a paper of your own.  Plagiarism in written work for this class is unacceptable. The University's Student Conduct Code classifies plagiarism as a form of academic dishonesty.  Depending on the severity of the plagiarism, punishment can include receiving no credit for the assignment, failing the course and referral for university disciplinary action.



Daily Assignments


August 23 (Monday):     Introduction

August 25 (Wednesday): Federalism as a Battleground


August 30 (Monday):  The Stakes 

September 1 (Wednesday):  Origins


September  6 (Monday): Labor Day; Class does not meet

September  8 (Wednesday):  Constitution


September 13 (Monday): Politics: Political Parties

September 15 (Wednesday): Politics: Interests


September 20 (Monday): Race, 1789-1954

September 22 (Wednesday): Race, 1954-Present


September 27 (Monday):  Building Capitalism

September 29 (Wednesday): Building Capitalism


October 4 (Monday):  Progressivism

October  6 (Wednesday): New Deal


October 11 (Monday): Liberalism

October  13 (Wednesday):   Liberalism


October 18 (Monday): Conservatism

October  20 (Wednesday): Conservatism 


October  25 (Monday): Bush and Obama

October  27 (Wednesday): The Courts


November 1 (Monday): The Resurgent States

November 3 (Wednesday): Money


November  8 (Monday):   Control & Democracy  

November  10 (Wednesday):   Police and National Security


November 15 (Monday):  Education 

November 17 (Wednesday): Welfare 

November 22-24        Thanksgiving Break - Class does not meet


November 29 (Monday): Health Care  

December  1 (Wednesday)Environment


December   6 (Monday): Social Issues

December  8 (Wednesday):  Conclusion 


December  15 --- FINAL EXAM DUE at 5:00 pm