After the GOP sweeps of 2010 and 2014, President Obama was left with a hostile Republican Congress and few avenues to pursue the progressive political agenda at the national level. So, USA Today claims, he shifted his administration’s domestic policy focus to the local level, reaching out to Democratic Mayors and city councils to push minimum wage laws, paid sick leave, and other progressive policies:
“At least six major cities—Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., and Washington, D.C.—have passed paid sick leave laws in the four months since Obama called for state and local action in this year’s State of the Union Address. Since the 2013 address when Obama called for an increase in the minimum wage, 17 states and six major cities have taken action, including Los Angeles last week.
Obama’s state-and-local strategy may be unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Though previous administrations have appointed top advisers to listen to concerns of state and local officials, the Obama White House appears to be the first to aggressively use those same channels to encourage them to adopt Obama’s policies.”
In general we remain deeply skeptical that the remedies for the problems of a growing 21st-century information economy are to be found in the blue model policies of the past. (And we’re skeptical that the red model has all the answers too.) But we would much rather see this kind of local experimentation than more attempts to impose a one-size-fits-all model on the entire country. The essence of federalism is the division of authority between different levels of government.
Illinois, California, and New York have arguably doubled-down on blue model liberalism in recent years; Texas, Kansas and Georgia are experimenting with low-regulation, business-friendly red model governance; some states like Ohio have dipped their toes into purple waters, and others into waters of an entirely different color. What works? What doesn’t? We will continue to keep tabs on America’s laboratories of democracy.