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POLS650 - Federalism: The American Governance Process

Course Details

Course Code: POLS650 Course ID: 3569 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Graduate

This course focuses on the political, legal, financial, and administrative relationships among national, state, and local governmental units. Topics include the nature of federal and other political systems and the issues presented in each system at all levels; the evolution of the American federal system from its origins through present day; intergovernmental cooperation and conflict; and the various theory and concepts associated with a breakdown of responsibilities among federal, state, and local governments.

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
05/25/20 - 10/30/20 11/02/20 - 12/27/20 Fall 2020 Session I 8 Week session

Current Syllabi

Objective 1: Analyze various theories of federalism.

Objective 2: Examine historical Supreme Court cases on federalism.

Objective 3: Evaluate contemporary Supreme Court cases on federalism.

Objective 4: Apply the federalism policies of various presidents to contemporary American government.

Objective 5: Assess the historical and contemporary debates over nullification and veto.

Objective 6: Analyze the theory and practice of secession, from comparative and American perspectives.

Objective 7: Assess the relationship between federalism, liberalism, and conservatism.

Objective 8: Synthesize contending perspectives on the role of the federal government.

Class learning is evaluated on the basis of (a) eight weekly forums; (b) a 3000-word research paper; and (c) a final exam

Please see the student handbook for the University’s grading scale.


Students will write a 3000-3500 word paper on one of the following topics:

1. Explanations for the growth of government with an argument of which one is best supported by historical evidence.

2. A Supreme Court case and its effect on the federal balance:

  • Marbury v. Madison (1803)
  • McCullough v. Maryland (1819)
  • Hammer v. Danggenhart (1917)
  • National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation (1937)
  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
  • Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (1895)
  • Wickard v. Filburn (1942)
  • Schecter Poultry Corporation v. United States (1935)
  • United States v. Butler (1936)
  • Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority (1936)
  • West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish (1937)
  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Mapp v. Ohio (1960)
  • Gideon v. Wainwright (1962)
  • Baker v. Carr (1962)
  • Miranda v. Arizona (1965)
  • Furman v. Georgia (1972)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • National League of Cities v. Usery (1974)
  • United States v. Morrison (1980)
  • South Dakota v. Dole (1986)
  • US Term Limits v. Thornton (1994)
  • United States v. Lopez (1995)
  • Printz v. United States (1997)
  • Reno v. Condon (2000)
  • Bush v. Gore (2000)
  • Nevada v. Hibbs (2003)
  • Kelo v. New London (2005)
  • Gonzalez v. Raich (2005)
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2008)
  • McDonald v. Chicago (2009)
  • Arizona v. United States (2011)
  • National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012)
  • United States vs. Texas (2016)

3. A recent president’s style of balancing federal power with states.

4. An argument favoring or opposing federal supremacy over states’ rights.

All available online. See reading list in course outline.

Book Title:Various resources from the APUS Library & the Open Web are used. Please visit to locate the course eReserve.*

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.