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The Birthplace of America’s New Progressive Era

At a time of rising inequality, White House tweet storms, and deepening political gridlock in Washington, DC, it is easy to think that the decline of American democracy is inexorable. And yet, as in the early twentieth century, states like California are embracing their constitutional role as laboratories of reform.

BERKELEY – Since the end of 2014, we have been advocating a model of US governance based on the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Increasingly, California has been exercising these constitutional rights.

Until recently, state and local governance seemed quaint and uninteresting. Most pundits covering the 2016 US presidential campaign simply assumed that Democrats would win the White House and possibly both houses of Congress, allowing them to pursue a national progressive policy agenda and to appoint Supreme Court justices.

History did not unfold as predicted. But if there is any silver lining to the past two years of gridlock at the federal level, it is that progressive federalism – that is, state-based and state-led reform – has become all the more appealing.