Partisanship has become the dominant driver of social and political conflict in the United States and state-federal relations are increasingly conducted in the same vituperative style as Capitol Hill partisanship. This will have significant implications for the Trump administration’s policy agenda, according to a new research brief from the United States Studies Centre.

Honorary Associate Dr Sarah Graham looks at the policy areas of immigration, climate change and marijuana legalisation in her research to provide insight into how US state governments will determine the success of much of President Donald Trump's agenda in the years ahead.

"The implementation of critical components of the Trump administration’s policy agenda, and thus Trump’s overall legacy, depends to a significant degree on lawsuits now underway with many Democrat-led states. These decisions will also set important legal precedents for states’ rights," Dr Graham said.

"Immigration, environment and marijuana policy are currently the most prominent areas of disagreement between the states and the Trump administration, but new fault-lines could open up around issues such as tax, welfare, industrial relations, healthcare, and LGBT rights, depending on the directions taken by the Trump administration."

Key points

  • Because of the substantial policy autonomy and legal independence of American states, the outcome of state-federal conflicts will shape the Trump administration’s policy impacts and legacy, especially in areas such as immigration, the environment and marijuana legalisation.
  • The next Supreme Court appointee will play an important role in determining how a range of lawsuits – which contest the administration’s policy agenda – are settled.
  • Australia should focus on potential partnerships and common areas of concern with US states, rather than simply relying on diplomatic engagement with the White House and federal bodies.

View research brief

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