This Article provides an account of Our Regionalism to supplement the many accounts of Our Federalism. After describing the legal forms regions assume in the United States--through interstate cooperation, organization of federal administrative agencies, and hybrid state--federal efforts--it explores how regions have shaped American governance across the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
In the years leading up to the New Deal, commentators invoked regions to resist centralization, arguing that state coordination could forestall expansion of the federal government. But regions were soon deployed to a different end, as the federal government relied on regional administration to develop its bureaucracy. Incorporating regional accommodations and regional organization into new programs allowed the federal government to expand its role in domestic policymaking. As interstate regionalism yielded to federal regionalism, the administrative state was propelled forward by a strategy that had arisen to resist it. Even as regions facilitated the expansion of the New Deal administrative state, however, the regional organization and argument that underpinned this development left room for state influence within federal programs and for new projects of multistate and joint state--federal governance. The century's next regional moment brought this potential to the fore, with regions brokering the resurgence of the states in Great Society programs.
In the early twenty-first century, new regional undertakings have been celebrated as fluid, nonhierarchical networks. Although the network metaphor has been exhausted, this characterization anticipates the emergence of "regionalism without regions": collaborations among multiple state and federal actors that need not involve contiguous areas. Just as regional improvisation has responded to governance challenges of past decades, this nascent development responds to today's polarized partisanship. It betokens both the revival and the transformation of the political sectionalism that has always informed American regionalism, even as it slipped behind an administrative veneer for much of the twentieth century.
INTRODUCTION 378 I. A TAXONOMY 383 A. Interstate Collaboration 384 B. Federal Administrative Divisions 388 C. Joint Federal-State Organization 392 II. FROM STATE TO NATION: PLANNING THE NEW DEAL 394 A. Regions Against the Federal Government 395 B. Regions Within the Federal Government 401 1. Accommodation 402 2. Administration 404 C. Sectionalism Versus Regionalism 409 III. FROM NATION TO STATE: MANAGING THE GREAT SOCIETY 415 A. Hybrid Administration 416 B. In Search of Intergovernmental and Interagency Coordination 422 IV. TOWARD A NEW POLITICS OF AREA 427 A. A Space for the Network 427 B. Regionalism without Regions 432 1. Contemporary Partnerships 433 2. From Sectionalism to Partisanship 436 CONCLUSION 440 INTRODUCTION
One Sunday in the spring of 2016, newspaper readers awoke to a new map of the United States. A country of seven brightly colored regions spread across two pages of the New York Times. (1) Although "American policy making remains wedded to an antiquated political structure of 50 distinct states," Parag Khanna wrote, the "reality" of the United States is regional. (2) Instead of focusing on Massachusetts, Kansas, and California, we should attend to the "natural" geographical and economic divisions of the country, including the Great Northeast, the Great Plains, and the Pacific Coast. (3)
One Sunday in the winter of 1930, newspaper readers likewise awoke to a new map of the United States. Announcing the winners of a contest to redraw the country's internal boundaries to be more "logical and scientific," the Chicago Daily Tribune published four regional renderings of the country. (4) Like Khanna nearly ninety years later, the prize winners argued that regions, not the extant forty-eight states, were the "natural" areas of geographical, economic, and civic unity around which to orient American governance.
The potential, and peril, of regionalism is periodically rediscovered in the United States. (5) Long after Founding-era proposals to have a tripartite sectional executive (6) and some sixty years after the Civil War, interest in the regional composition of the United States revived in the 1920s and 1930s. Policymakers, scholars, and artists lavished attention on regions--areas of the country encompassing all or part of multiple states that were understood to possess geographical, cultural, or political identity. Following a few decades of waning enthusiasm, regionalism reemerged in the 1960s and 1970s.
In the early twenty-first century, commentators and public officials are once more turning to regions. From environmental regionalism to immigration regionalism, education regionalism to economic regionalism, a range of proposals advocate new institutions or collaborations that would occupy the space "between state and nation." (7) Still others call to rehabilitate existing regional arrangements. (8) In regions, some find the possibility of solutions more comprehensive than those generally offered by states, while others find the possibility of solutions more diverse than those generally offered by the federal government.
Coexisting with these regional proposals are concerns about regionalism's "bad twin," sectionalism, and rancorous divisions within the country. (9) In the age of Brexit and serious (if still implausible) secessionist talk in the United States, (10) renewed anxiety about the divisive power of sectionalism haunts renewed excitement about the governance possibilities of regionalism. (11)
Such renewed interest makes this a fitting time to consider regionalism and the law. In many academic disciplines, regions have pride of place. They, more than the states, underlie American elegy, nostalgia, and expectation, as well as critical responses to these impulses. (12) In the law, we tend instead to focus on "Our Federalism," with its polarity of "State and National Government." (13) There is good reason for this. Regions captivate other disciplines in part because they lack precise institutional form. Without fixed boundaries, regions may seem more "real" than the artificial states, and the common tally of between three and twelve regions offers a more manageable way to parse the country than a fifty-state division. But without fixed boundaries, regions are hard places for law. (14)
And yet, regionalism has critically informed legal developments. Lacking set institutional form, but possessing cultural resonance as well as administrative utility, regions have been a resource for projects of state-building and for resistance to such projects. They have influenced how power flows to and within the federal government. In the words of Justice Felix Frankfurter, regionalism has perpetually posed--and variously answered--the question of "how a country that is a continent can be governed by organs that fairly represent its disciplined will and at the same time adequately evoke the diverse civilized potentialities of its people." (15)
This Article provides an account of "Our Regionalism," describing the legal forms regions assume in the United States and exploring how these forms have shaped American government over the past century. Regionalism has long been associated with state resistance to the federal government, but it has also been a potent tool of federal bureaucracy. If regional coordination has sometimes enabled states to compete with, or to repel the expansion of, federal administration, the federal government's own reliance on regional accommodation and organization has facilitated its entry into new policymaking spaces. Moreover, the relationship between states and the federal government within regions is dynamic: multistate collaborations frequently invite federal intervention, while regional federal administration gives states leverage in federal programs. When considering the critical influence of regionalism on Our Federalism, then, regions cannot be placed on either the state or the federal side of the balance.
The Article begins with an overview of contemporary regional governance. The perpetual rediscovery of regionalism might suggest that the regional form is scarce in the United States, but regions are already prominent in state, federal, and joint state--federal undertakings. To substantiate this claim, Part I provides examples as well as a simple taxonomy of interstate, federal, and hybrid regional governance.
Before returning to the present day, Parts II and III explore the twentieth century's two leading regional moments to show how the region was a critical resource for negotiating American federalism in times of administrative change. Part II describes regionalism's contribution to the New Deal administrative state. In the 1920s and early 1930s, regions were invoked to resist centralization. Commentators insisted that regions were authentic, organic divisions of the country as well as governance units that might repel expansion of the federal bureaucracy: if regional solutions could address problems that exceeded individual states' capacity, Washington would not need to intervene. But regions were soon deployed to a different end, as the federal government relied on regional administration to develop its bureaucracy. Incorporating both regional substantive accommodations and regional management structures into new programs allowed the federal government to expand its role in domestic policymaking.
The story was not a simple one of cooptation, however. Even as regions facilitated the expansion of the New Deal administrative state, the regional organization and argument that underpinned this development left room for state influence within federal programs as well as for new projects of multistate and joint state--federal governance. As Part III explains, the century's next regional moment brought this potential to the...