Accountability, polarization, and federalism: Oversight during and after the COVID-19 pandemic*




Federalism, COVID-19, disaster response


The decision by the Trump administration to leave many of the policy decisions regarding COVID-19 to United States governors has had significant consequences for the management of the pandemic. During the COVID-19 response, the federalist approach has created complications in areas including resource acquisition, crisis communication, testing, and social distancing. Such issues have been magnified the differences between centralized and decentralized state public health systems. Governors have found themselves at odds with the Trump administration in regard to competing for vital equipment, signaling to the public the severity of the virus, and defining an adequate testing system. Many governors took bold action and acted in bipartisan cooperation with the governors of other states, often in the face of strong criticism and protests. The lessons learned from COVID-19 regarding the need for coordination at the national level must be documented for history. Rather than relying on state-by-state after-action reports, which separately could be become fodder for ideological debate, this commentary recommends a bipartisan, joint after-action report signed by state governors as a mechanism to preserve state experiences.

Author Biographies

Nathan Myers, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, MPA Program, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana

Tonya E. Thornton, PhD, MPPA

Principal, Delta Point Solutions, LLC, Port Republic, Virginia


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How to Cite

Myers, PhD, N., and T. E. Thornton, PhD, MPPA. “Accountability, Polarization, and Federalism: Oversight During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic*”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 19, no. 7, Oct. 2021, pp. 49-58, doi:10.5055/jem.0613.