Interpreting Political Cartoons 4The Federal System In designing the Constitution, the Framers devoted great thought to the division of power between the federal government and the states. They created a system of division, called federalism, to promote the balance of power. Under federalism, they assigned responsibility for and control over social welfare programs, education, and personal freedoms. Historically, the division of power and duty has been unclear; federal, state, and local governments have each tried to shift their responsibilities to another level of government.
Federalism is an intrinsic part of our government system, mirroring the spirit of self-determination of the Constitution. The federal and state governments do depend upon each other, however, and must work together to meet the needs of their citizens. The powers of the state versus the powers of the nation will invariably continue to be a source of conflict.
The cartoon on this page gives one view of the federal system. Study the cartoon and answer the questions that follow.
Source: Cartoon by Mike Keefe, courtesy of dePIXion Studios, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
Analyzing the Cartoon
1. How does the cartoon demonstrate the conflict between the federal and local governments?
2. What does the limousine symbolize in the cartoon?
3. In the cartoon, what attitude is displayed by the federal government toward the local government?
4. How does the cartoonist portray the troubled conditions of the cities?
5. Why is the caption for the cartoon “Deadbeat Dad”?Critical Thinking
6. Why do you think the cartoonist chose to include a single mother surrounded by unhappy children in the cartoon?
7. What current social issue do the mother and children represent, and how is it related to the concept of federalism?
8. The tinted windows of limousines prevents outsiders from seeing in. Why do you think the limousine’s passenger would prefer not to make visual contact with the mother on the street?
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