Federalism is the division of a territory into states or units. Certain powers are devolved to each state to some degree, in parallel with the powers of the central government. Many important political thinkers believe federalism is essential for a democracy to function properly.
Federalism supports meaningful democratic change
Federalism a pure form of democracy. It allows people to participate in a way that is meaningful to them on a local level. The wants and needs of individual groups can be better served by a combination of a central and regional government.
Small regions can best govern their own affairs
Individual states or regions better understand their own problems and are better equipped to deal with them than strong central governments. The central government is more able to deal with pressing national concerns when it does not have to deal with the minutiae of local politics.
Individual voters are more likely to see their views represented on the local level. It is easier for individuals to take an active role in politics because there are more smaller bodies of government for interested individuals to get involved with.
In a federal system, majority groups cannot overwhelm smaller groups across the nation who hold minority views. Federalism maximizes individual freedoms. Legislation can change more quickly and be more flexible from region to region.
Individuality, ethnicity, and unusual ideas can be safeguarded by a federal government. Uniform policy frequently creates conflict. When regional autonomy is respected this conflict can be avoided.
Contentious issues can be decided on a local level
Issues that would otherwise cause huge rifts in the electorate can be decided by individual regions instead. Tensions may be diffused by taking power out of the central government's hands when deciding difficult issues.
Local cultures and customs can be protected by federalism
Multi-ethnic and multi-cultural states are able to preserve local customs, languages, and traditions with powerful regional governments. Modern multi-ethnic federalist democracies have proved to be surprisingly stable. Federalism is a deterrent to the breakup of sovereign states.