This article comments on National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976) and the role played by Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. It argues that the decision did not constitute any “return” to “constitutional federalism” and that, despite claims to the contrary, its inspiration came from the political goals of the Court’s conservative Justices. More specifically it argues that Justice Powell’s role was not influenced simply by contemporary critiques that undermined the “political safeguards of federalism” theory but, rather, that Justice Powell’s political views likely shaped both his understanding of the “political safeguards” thesis and his rejection of its conclusion that the courts should not enforce “constitutional federalism.” The article concludes by suggesting that, as a matter of history, the role of legal doctrines and principles, whatever their influence might be in any given case, cannot be evaluated without taking into account the ideological views and values of the Justices involved.