The Presidency

Components of an effective answer: A complete answer will accomplish three objectives: 1) define the central concepts and elaborate their important constituent features, 2) illustrate general points with specific examples or other empirical information (where such information exists), and 3) situate your overall response within the important themes of the course (why should someone care about this question?).


1) In his chapter, “The Evolution of the Presidency,” James discusses the tradition of executive prerogative and the doctrine of salus populi as two extra-constitutional sources of authority available to presidents seeking a broad interpretation of Article II’s vesting clause. What is the Article II vesting clause and how do these two Founding-Era resources aid presidents seeking greater independence and discretion in American politics?

2) What are the president’s emergency powers and in what political context was the concept first authoritatively declared. How have subsequent presidents employed and expanded upon the concept? (James article)

3) Contrast the treatment of executive power in the eras of “radical” and “conservative” republicanism. To what extent do the characteristics of the new American presidency established in 1789 draw from each republican strain?

4) Clarify the distinction between “interpretation” and “demagoguery” in the political thought of Woodrow Wilson. In comparison to other public offices, why does the presidency seem so well suited to these forms of popular leadership? (Tulis)

5) Jeffrey Tulis identifies two “constitutional presidencies”—an “old way” and “a new way” of exercising presidential leadership. What are the key differences that distinguish these modes of presidential leadership in Congress? In what way can Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign for the Hepburn Act be said to suggest an effective “middle way” model of presidential leadership?

6) In “The Faulty Premises of the Electoral College,” George Edwards III critiques several popular justifications for the retention of the Electoral College (EC). Two of these are the claims that the EC is “attentive to and protective of states’ interests,” especially small state interests, and that it is “an essential bulwark of federalism.” Summarize Edwards’ response to these two pro-EC propositions?

7) As the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016 demonstrates, it is possible for the most popular presidential candidate nonetheless to lose the general election in the Electoral College. Explain why such countermajoritarian outcomes are possible in the American system of presidential selection. Are such divergences between national vote totals and seat shares peculiar to Electoral College politics? Explain with reference to the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.

8) Describe the impact of the McGovern-Fraser reforms on the presidential nomination system. (Your answer should identify the essential features of the pre-reform nomination process for use as a baseline to assess change).

9) Describe the goals and the key elements of the campaign finance reforms of the early 1970s. Explain their impact on the dynamics of candidate campaigns for their party’s presidential nomination. How have “bundling” and SuperPACs affected both the goals of reform and the dynamics of campaign finance by primary candidates?

10) Explain the concept and significant features of “the invisible primary.” What has its impact been on the selection of party nominees in presidential primaries? How is this process distinct from the “visible” or “formal” primary? In what way is the emergence of the invisible primary related both to the emergence of the contemporary presidential primary process and to its frontloaded nature?

11) What is the “bandwagon effect” (or momentum) in the presidential primary process? What features of the primary system help account for this dynamic? How have candidates sought to minimize its impact? Your answer should include references to media coverage patterns, voter information processing, and “frontloading.”

12) Using the video “True Believers” as your source, identify and briefly discuss four factors that help explain Howard Dean’s rise to front-runner status in the period leading up to the start of 2004 presidential primary season. Identify and briefly discuss four factors that help account for its collapse.

13) What does Brendan Doherty mean by “the permanent campaign?” How do the practices of presidential fundraising and strategic travel illustrate this phenomenon and why have these practices increased over time? Who benefits from the permanent campaign and how does the allocation of benefits change over the course of a president’s time in office? What are the implications for governance that result from the permanent campaign?

14) Brendan Doherty writes that “[t]he geography of presidential fundraising does not follow the incentives of the “Electoral College.” Discuss. How do the characteristics of “strategic travel” differ when presidents are raising money and when they are pursuing votes? How do Republican and Democratic presidents differ in terms of states they neglect in the competition for votes? What do these differences reveal about the priorities of presidential travel?

15) In “The Presidency and the Nomination Process,” Lara M. Brown argues that crises of legitimacy and “candidate agency” are central variables propelling institutional change in the presidential nomination process. Explain with special attention to the congressional caucus system, the national party convention, and the modern presidential primary system. According to Brown, what are the some of the most salient candidate characteristics that mark the current system?