Bad for Democracy

Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People

Dana D. Nelson
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt9zk
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bad for Democracy
    Book Description:

    Dana D. Nelson goes beyond blaming particular presidents for jeopardizing the delicate balance of the Constitution to argue that it is the office of the presidency itself that endangers the great American experiment. This urgent book reveals the futility of placing all of our hopes for the future in the American president and encourages citizens to create a politics of deliberation, action, and agency.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6660-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction The People v. Presidentialism
    (pp. 1-28)

    IN THE RUN-UP TO THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, A BUSH administration offi cial memorably asserted to New York Times reporter Ron Suskind, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality judiciously, as you will we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Suskind’s article “Without a Doubt” framed this assertion as the administration’s assessment of Leftleaning intellectuals...

  4. Chapter 1 How the President Becomes a Superhero
    (pp. 29-68)

    WHAT MAKES PRESIDENTS—USUALLY AGING, AND NOT ALWAYS physically fi t, men—good models for action toys? Type “presidential action toys” into an Internet search, and you might be surprised at how many of our nation’s leaders have been fi tted out as action- adventure playthings. For example, BBI (Blockbuster, Inc.) proudly describes its Elite Force Presi dent George W. Bush action- fi gure toy:

    This limited- edition action fi gure is a meticulous 1:6 scale recreation of the Commander- in- Chief’s appearance during his historic Aircraft Carrier landing. On May 1, 2003, Presi dent Bush landed on the USS...

  5. Chapter 2 Voting and the Incredibly Shrinking Citizen
    (pp. 69-108)

    VOTING IS THE RIGHT MOST FREQUENTLY ASSOCIATED WITH U.S. democratic citizenship, and voting for the president is citizenship’s most frequently cited aim. Indeed, the story of U.S. democracy is often narrated as the history of suffrage: who got voting rights and when. Unpropertied white men first, then, after the Civil War, American men of African descent. Black women and white women got the vote in 1920, Native Americans and Puerto Ricans in 1924, citizens of Chinese descent in 1943. Finally, the voting age was lowered to eighteen in 1971, to match the age of Vietnam draftees, during an era of...

  6. Chapter 3 Presidential War Powers and Politics as War
    (pp. 109-144)

    THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE OZ INSISTED ON SUBORDINATION AND obedience to his commands. His dazzling media displays and intimidating style for a long time distracted his subjects from the actual powers of the little man running the show. He used his subjects’ power to consolidate his own reign, all the while encouraging their sense of dependency on him. Of course he believes his lust for power, and his desire to make his people cower before it, is all for their own good. But when he’s revealed to be a common man just like them, they discover that what they were...

  7. Chapter 4 Going Corporate with the Unitary Executive
    (pp. 145-182)

    THE MASSIVE AURA OF POWER THAT ACCRUES TO THE COMMANDER in chief does not seem to secure the power, efficacy, and legacy of individual presidents. Despite their successes at building powers for the presidency, both Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson left the office in a thick haze of disapproval over wars to which they’d unilaterally committed U.S. forces. And as George W. Bush moved toward the final phase of his second term, his job approval ratings took a worse dive than any president since Richard Nixon, which doesn’t bode well for his presidential legacy. Political scientists like Richard Pious call...

  8. Conclusion Reclaiming Democratic Power for Ourselves
    (pp. 183-222)

    IF THERE IS A REMEDY FOR THE THREAT I’VE DESCRIBED IN chapter 4, of the president overtaking democracy, it will have to come from all of us. As I’ve argued, we can’t just trust in the separated and balanced powers of our constitutional government to remedy this threat mechanically–like the swinging of a clock pendulum–for us. The Supreme Court is now only one vote short of a unitary executive majority, and Congress institutionally does not have a strong incentive to unite against presidential unilateralism unless the constituents of individual representatives are demanding it.

    Why should we work to...

  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 223-226)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-236)
  11. Index
    (pp. 237-264)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)