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Power without Persuasion

Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action

William G. Howell
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Power without Persuasion
    Book Description:

    Since the early 1960s, scholarly thinking on the power of U.S. presidents has rested on these words: "Presidential power is the power to persuade." Power, in this formulation, is strictly about bargaining and convincing other political actors to do things the president cannot accomplish alone.Power without Persuasionargues otherwise. Focusing on presidents' ability to act unilaterally, William Howell provides the most theoretically substantial and far-reaching reevaluation of presidential power in many years. He argues that presidents regularly set public policies over vocal objections by Congress, interest groups, and the bureaucracy.

    Throughout U.S. history, going back to the Louisiana Purchase and the Emancipation Proclamation, presidents have set landmark policies on their own. More recently, Roosevelt interned Japanese Americans during World War II, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, Johnson got affirmative action underway, Reagan greatly expanded the president's powers of regulatory review, and Clinton extended protections to millions of acres of public lands. Since September 11, Bush has created a new cabinet post and constructed a parallel judicial system to try suspected terrorists.

    Howell not only presents numerous new empirical findings but goes well beyond the theoretical scope of previous studies. Drawing richly on game theory and the new institutionalism, he examines the political conditions under which presidents can change policy without congressional or judicial consent. Clearly written,Power without Persuasionasserts a compelling new formulation of presidential power, one whose implications will resound.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-7439-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  6. 1 Presidential Power in the Modern Era
    (pp. 1-23)

    With box cutters and knives, nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial jets on the morning of September 11, 2001, and flew the planes into the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The South and North Towers in New York collapsed at 10:05 and 10:28 a.m., respectively. Fires in the Pentagon burned for another seventy-two hours. In all, over three thousand civilians (including several hundred New York City fire fighters and police) died in the attacks. The greatest terrorist act in U.S. history sent politicians scrambling. Not surprisingly, it was the White House that crafted...

  7. 2 A Formal Representation of Unilateral Action
    (pp. 24-54)

    In 1993, George Edwards, John Kessel, and Bert Rockman commissioned papers on the state of research on the American presidency. In the resulting edited volume, many of the authors extolled the benefits of rational choice theory. Terry Moe argued most forcefully: “Unlike at any time in the past, a powerful theoretical framework is now available to help us work our way toward an institutional theory of the presidency. This is an extraordinary opportunity for a field that has long found theory so elusive, an opportunity that presidential scholars should welcome and exploit” (1993, 356).

    A new generation of presidency scholars...

  8. 3 Bridge Building
    (pp. 55-75)

    The unilateral politics model highlights the essential features of unilateral action. The president acts alone at the beginning of the legislative process, and then Congress and the courts have opportunities to respond. At its heart, this is an institutional theory.

    In two steps, this chapter facilitates the transition from the unilateral politics model to the real-world politics of direct presidential action. The first section uses the model to interpret the elite-level politics of several examples of presidential policy making: Truman’s desegregation of the military, Reagan’s imposition of economic sanctions against South Africa, and Clinton’s attempt to ban the permanent replacement...

  9. 4 Theory Testing
    (pp. 76-100)

    Too often, the value we attribute to game theoretic models hangs on their intuitive appeal alone. Frequently, this is no fault of the modelers themselves: the equilibria they identify are simply too nuanced, too contingent to invite real empirical corroboration. Additionally, these theories, especially those having to do with lawmaking, often lack a dependent variable, making it virtually impossible to test them. Case illustrations therefore replace systematic analyses, and scholars are left at a loss when trying to determine how or when a theoretical insight might reveal larger trends in American politics.

    As the field of positive political theory has...

  10. 5 Congressional Constraints on Presidential Power
    (pp. 101-135)

    The unilateral politics model identifies the basic, and sometimes counterintuitive, dynamics of presidential policy making. The model explains why presidents unilaterally set policies that a majority within Congress may oppose. It specifies how changes within Congress (caused generally, though not exclusively, by elections) translate into either an expansion or contraction of executive discretion to act unilaterally. And it clarifies how these powers enable the president not only to set policies that Congress on its own accord would not pass, but also to undermine congressional efforts to enact laws that the president opposes.

    We repeatedly return to a basic theme about...

  11. 6 The Institutional Foundations of Judicial Deference
    (pp. 136-174)

    When the president takes independent executive action, what are the chances that the courts will overturn him? When deciding whether to issue an executive order, executive agreement, proclamation, or memorandum, need the president fear judicial interference? These questions go to the heart of our system of separated powers, for each president’s influence over public policy is critically affected by the checks that the judiciary places upon him.

    According to most legal scholars, everything depends upon the relevant facts of the case, prior court rulings, and whether Congress or the Constitution delegated the requisite authority for executive action. Should a congressional...

  12. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 175-188)

    For forty years, scholars have advanced basically two views on presidential power. The first traces back to Richard Neustadt and focuses on the personal qualities of individual presidents. Power is measured by each president’s skill, reputation, prestige, and unique ability to deploy these resources to persuade congressional representatives and bureaucrats to do things that he cannot accomplish on his own. Neustadt spawned an entire literature devoted to presidential leadership styles and personality types. And though the personal presidency literature’s influence is waning, Neustadt’s original formulation of presidential power remains conventional wisdom—presidents are powerful to the extent that they can...

  13. Appendix 1 Coding of Executive Orders
    (pp. 189-191)
  14. Appendix 2 Proofs of Propositions in the Unilateral Politics Model
    (pp. 192-195)
  15. Appendix 3 Identifying Congressional Challenges to Executive Orders
    (pp. 196-197)
  16. Appendix 4 Federal Court Challenges to Executive Orders
    (pp. 198-202)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 203-218)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-230)
  19. Index
    (pp. 231-240)