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Two Presidents Are Better Than One

Two Presidents Are Better Than One: The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch

David Orentlicher
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfv31
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    Two Presidents Are Better Than One
    Book Description:

    Can Orentlicher be serious in calling for a plural executive? The answer is yes, and he presents thoughtful and challenging arguments responding to likely criticisms. Any readers who are other than completely complacent about the current state of American politics will have to admire Orentlicher's distinctive audacity and to respond themselves to his well-argued points. - Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance In this refreshingly provocative book, David Orentlicher explains why it is due time for us to reconsider dominant ideas about the presidency, now arguably our most powerful political institution. - William E. Scheuerman, Indiana University When talking heads and political pundits make their What's Wrong with America lists, two concerns invariably rise to the top: the growing presidential abuse of power and the toxic political atmosphere in Washington. In Two Presidents Are Better Than One, David Orentlicher shows how the imperial presidency and partisan conflict are largely the result of a deeper problem - the Constitution's placement of a single president atop the executive branch. Accordingly, writes Orentlicher, we can fix our broken political system by replacing the one person, one-party presidency with a two-person, two-party executive branch. Orentlicher contends that our founding fathers did not anticipate the extent to which their checks and balances would fail to contain executive power and partisan discord. As the stakes in presidential elections have grown ever higher since the New Deal, battles to capture the White House have greatly exacerbated partisan differences. Had the framers been able to predict the future, Orentlicher argues, they would have been far less enamored with the idea of a single leader at the head of the executive branch and far more receptive to the alternative proposals for a plural executive that they rejected. Analyzing the histories of other countries with a plural executive branch and past examples of bipartisan cooperation within Congress, Orentlicher shows us why and how to implement a two-person, two-party presidency. Ultimately, Two Presidents Are Better Than One demonstrates why we need constitutional reform to rebalance power between the executive and legislative branches and contain partisan conflict in Washington.David Orentlicheris Samuel R. Rosen Professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. A scholar of constitutional law and a former state representative, David also has taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago Law School. He earned degrees in law and medicine at Harvard and specializes as well in health care law and ethics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2468-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    Weary after eight years of George W. Bush and Republican leadership, Americans voted in a big way for change in 2008. A strong economy had been shattered by the Great Recession, and U.S. troops had suffered thousands of casualties in two wars that yielded imperceptible gains for national security. The public believed it could restore peace and prosperity by sweeping out the GOP and bringing back the Democrats. Barack Obama won a resounding victory for the presidency, with two-thirds of the electoral vote, and Democrats gained dominant majorities in the House and Senate.

    Two years later, with the economy still...

  5. 2 A two-person, bipartisan executive
    (pp. 22-38)

    If the United States adopted a two-person, bipartisan executive, how would the two presidents be nominated and elected, and how would they share presidential responsibilities and White House office space? Who would be in charge in the event of an emergency? This chapter answers these and other questions about the structure of a two-person presidency.

    Under a two-person presidency, there would be a doubling in the number of presidents, but most of the current features of the presidency would be retained. Voters would elect two presidents from two different political parties every four years, and each of the presidents would...

  6. 3 The problem of the imperial presidency
    (pp. 39-87)

    When the constitutional drafters considered the possibility of excessive power in one of the branches of the national government, they worried not about the executive branch but about the legislative branch. As James Madison wrote about the legislature in Federalist 48, “it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust all their precautions.”¹

    Madison identified multiple concerns with the legislative power: Because the Constitution grants Congress powers that are more extensive and less bounded by precise limits than those of the executive or judicial branches, Congress is in a...

  7. 4 The problem of partisan conflict
    (pp. 88-143)

    As discussed in chapter 3, the U.S. constitutional structure has not been able to cabin the power of the presidency. Although the framers worried about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, and designed a system to ensure an appropriate balance, they did not leave the United States with the intended balance. The decision to adopt a one-personpresidency has contributed to the development of an imperial presidency.

    This chapter considers the failure of the framers to adequately protect against partisan conflict. Here too the framers anticipated the problem, and here too they misjudged the future. Politics...

  8. 5 A bipartisan executive and presidential decision making
    (pp. 144-170)

    In chapters 3 and 4, I argued that a two-person, coalition presidency would compensate for the Constitution’s failure to cabin the power of the executive branch or contain partisan conflict in Washington. There is a third key argument for a presidential partnership—two heads are better than one. Experience with decision making in other settings demonstrates that we get better results when we have shared decision making. Two presidents likely would come to wiser, more prudent judgments than single presidents. Shared decision making also makes for a better process. As discussed in the next chapter, a coalition executive would ensure...

  9. 6 Representation for the public in Washington
    (pp. 171-190)

    Many scholars have criticized the “winner-take-all” nature of presidential elections in the United States. Whether the most successful candidate secures 43 percent (Bill Clinton in 1992) or 61 percent (Lyndon Johnson in 1964) of the popular vote, whoever receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College gains 100 percent of the executive power. The runners-up are left with nothing.¹

    Winner-take-all elections therefore suffer from a failure to provide real representation to substantial numbers of voters, particularly those from third parties.² It is virtually impossible for a Libertarian or Green Party candidate to muster enough votes to come in first....

  10. 7 The prospects for adopting a two-person presidency
    (pp. 191-204)

    There are good reasons to doubt the possibility of the United States adopting a two-person presidency. In the more than 220 years since the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the United States has adopted only seventeen amendments to the Constitution. Moreover, the desire for a decisive leader who can act with dispatch not only was important to the framers of the Constitution but also has been important to members of the public since then. Shared leadership in the political and corporate worlds may be the norm in parts of western Europe, but not so in the United...

  11. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 205-208)

    The problems of the imperial presidency and partisan conflict have plagued national politics in the United States for decades, and despite persistent concerns about the problems, they only are getting worse.

    Presidents from both sides of the political aisle press for an expansive executive authority, even when they come into office after criticizing their predecessors’ claims of presidential power, and they have taken steps to assert ever more presidential control over the policy making that occurs in the federal government. The founding fathers may have misgauged the extent to which members of Congress would champion the institutional interests of the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 209-258)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-278)
  14. Index
    (pp. 279-291)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 292-292)