Scripted for Change: The Institutionalization of the American Presidency

Scripted for Change: The Institutionalization of the American Presidency

Scripted for Change: The Institutionalization of the American Presidency

Scripted for Change: The Institutionalization of the American Presidency

Synopsis

Without a doubt, the institution of the presidency today is quite different from the one that existed throughout the early part of the nation's history, despite only minimal revisions to its formal constitutional structure. The processes by which the institution of the presidency has developed have remained largely unexamined, however.

Victoria A. Farrar-Myers offers a carefully crafted argument about how changes in presidential authority transform the institution. Her analysis tracks interactions between the president and Congress during the years 1881- 1920 in three policy areas: the commitment of troops, the creation of administrative agencies, and the adoption of tariff policy.

Farrar-Myers shows that Congress and the president have in fact "created a coordinated script that provides the basis of precedent for future interactions under similar circumstances." Changes in presidential authority, she argues, "are the residual of everyday actions," which create new shared understandings of expected behavior. As these understandings are reinforced over time, they become interwoven into the institution of the presidency itself. Farrar-Myers's analysis will offer theoretical guidance for political scientists' understanding of the development of presidential authority and the processes that drive the institutionalization of the presidency, and will provide historians with a nuanced understanding of the institution from the period between the end of Reconstruction and the Progressive era.
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