Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Unilateral Orders as Constituency Outreach: Executive Orders, Proclamations, and the Public Presidency

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

Unilateral Orders as Constituency Outreach: Executive Orders, Proclamations, and the Public Presidency

Article excerpt

Scholarship on the unilateral presidency has focused on presidential policy making with the stroke of a pen, with attention placed on presidential executive orders (Howell 2003; Mayer 2001; Rudalevige 2012; Warber 2006), proclamations (Rottinghaus and Maier 2007), signing statements (Conley 2013; Kelley 2006; Kelley and Marshall 2010), and other directives. Many studies have shifted from merely describing these powers and their constitutionality to providing predictive models to explain institutional factors concerning when presidents issue unilateral orders. One tradition has assessed the legality of the president's executive order power (Cooper 1986; Fleishman and Aufses 1976; Marcus 1977; Mershon and Schlossman 1998; Morgan 1970; Raven-Hansen 1983; Wigton 1996). Another tradition has made use of longitudinal studies and major content analyses of unilateral orders. Such efforts have resulted in extending the traditional legal approach in presidential studies into the realm of a quantitative legal framework for assessing various dimensions of the unilateral presidency (Howell 2003; Mayer 2001; Warber 2006). These two frameworks have enhanced our knowledge about how presidents strategically use unilateral orders to pursue their policy agendas in order to build their legacies and to skirt the formal legislative process in Congress.

Despite a powerful and potentially dangerous use of unilateral orders by presidents to establish, implement, or direct public policy, presidents also use these orders for non-policy purposes: appealing to political constituencies. Indeed, Teten (2011) argues that even presidential unilateral directives have a public, rhetorical function. Both executive orders and proclamations, two prominent types of unilateral orders, frequently mention specific constituency groups, either to praise them, celebrate a unique milestone, or comment on the historical significance of these groups. A growing constituency demand, inability to meet expectations of the office, and the fragmentation of the New Deal coalition into atomized groups create an incentive for presidents to use their offices to appeal to individual constituencies in formal, high-level but "inexpensive" ways. That is, through executive action, sometimes with but often without congressional sanction, presidents can appease constituencies, attract new constituencies, or repay constituencies for past support, depending on their political circumstances. Similarly, despite the significant growth of research in this area, most studies have either focused on one type of unilateral policy tool or they have isolated these policy tools from each other during their analyses when assessing more than one such tool (but see Cooper 2002). However, the scope and use of individual unilateral orders is similar, especially considering their common roles in the public presidency, necessitating the joint study of multiple directives (see Kelley, Marshall, and Watts 2013).

Our research question seeks to link the unilateral presidency (where presidents issue unilateral directives as a means to establish, implement, and execute policy) with the public presidency (where presidents seek to lead and represent the public) by exploring the following research question: under what conditions do presidents issue executive orders and proclamations as part of their public presidency? As we noted above, studies on the unilateral presidency generally analyze one type of unilateral tool in isolation rather than exploring how presidents strategically use a variety of them in tandem. Likewise, the rise in the use of unilateral orders allows presidents to develop or preserve a direct connection to the public using the formal (and unilateral) means of the executive office. In this article, we focus on the president's constituency-based unilateral strategies and extend the literature on the conditions under which presidents use these types of orders. We seek to bridge research in the public presidency and unilateral presidency to better understand how presidents strategically use their unilateral tools to reach out to specific constituencies with executive directives. …

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