Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Succession of the President and the Vice President: Managing the Change

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

The Succession of the President and the Vice President: Managing the Change

Article excerpt


The origin of all civil government, justly established, must be a voluntary compact, between the rulers and the ruled, and must be liable to such limitations as are necessary for the security of the absolute rights of the latter for what original title can any man or set of men have, to govern others, except their own consent?

Our constitutional presidential succession is a peaceful revolution based on the consent of the governed. "Succession, therefore, implies not only the acceptance or act of choice of the successor, but a series of decisions to implement that choice. These in turn, involve not only a competition among possible power-holders, but an interaction between government and the governed. The fact of succession, whether those who are involved in it are aware of it or not, involves a renewal of the contract between the ruler and the ruled. The transactions which take place at this time become a point of departure for the maintenance or otherwise of the continuity of the political system" (Calvert, 1987:1).

This process of a newly elected public administration taking over the reins of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, traditionally referred to as the Presidential Transition, is the United State's unique solution to what history has shown to be the Achillesheel of continuity of national governance: the succession of national administrative leadership over time. "The problem of ensuring orderly political succession has been a matter of concern for political thinkers for many hundreds of years" (Ibid., 245).

Although previous presidential transitions have been described, the focus has been mostly on the personal power dynamics of the actors rather than the transition process itself. This article examines the transition process itself in order to provide a special view of how interdependent the governance spheres of politics, policy, and public administration are in the succession of government administrations. This article will not critique how well the 1992-1993 President Transition was conducted; there are already plenty of forums for that. Rather, it is intended to be a description of the presidential transition process that may serve to inform future candidates and help them improve the transition processes for themselves.

The presidential transition is a brief period of 78 days. In that time the newly elected candidate must prepare to take over the powers of running the Federal Government of the United States. It is a very short period, beginning with a frenzy activity on the part of the newly elected administration (the inners) in the throes of assuming the reins of power from the incumbent administration (the outers). However, from within, the political vision of the president-elect serves as a guide to move from the beginning election chaos, through developing the policy for change, and the inauguration of anew public administration. It is the mission of the candidates elected on November 4 and their core support advisors to bring substance to that vision through the transition processes in order to incorporate that vision in the new public administration beginning January 20th.

Spheres of Governance: A Model for the Presidential Succession

The presidential succession encompasses the three basic spheres of national governance in action: politics, policy, and public administrators themselves. The nation as a community is a political environment in which its public interest is confronted by constant changes in its common and collective needs. The national community encompasses all of the stakeholders who will be affected by any policy developed by the efforts of the government's administrators to implement policies for the community's benefit. It may be useful to look more closely at interest, as a word. It root forms (inter + ease) come from the Latin words for among and being respectively. With these roots in mind, public interest encompasses those things and events that are important to the continuity as a group as well as those things and events that are important to the community spirit. …

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