Reinventing Leeway: The President and Agenda Certification

By Jones, Charles O. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Reinventing Leeway: The President and Agenda Certification


Jones, Charles O., Presidential Studies Quarterly


Presidents certify agendas in the separated system. They are unusually well placed to perform that function. They do it best when acknowledging and promoting leeway, a condition facilitating competitive speculation by fostering the initiation, advancement, and serious review of policy and political choices. I will maintain that reinventing leeway is essentially an exercise in capitalizing on the conspicuous features of separationism, a rite encouraged in post-World War II politics by the frequency of split-party government. Presidents during this time who declined the invitation to accept the signal importance of leeway in certifying agendas typically were compelled later to make adjustments. My argument will rightly be tagged as conservative and unconventional. Conservatively, it stresses the need for optimal display of the features of the separated system, both for purposes of refinement and reform. Yet, it refrains from habitual reproach of the separation of powers, with a flight then to various unitarian remedies, making it unconventional.

Thwarting Reform with Change

Separation of powers and federalism in a democratic polity are designed to reflect different interpretations of change and to resist root and branch reform. Variable forms of representation are featured--a president elected nationally for a four-year term, renewable once; senators elected singly from states for six-year renewable terms; representatives elected by decennially redrawn districts within states for renewable two-year terms; and throngs of state and local executives, legislators, and even judges elected for variable term lengths and limits. The result is a kaleidoscope of perspectives on any event with wide-ranging effects. Change then takes many forms as viewed from the variable sightings of short, long, or limited termers representing different constituencies. Policy making is hugely complicated by such an arrangement, but consciousness of interests and sensitivity to effects are surely facilitated.

A representational mix that promotes access is unlikely to ease unified lawmaking (see Cain and Jones 1989). Negotiated settlements through bargaining are more characteristic, with policy, law, or reform made through a series of approximations. Transactional leadership is valued, transformational leadership is typically frustrated, and charismatic leadership is actively thwarted. Hazlitt (1942), who judged that the American system of government was inflexible and possibly evil, nevertheless concluded correctly that, "We cannot force [our leaders] to cooperate with each other. We cannot select or remove them at will, but only at fixed intervals."(1) Leaderless is the label applied to the system by some. Hazlitt is nearer the truth in spotting many power holders with legitimate and independent claims to leadership. Seldom can their cooperation and acquiescence be muscled into place. And so, negotiating and bargaining skills are required, along with sensitivity to alternative and competing perspectives.

Is there a higher order or command to force integration toward a unity of goals or purpose? Are there times for combining that which is separated constitutionally, institutionally, and electorally? A direct and clearly definable threat from the outside is one such instance. Collective fear is unifying, and crisis has an ordering effect. Under those conditions, the president has the greatest opportunity to lead since crisis is thought to be best treated by hierarchy, and, at least organizationally, the president is situated atop an elaborate hierarchical structure (including his role as commander in chief of the armed forces). Even so, the constitutional distribution of powers requires the president to proceed in a consultative manner so as to maintain support for the decisions taken.

Elections, too, may sometimes appear to express a unity of purpose, although signals normally are more diffuse. Overwhelming one-party wins are rare and maintaining that strength through a presidency even rarer. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Reinventing Leeway: The President and Agenda Certification
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.