Conditional Partisanship and Institutional Responsibility in Presidential Decision Making

By Spiliotes, Constantine J. | Presidential Studies Quarterly, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Conditional Partisanship and Institutional Responsibility in Presidential Decision Making


Spiliotes, Constantine J., Presidential Studies Quarterly


The study of presidential decision making strikes an uneasy balance between the parsimony of a particular presidential decision and the complexity of the organizational dynamics and political environment that shape that decision. Given this fundamental tension, and the potential scope of any model designed to fully represent the process, arriving at a generalizable understanding of presidential decision making is an especially vexing task. This undertaking is further complicated by the fact that presidential decision making varies substantially within and across administrations (Hult 1993). Simply determining what one means by presidential decision making and what unit of analysis to employ are difficult issues in themselves.

Given the myriad components of presidential decision making, how does one begin to generalize about the wide variety of decision-making systems and resultant outcomes visible across the presidential landscape? This article has a particular synthesis in mind. It will connect theory with two empirically rich case studies on economic policy making in the Eisenhower and Carter administrations to develop complementary notions of conditional partisanship and institutional responsibility. These concepts substantially account for the impact of strategic incentive-driven behavior and institutional constraints on presidential decision making. In doing so, the article considers the difficulties inherent in using rational choice as a link between presidential studies and political economy. In particular, the article demonstrates that rational choice assumptions about presidential behavior do not adequately explain empirical decision-making outcomes in political economy. The case studies provide a test of these assumptions and illustrate the need for a focus on the ways in which institutions constrain presidential response to exogenous incentives.

A fundamental cleavage (or tension) has emerged in the literature on presidential decision making in the past decade or so, one between decision making viewed as a function of presidential style and the same behavior posited as an interaction between political incentives and institutional structures. Shull (1999) provides a useful example of this tension; competing theoretical perspectives coexist uneasily in an end-of-the-century assessment of presidential decision making, as understood by almost two dozen leading presidency scholars. This article underscores the immense difficulty that scholars confront in attempting to move toward a more synthetic notion of presidential behavior.

Regarding the presidential-style approach, Moe (1993) notes that traditional notions of the presidency pass the institutional structures of decision making through a presidential filter (p. 346). The system is viewed as highly malleable, with its structures continually redefined by subsequent presidents, as a function of an individual president's personality, values, beliefs, background, and style; the president essentially fashions the structures of the institution in his own image. The result is a highly particularized (or perhaps balkanized) understanding of presidential behavior across administrations, one that is largely resistant to theoretical generalization. To the extent that the presidential-style approach is generalizable, it usually suggests that a president selects his decision-making apparatus from among a number of recognized types--formal, competitive, collegial, and so forth--as best meets his needs. Walcott and Hult (1995) have referred to this theoretical perspective (in the specific context of presidential advising) as a personal-contingency approach.

A number of scholarly works, written in the 1970s and 1980s, adopt this personal-contingency (or management-style) approach To understanding presidential decision making. For example, George (1980) employs a cognitive psychological approach to presidential behavior, defining it in part as a function of "character-rooted needs" and "psycho-dynamic patterns for adapting to stressful experiences" (p. …

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

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
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.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
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, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 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.

Cited article

Conditional Partisanship and Institutional Responsibility in Presidential Decision Making
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

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, 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."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.

    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.