The Presidency in Contemporary Politics
In his classic work Presidential Power, Richard E. Neustadt observed that "the constitutional convention of 1787 is supposed to have created a government of 'separated powers.' It did nothing of the sort. Rather, it created separated institutions sharing powers." 1 This formulation encourages Neustadt to define presidential power as the power of persuasion.
When one man shares authority with another, but does not gain or lose his job upon the other's whim, his willingness to act upon the urging of the other turns on whether he conceives the action right for him. The essence of a president's persuasive task is to convince such men that what the White House wants of them is what they ought to do for their sake and on their authority. 2
Presidents have advantages in persuading their fellow shareholders in authority to support their attempts to apply power to social, economic, and political issues. But so do their shareholders--a fact that both creates the bargaining situation and sets its conditions.
In looking ahead to the 1960s, Neustadt expressed doubt that Congress would consistently support the president--any president. In fact, he predicted, "If ballot-splitting should continue through the Sixties it will soon be 'un-American' for president and Congress to belong to the same party."3 He foresaw a "fighting time." "Bargaining 'within the family' has a rather different quality than bargaining with members of the rival clan." 4
As it happened, ballot splitting did continue to characterize voting in the 1960s, but the Democrats were successful in controlling both branches for the first eight years of the decade. For two of the