Rethinking presidential constructions of constitutional regimes : the inverse dynamics of leadership and historical context
- ABSTRACT This dissertation assesses the design and incentive structures that link the presidency to constitutional maintenance and renewal when extraordinary times occur, and posits that institutional power and historical context were priced into the presidency since its creation. This finding has robust implications for understanding the presidency's role in constitutional change, and in particular, the construction of constitutional regimes. Presidents are naturally drawn to the lure of constructing a constitutional regime by the nature of the office, as presidents want to constitutionalize their priorities from rival political interests in order to secure their legacy. Some fortunate presidents--aided by historical context--actually get the opportunity to do so. After providing a theory of the presidency's role within the constitutional order and its incentive structures, the study then builds upon these insights to construct a coherent model that assesses the dynamics between presidential leadership and historical context in the construction of constitutional regimes. The research finds that there exits an inverse relationship between the degree of constitutional change and the president's role in initiating it. The reason for this inverse dynamic is that extraordinary historical events crowd out the space typically reserved for executive leadership whenever they come to the fore. Conversely, the less extensive the degree of constitutional change, the greater that presidential leadership plays a role in the process. Reconstructive presidents are actually reactive at the level of constitutional politics despite the high praise political commentators offer to this most select group of presidents. Their presidencies' collective effects on constitutional change have been greatly aided--perhaps overwhelmingly destined for success at the constitutional level--due to exogenous factors beyond their control. The coalitional political shifts in electoral support seen during these transformative periods are just a by-product of massive historical events. Presidential leadership is important, but not in the actual initiation of the constitutional construction despite the institutional inclination of presidents to chart new paths. A reconstructive president chooses a set of principles, ideology, or commitments with which to define the content of the new regime in place, but his autonomy here is limited to providing a substantive constitutional vision, not the sort of initial decisive action typically associated with leadership efforts. If the analysis of presidents was confined to nameless, faceless institutional actors engaged in the quest for constitutional regime construction, the greatest difference between the efforts of similarly-situated presidents would be in the substantive content that each provided to his historic opportunity. Presidential greatness at the constitutional level would not be determined by unusual skill in turning a normal opportunity into a transformative one or in providing a constitutional opening where none was to be found. While the constitutional space opened by historical events crowds out the space for autonomous action by reconstructive presidents, the reverse is true for presidents with a more limited constitutional opening. Presidents constrained by contextual factors must exercise more extensive leadership skills in attempting any efforts to influence constitutional meaning. Since non-reconstructive presidents' openings are smaller, their efforts have to be much more exacting and tactical--even though their payoffs are irredeemably smaller than those of reconstructive presidents. Therefore, non-reconstructive presidents provide the elegance to the model of constitutional construction in that they show how presidential forays into constitutional politics exist within a continuum. Presidential leadership is more institutionally creative and, by necessity, more entrepreneurial, at the narrowest openings of constitutional space, while it is least in display--because less necessary--at the level of reconstructive politics where the constitutional space is broadest. The theoretical insight of this research therefore concludes that there exists an inverse relationship between presidential leadership and historical context in the construction of constitutional regimes.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Izquierdo, Richard Alexander
|Stanford University, Department of Political Science.
|Moe, Terry M
|Moe, Terry M
|Ferejohn, John A
|Ferejohn, John A
|Statement of responsibility
|Richard Alexander Izquierdo.
|Submitted to the Department of Political Science.
|Ph.D. Stanford University 2011
- © 2011 by Richard Alexander Izquierdo
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY).
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