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The Presidency of the United States

2. Formal and Informal Powers of the Presidency

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we differentiate the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ powers of the US presidency. To begin with, we think about how the formal powers of the presidency written into the Constitution have shifted in meaning over time, focusing in particular on: (i) how the president’s status as ‘commander in chief’ expanded dramatically with the rise of the United States as a global superpower after the Second World War; and (ii) how the threat of the president’s power of veto can shape the content and framing of congressional bills. We then move on to think about the various ‘informal’ powers at the president’s disposal which have no explicit foundations in the Constitution, including: (i) the national mandate which the president and vice-president alone acquire from their elected offices; (ii) the highly-visible public platform provided by the office of the presidency that Theodore Roosevelt called the ‘bully pulpit’; and (iii.) the president’s status as leader of their political party.

Course

In this course, Dr Jon Herbert (University of Keele) thinks about the office of the Presidency of the United States, focusing in particular on the extent of the president’s powers. We begin in the first module by thinking about how the Founding Fathers set up the presidency in the Constitution as an office significantly constrained by checks and balances. Then, in the second module, we draw a distinction between the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ powers of the presidency, thinking in particular about how these have been expanded in recent decades. In the third module, we think about Richard Neustadt’s important thesis that the president’s authority lies in his (someday her) ‘power to persuade’ the various political institutions that comprise the ‘separation of powers’. Finally, in the fourth module, we examine Arthur Schlesinger’s ‘imperial presidency’ thesis which argued that, contrary to Neustadt’s model, the president was capable of bypassing the democratic checks an balances of the Constitution and maintain a direct hold on power.

Lecturer

Jon Herbert is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Keele. He specialises in the US Presidency, focusing in particular on the rhetoric of individual presidents and developments in US criminal justice policy.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Herbert, J. (2019, September 26). The Presidency of the United States - Formal and Informal Powers of the Presidency [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/the-presidency-of-the-united-states/formal-and-informal-powers-of-the-presidency

MLA style

Herbert, Jon. "The Presidency of the United States – Formal and Informal Powers of the Presidency ." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/the-presidency-of-the-united-states/formal-and-informal-powers-of-the-presidency

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