How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency (Haney Foundation Series)
Saladin M. Ambar
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
A governor's mansion is often the last stop for politicians who plan to move into the White House. Before Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, four of his last five predecessors had been governors. Executive experience at the state level informs individual presidencies, and, as Saladin M. Ambar argues, the actions of governors-turned-presidents changed the nature of the presidency itself long ago. How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency is the first book to explicitly credit governors with making the presidency what it is today.
By examining the governorships of such presidential stalwarts as Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, political scientist Ambar shows how gubernatorial experience made the difference in establishing modern presidential practice. The book also delves into the careers of Wisconsin's Bob La Follette and California's Hiram Johnson, demonstrating how these governors reshaped the presidency through their activism. As Ambar reminds readers, governors as far back as Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who ran against Rutherford Hayes in the controversial presidential election of 1876, paved the way for a more assertive national leadership. Ambar explodes the idea that the modern presidency began after 1945, instead placing its origins squarely in the Progressive Era.
This innovative study uncovers neglected aspects of the evolution of the nation's executive branch, placing American governors at the heart of what the presidency has become—for better or for worse.
not obscure the ways in which Wilson’s governorship, like TR’s, meant much to the stream of modern innovations that would flow into the presidency. His use of rhetoric, directly speaking to voters—and at times openly encouraging dissent with the less progressive wing of his party—became part of a new executive manner. Not all presidents (or governors, for that matter) would employ it, but those who did quickly became pacesetters of modern executive leadership. As Theodore Lowi has noted, Wilson’s
governorship, Roosevelt was nonetheless compelled to pay homage to what had come to be known interchangeably as the “Wisconsin Idea” and the “La Follette School” of political thought. It was “Fighting Bob” La Follette who had a generation earlier personified the core tenets of progressive executive philosophy in Wisconsin. His was an avowedly executivecentered leadership—above party, plebiscitary in nature, and fiercely populist. Before Woodrow Wilson crossed the implicit line of constitutional
pandering when he told his Milwaukee audience, “Out here in Wisconsin you do not merely protest against the teachings of the present order, you set out to correct them. You put your ideals into circulation. You set up standards to which liberals in all States have found it profitable and inspiring to repair.” Indeed, Roosevelt claimed La Follette’s distant tutelage of him began as early as his Harvard years. It was an instruction in liberal public policy and executive-based party leadership.
captures the challenge of granting so much in the way of emergency power to the president, under the faulty notion that citizens can somehow remain unaffected and yet disconnected from the vagaries of personalist leadership. “What kept a strong President constitutional, in addition to checks and balances incorporated in his own breast,” instructed Schlesinger, “was the vigilance of the nation.” “Neither impeachment nor repentance would make much difference if the people themselves had come to the
Introduction than an historic or institutional one. The executive as category, in short, is missing. Beyond the adoption of informal power, the modern presidency has also come to mean the institutionalization of the office of president. The growth of its bureaucracy, aura of personal and prerogative power, and overall importance as an agency for perpetual emergency management, mark today’s presidency as decidedly different from what went before it. Richard E. Neustadt’s mid-twentieth-century