The Idea of Presidential Representation: An Intellectual and Political History

The Idea of Presidential Representation: An Intellectual and Political History

by Jeremy D. Bailey


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Does the president represent the entire nation? Or does he speak for core partisans and narrow constituencies? The Federalist Papers, the electoral college, history and circumstance from the founders’ time to our own: all factor in theories of presidential representation, again and again lending themselves to different interpretations. This back-and-forth, Jeremy D. Bailey contends, is a critical feature, not a flaw, in American politics. Arriving at a moment of great debate over the nature and exercise of executive power, Bailey’s history offers an invaluable, remarkably relevant analysis of the intellectual underpinnings, political usefulness, and practical merits of contending ideas of presidential representation over time.

Among scholars, a common reading of political history holds that the founders, aware of the dangers of demagogy, created a singularly powerful presidency that would serve as a check on the people’s representatives in Congress; then, this theory goes, the Progressives, impatient with such a counter-majoritarian approach, reformed the presidency to better reflect the people’s will—and, they reasoned, advance the public good. The Idea of Presidential Representation challenges this consensus, offering a more nuanced view of the shifting relationship between the president and the American people. Implicit in this pattern, Bailey tells us, is another equivocal relationship—that between law and public opinion as the basis for executive power in republican constitutionalism. Tracing these contending ideas from the framers time to our own, his book provides both a history and a much-needed context for our understanding of presidential representation in light of the modern presidency. In The Idea of Presidential Representation Bailey gives us a new and useful sense of an enduring and necessary feature of our politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780700628155
Publisher: University Press of Kansas
Publication date: 07/23/2019
Series: American Political Thought
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jeremy D. Bailey is professor of political science and honors at the University of Houston. His books include Thomas Jefferson and Executive Power, James Madison and Constitutional Imperfection, and The Contested Removal Power, also from Kansas.

Table of Contents



1. The Presidential Representation in the 1780s

2. Jefferson's Federalists, Jackson's Whigs, and Lincoln's Democrats

3. The Progressives and Presidential Representation

4. The National Security Constitution and Presidential Representation at Midcentury

5. Reformed Democrats and Unitarian Republicans

Conclusion: Law and Opinion



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