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Introduction: U.S. Presidency


Dear student,

You have successfully enrolled in The Ordinary University. Congratulations! Few have dreamed of this day, but many have achieved it!

As noted yesterday by Chancellor R. Tod Kelly, the first course on your schedule will be “The Presidency: An American Tyranny Two Centuries in the Making?” (or “Thanks a lot, Obama!”), offered through OU’s School of Asocial and Misbehavioral Sciences.

Following is the syllabus. The first lecture will be posted tomorrow, and I will try to post a new one each Monday, my real-life schedule permitting. The readings I use here are the same as I use in my for-real/for-credit Presidency course. When they are available on-line I will link to them. If you’re interested in the actual books, I have linked to a source for (relatively)inexpensive used copies. But I will do my best to explain them well enough that you can profit from this course without buying them.

The Ordinary University—Syllabus for U.S. Presidency

The two main books are:

  • Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced, by Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg. (buy cheap)
  • The Presidency and the Political System, Michael Nelson, ed. (buy, but not exactly cheap)

Schedule (subject to change without notice):
A. Historical Background
1. The Presidential Debate of 1787.
– Federalist Papers 69 and 70.
– Anti-Federalists 67, 70 & 74.

2. The 19th Century Presidency (“We Are the Mediocre Presidents”).
– Chapter 2, “Choosing Presidents,” of Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced, by Crenson and Ginsberg.

3. Re-envisioning the Presidency as the Tribune of the People
– “Woodrow Wilson and the Defense of Popular Leadership,” Chapter 9 in The American presidency: Origins and Development, 1776-2007, by Sidney M. Milkis, Michael Nelson. (buy cheap)
– “The Two Constitutional Presidencies,” Jeffrey Tulis, in The Presidency and the Political System

4. Institutional Change and the Modern Presidency–From Conventions to Primaries.
— “The Presidency and the Nominating Process,” by Lara Brown, in The Presidency and the Political System (ed. Nelson).
— Portions of chapters 3, 4 and 5 and 7 in Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced.

5. Institutional Change and the Modern Presidency–Growth in Executive Powers.
– Crenson & Ginsberg pp. 15-28 of chapter 1, and chapter 5.

6. The Institutional Presidency
– “The Institutional Presidency,” John Burke, in The Presidency and the Political System.
– “The Presidency and the Bureaucracy: The Levers of Presidential Control” David Lewis and Terry Moe, in The Presidency and the Political System.

7. The Impossible Demands of the Office
– “The Powers of the Presidency,” in The American Presidency, Clinton Rossiter. (buy cheap)
– “The Presidency and Its Paradoxes,” Thomas Cronin (Full article a href=“http://polis.wikispaces.com/file/view/Paradoxes+of+the+American+Presidency.pdf” target=“_blank”>here, list of paradoxes without explanation here.)

B. The Presidency in the Political System
8. Presidents and their Parties
– “The Presidency and Political Parties,” Sydney Milkis, in The Presidency and the Political System.

9. Congress and the Presidency
– “The President and Congress,” Matthew Dickinson, in The Presidency and the Political System.

10. The Presidency, the Press, and Spectacle
– “The Presidency and the Press: The Paradox of the White House Communications War” Lawrence Jacobs, in The Presidency and the Political System.
– “The Presidential Spectacle,” Bruce Miroff

C. The Imperial Presidency: Unchecked and Unbalanced
11. Presidential Selection
– “Making the President Imperial,” (Crenson & Ginsberg) Presidential Power: Unchecked and Unbalanced
– “The Presidency and the Nominating Process,” Richard Pious, in The Presidency and the Political System.

12. The Imperial Presidency
“The Runaway Presidency,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
– “The Presidency and Unilateral Power, Andrew Rudalevige, in The Presidency and the Political System.

13. The Presidency and War
– “The Presidency at War,” Andrew Polsky, in The Presidency and the Political System.
“The Clinton Theory of the War Power,” (David Gray Adler)

14. Concluding Thoughts
[Logo by Johanna.
Mascot information is here.]

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48 thoughts on “Introduction: U.S. Presidency

  1. First, awesome that this is up! I am really excited.

    Second, I just want to remind everyone who recommended the tarsier!

    Third, there appears to be a problem with the links in the post.


  2. I forgot that we had chosen the Tarsier as our mascot. In my mind, I had lodged the memory of being the Fighting Betta Fish. But then, I voted and didn’t have a chance to follow up or lobby, so I suppose that’s what I get out of the political process for my apathy.

    …Huh? Whazzat? The President? Yeah, thanks a lot, Obama!


  3. How are older editions of The Presidency and the Political System? abe.com has dozens of used copies of those for less than five bucks.

    (Disclaimer: I am not associated with abe.com other than spending enough money there to singlehandedly keep them afloat.)


      • the “presidency” is the constitutive apex of constructed american political identity, neither separate nor superceding, but immanent in the electoral discourse and the day-to-day contingent decisions of s/his tenure in office, a concept that is itself a valuational construct, subject to the variegated structural requirements to be found in the ever evolving interstices of class and time (who is to say a “president’s” tenure ever ends? who is to say that the power is never (re)constituted along not superceding, but immanent lines?)


  4. In more seriousness, I’ve already requested some of the books on interlibrary loan, and have downloaded the relevant essays from the federalist and and anti-federalists. I look forward to reading your posts.


  5. That logo feels like it’s staring out of my screen and into my soul*. Quite striking (creepy).

    *Agnostic caveat: I’m not convinced I have a soul.


  6. Pingback: U.S. Presidency 1: The Presidential Debate of 1787 | Ordinary Times

  7. Will this symposium cover the big shift in power that occurred ~1890 when the Supreme Court decided that Congress could delegate a lot of the details of legislating to the executive branch?


  8. Will you be talking about the shift from the Prime Minister being an equal among cabinet ministers to now dominating cabinet? Also, will you be looking at the appropriate role of the Governor General in requests for prorogue and the dissolution of Parliament?

    [Realizes he is in the wrong class. Awkwardly slinks out.]


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