POLS 020D. Unbridled Power? The American Presidency (AP)

Even though the executive branch is relegated to the loosely defined second article of the U.S. Constitution, presidential power has greatly expanded over time, in the process reshaping American politics to revolve around presidential initiative. In the contemporary era, coequal branches of the government defer to the president, while voters look to the president to solve a snowballing set of public problems. However, the rise in executive power has not satisfied expectations, leading to the confounding dual problem of presidents purportedly having too much power in some domains, while still struggling to adequately fix society's most pressing problems. This course examines how and why presidential power has grown throughout American history, with special attention to the following questions: To what extent is a presidency-centered system both a consequence of and incompatible with a separated powers system? What is the relationship between changes in the sources of presidential authority and the exercise of power in the executive branch? Are there any limits to presidential power, and if so, what are they? Normatively, should the president have less or more power? Finally, is successful mastery of the presidency our best hope for functional governance, or is the modern presidency a problem in and of itself? To answer these questions, we will focus on the historical development of the executive branch, spotlighting the important contributions-and idiosyncrasies-of all 46 U.S. presidents.
Social Sciences.
1 credit.
Fall 2021. Diament.
Catalog chapter: Political Science
Department website: http://www.swarthmore.edu/political-science

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