Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People

Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People

Dana D. Nelson

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 0816656770

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Dana D. Nelson argues that it is the office of the presidency itself that endangers the great American experiment. This urgent book, with new analysis of President Barack Obama's first months in office, reveals the futility of placing all of our hopes for the future in the American president and encourages citizens to create a politics of deliberation, action, and agency.
















so central in U.S. democracy and tries to account for why the presidential campaign season leaves so many of us feeling dissatisfied and democratically powerless. The chapter begins with some attention to the late eighteenth century, when Americans were experimenting— passionately—with democracy and reformulating their renounced support of the king as enthusiasm for the United States’ new president. It then focuses on the controversial and popular President Jackson, to study what is known as the

Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence describe, drawing on Joseph Campbell’s definition of the “monomyth,” what they term the American monomyth: A community in a harmonious paradise is threatened by an evil: normal institutions fail to contend with this threat: a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task: aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisal condition: the superhero recedes into obscurity. Jewett and Shelton argue

them, twentieth-century citizens have raised their expectations for the presidency’s ability to represent, guarantee, and lead democracy. But as the president has become more symbolically, effectively, and administratively central to U.S. government, political participation has continued diminishing. What can we make of that? V O T I N G A N D T H E I N C R E D I B LY S H R I N K I N G C I T I Z E N 97 Turning Out the Vote, or Pavlovian Democracy As Gore Vidal quipped in 1980, the real

Congress in 1846. In his first term, Lincoln distinguished himself by attacking Polk’s claim to presidential war powers to justify his decision to send U.S. troops into Texas and Mexico, thereby provoking a war. Lincoln’s opposition was so attention grabbing that his law partner in Illinois, W. H. Herndon, wrote him a cautionary letter. Herndon spelled out his own support for allowing the president to “invade the territory of another country” if it preempted that country from invading the United

making a personal judgment as to how President Johnson would implement the resolution when it had a responsibility to make an institutional judgment, first, as to what any President would do with so great an acknowledgment of power, and, second, as to whether, under the Constitution, Congress had a right to grant or concede the authority in question.” In response to the report, the Senate passed the nonbinding National Commitments Resolution, which reasserted the importance of legislative branch

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