Political Science | The American Presidency
Y318 | 25119 | Burmila


The President of the United States is widely considered to be one of
the most powerful individuals in the world. We would struggle to
discuss any relevant contemporary issue in American politics without
making mention of the President, his issue positions, or the impact
of his actions. Historically, however, this has not always been the
case. The presidency has undergone a tremendous evolution over time.
America’s founders gave the president a limited role with few
explicit Constitutional powers. How has the founders’ president
become the exceptionally powerful individual we recognize today? Why
have the American public accepted this shift in the balance of power
and what are its implications? The founders were fearful of creating
too powerful a chief executive, yet much of what they feared is
reflected in the vast powers of the modern president.

This course provides a thorough and substantive understanding of the
American presidency, which is essential to comprehending politics at
the national level. The course will focus on the institution of the
presidency and less so on the individuals who have held the office,
but some historical and contemporary analysis of specific presidents
is nonetheless an important part of understanding the theories we
will discuss. Our main foci will be the origins of the presidency,
the growth of its powers over time, and diverse theories about the
different factors that determine the character of an individual
president’s tenure in office; what makes a president a “success”
or “failure” is not universally agreed upon by presidential
scholars. We will also discuss the presidency and its interaction
with other political institutions such as Congress, the bureaucracy,
and the voting public. Lastly, we will spend some time discussing
presidential selection (nominations and elections) and the
presidency in the context of current political issues.