In Defense of the Post-Partisan President: Toward the Boundary between 'Partisan' Advantage and 'Political' Choice
BYU Journal of Public Law, Vol. 24, 2010
52 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2009 Last revised: 22 Jan 2010
Date Written: August 1, 2009
This Article examines what it means, if anything, to be “post-partisan.” To that end it develops metrics of Executive Branch partisanship, which it uses to move toward a distinction between typical “political” action and decision-making as compared to those actions taken or decision-making processes entered into for “partisan,” party-based advantage. It argues that while a clean distinction is problematically formalistic, an analysis of Executive Branch behavior allows points of comparison for the claim that certain administrations are more or less partisan than others.
Relying on this framework, the Article discusses the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, arguing that the former was the most party-focused in at least a half-century. It then examines what the Obama Administration’s claims of being “post-partisan” actually mean and discusses the relevance for public policy, concluding that post-partisanship is a more limited and pragmatic goal than true bipartisanship but that given the current American political landscape - characterized by parties that are more internally coherent and polarized from each other than at any time in generations - Obama’s post-partisanship is a valuable addition to the dynamics of American politics and serves a legitimizing function for a number of administrative and constitutional law doctrines.
Keywords: post-partisan, partisan, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Sotomayor
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