Faithful Infidelity: 'Political Time,' George W. Bush, and the Paradox of 'Big Government Conservatism'
43 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 14 Oct 2014
Date Written: 2010
George W. Bush assumed the presidency with the ill-fated political aim of creating a permanent electoral alignment favoring Reagan Republicanism in America by pursuing a “big government conservatism” agenda. We define the logic of big government conservativism as a strategy for electoral realignment, discuss the tactical means for advancing that agenda, and place Bush’s efforts in “political time” (Skowronek 1993, 2008). We do this by offering an analytical framework integrating Skowronek’s work on political time and its marginalization of presidential agency with three major evaluative criteria — strategic, political, and tactical abilities — adapted from Maranto, Lansford, and Johnson’s (2009) work embracing presidential agency. We portray Bush’s failed efforts at constructing a permanent Republican political majority as encountering similar dynamics of and meeting a similar fate as “orthodox innovators” in presidential history. At the same time, his place in political time was not destiny because he pursued a mixed record of strategic, political, and tactical competence as he operated within the constraints of his political time. Thus, political time not only constrains presidential ability but is also affected by the tactical skills of a president (as Skowronek concedes but does not do much to operationalize further). Consequently, we see an integrative framework as decidedly more robust and advantageous than either political time or presidential agency frameworks alone for studying presidential success or failure.
Keywords: George W. Bush, conservatism, political time, human resource management, political appointees, administrative presidency
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