Political Parties and Presidential Oversight

90 Pages Posted: 23 May 2015 Last revised: 8 Dec 2015

Date Written: 2015


The intimate, and often underappreciated, relationship between political parties, the presidency, and the administrative state has profound consequences for the functioning of these three institutions at the heart of American political life. Failure to draw out and illuminate this connection has led to an incomplete understanding of administrative law — both descriptively in what the law does and can do, and normatively in what it should do. In particular, courts and commentators have not grappled with the fundamental shift experienced by political parties over the past several decades — from traditional party organizations that were locally focused and ideologically diverse to today’s high-tech, polarized, and nationally oriented parties. This transformation was strongly influenced by the growth of administrative agencies and the modern presidency, and has important implications for the practical realities of presidential control over agencies, for the normative justifications supporting the President’s prominent role in the administrative state, and for the struggle over control of agencies between the President and Congress. This Article maps out the intersection of President, administration, and contemporary parties and proposes “responsible party administration” as a normative framework to evaluate how well institutional arrangements and judicial doctrines forward administrative values such as expertise, coherence, and legality while accommodating a system of regulated rivalry in which two programmatically distinct parties compete for the reins of the administrative state.

Keywords: administrative law, cost-benefit analysis, political parties, Chevron, arbitrary and capricious review, agencies, regulator review, party polarization, sixth party system

Suggested Citation

Livermore, Michael A., Political Parties and Presidential Oversight (2015). Alabama Law Review, Vol. 67:1:45, Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2015-31, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2609437

Michael A. Livermore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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