The President: Lightning Rod or King?
12 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2006 Last revised: 16 Mar 2011
There is an idea current in the land today that presidential power has grown to the point where it is a threat to democracy. The New York Times editorial page writers and leading Democrats regularly accuse President George W. Bush of acting like a king or seeking kingly powers. In the academic community, Professor Bruce Ackerman has written powerfully about what he sees as the danger that presidential power poses to democracy itself. In this Symposium Issue, Professors Bill Marshall and Jenny Martinez argue that the presidency has become too powerful. Marshall goes so far as to argue for reducing presidential power by separately electing the Attorney General. In this Commentary, we suggest that when political power is examined more broadly, Presidents and their parties generally have less power in the United States than commentators recognize. We believe the President today is less of a king than a lightning rod. Indeed, the constitutional and practical weakness of the presidency is, if not a threat to American democracy, at least a worrisome limitation on it.
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