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Government & Politics   >   The Presidency of the United States

The Presidency and the Constitution

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The Presidency of the United States

In this course, Dr Jon Herbert (University of Keele) thinks about the office of the Presidency of the United States, focusing in particular on the extent of the president’s powers. We begin in the first module by thinking about how the Founding Fathers set up the presidency in the Constitution as an office significantly constrained by checks and balances. Then, in the second module, we draw a distinction between the ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ powers of the presidency, thinking in particular about how these have been expanded in recent decades. In the third module, we think about Richard Neustadt’s important thesis that the president’s authority lies in his (someday her) ‘power to persuade’ the various political institutions that comprise the ‘separation of powers’. Finally, in the fourth module, we examine Arthur Schlesinger’s ‘imperial presidency’ thesis which argued that, contrary to Neustadt’s model, the president was capable of bypassing the democratic checks an balances of the Constitution and maintain a direct hold on power.

The Presidency and the Constitution

In this module, we challenge contemporary wisdom about the extraordinary power of the presidency and think instead about the ways in which the president is significantly compromised by the Constitution. To begin, we consider the powers vested in the presidency by the Constitution, noting in particular how the Founding Fathers, having just fought the American War of Independence against monarchical oppression, sought to constrain the president’s power. We then run through the president’s formal powers listed in the Constitution and note how each is limited by a complex system of checks and balances. Next, we think about how this idea of a weak presidency is borne out in the history of the office until the early decades of the twentieth century. Finally, we take stock of this classic interpretation of the US political system as one of multiple power centres located around the Whitehouse rather than a supreme presidency at the centre.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Herbert, J. (2019, September 26). The Presidency of the United States - The Presidency and the Constitution [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Herbert, J. "The Presidency of the United States – The Presidency and the Constitution." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 26 Sep 2019,


Dr Jon Herbert

Dr Jon Herbert

Keele University