Jeremy Bailey: The Idea of Presidential Representation

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The Idea of Presidential Representation: An Intellectual and Political History

By Jeremy D. Bailey


The Idea of Presidential RepresentationDoes the president represent the entire nation? Or does he speak for core partisans and narrow constituencies? The Federalist Papers, the electoral college, history and circumstance from the founders’ time to our own: all factor in theories of presidential representation, again and again lending themselves to different interpretations. This back-and-forth, Jeremy D. Bailey contends, is a critical feature, not a flaw, in American politics. Arriving at a moment of great debate over the nature and exercise of executive power, Bailey’s history offers an invaluable, remarkably relevant analysis of the intellectual underpinnings, political usefulness, and practical merits of contending ideas of presidential representation over time.

Among scholars, a common reading of political history holds that the founders, aware of the dangers of demagogy, created a singularly powerful presidency that would serve as a check on the people’s representatives in Congress; then, this theory goes, the Progressives, impatient with such a counter-majoritarian approach, reformed the presidency to better reflect the people’s will—and, they reasoned, advance the public good. The Idea of Presidential Representation challenges this consensus, offering a more nuanced view of the shifting relationship between the president and the American people. Implicit in this pattern, Bailey tells us, is another equivocal relationship—that between law and public opinion as the basis for executive power in republican constitutionalism. Tracing these contending ideas from the framers time to our own, his book provides both a history and a much-needed context for our understanding of presidential representation in light of the modern presidency. In The Idea of Presidential Representation Bailey gives us a new and useful sense of an enduring and necessary feature of our politics.

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Jeremy D. BaileyJeremy D. Bailey is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Honors College at the University of Houston, where he is director of the Phronesis minor in the Honors College and co-director of the Tocqueville Forum in American Ideas and Institutions, both of which are JMC partner programs. His research interests include executive power, constitutionalism, and American political thought and development. Besides The Idea of Presidential Representation, his major publications include James Madison and Constitutional Imperfection (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and The Contested Removal Power, 1789-2010 (University Press of Kansas 2013, coauthored with David Alvis and Flagg Taylor), which was named a 2014 “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice. Professor Bailey also serves as an editor for American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, a JMC supported journal that bridges the gap between historical, empirical, and theoretical research.

Professor Bailey is a JMC faculty partner.

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