<b>Policy Histories and Partisan Leadership in Presidential Studies: The Case of Social Security</b>

Fiona Ross

in The Polarized Presidency of George W. Bush

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780199217977
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191711541 | DOI:
 Policy Histories and Partisan Leadership in Presidential Studies: The Case of Social Security

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This chapter seeks to illustrate the importance of both structural constraints deriving from the established trajectory of the policy regime itself and the relevance of the partisan character of key actors in understanding the scope for significant leadership. Institutionally embedded paths can be moved endogenously but change is usually subsequent to a pattern of path-erosion and conditional upon high levels of trust in the agents of change. Even when the returns generated by the extant path are impaired, the capacity for transformative leadership is often limited to actors who own the issue at hand. Combining these points, it is argued that presidential scholars can improve their predictive capacity by factoring the properties of the path and issue-ownership by key actors into their analyses: both factors would have generated the very clear prediction that partial privatization of Social Security by the Bush Administration would fail. Conversely, an analysis based on the standard short-term political and institutional variables of unified government, presidential commitment, speed, and focus very early in a new administration mistakenly inspired some confidence that George W. Bush enjoyed a window of opportunity for reform.

Keywords: Bush presidency; Social Security reform; leadership; social policy

Chapter.  11210 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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