Going Alone

Kenneth R. Mayer

in The Oxford Handbook of the American Presidency

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199238859
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

Going Alone

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  • US Politics
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This article discusses the logic of the unilateral powers model. The theory of unilateral presidential action is based on two foundational assumptions. The article also evaluates the state of empirical work on the model's predictions. Then, the unresolved questions that can motivate future research are addressed. Furthermore, a troubling implication of unilateral action theory is presented: the prediction that, over time, presidents will use unilateral action to expand the reach of presidential authority and centralize power within the White House. The theory of unilateral action depicts an institutional struggle, in which presidents compete with Congress for policy control. ‘Unilateral powers’ has become a major research agenda, with a consistent theoretical framework and a strong empirical tradition. Unilateral action raises important questions about the balance of power among the institutions of national government, and the effectiveness of congressional and judicial checks on executive energy.

Keywords: unilateral powers; unilateral presidential action; unilateral action theory; presidential authority; White House; Congress; policy control

Article.  13470 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Comparative Politics

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