Dividers, Not Uniters

in Beyond Ideology

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226470740
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226470771 | DOI:
Dividers, Not Uniters

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This chapter argues that presidential leadership is a crucial source of partisan conflict in the U.S. Congress, separate from lawmakers' individual ideological preferences. Given the president's unique status as national party leader, members of Congress know that his party's collective reputation is affected by how they handle his priorities. This knowledge gives the president's fellow partisans political incentives to support him and the opposition party political motives to challenge his leadership, thus making presidential leadership inherently party polarizing. When a president mentions an issue in the State of the Union Address, the gap between the parties tends to widen. Given the same types of issues, party conflict is higher when they are part of a president's agenda than when they are not. Although voting behavior in the contemporary Congress can be attributed in large part to deeply held differences in ideology between the parties, partisanship also arises from contextual and strategic sources.

Keywords: presidential leadership; Congress; partisanship; president; party conflict; voting behavior; ideology

Chapter.  10608 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: US Politics

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