The presidency was neither designed nor expected to act in concert with the American people; the Framers intended Congress to represent the popular will. Thanks in part to public outrage at Congressional abuses of power, Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson led mass movements that forced major changes in the presidency, electoral politics, and national policy.
Contemporary presidents are elected on the promise of being the direct representative of the people. There is an implicit deal between the president and voters: election to office in return for responsiveness to voter concerns. As "The Policy Partnership" shows, this relationship has been crumbling for some time. Presidents frequently break campaign promises and make unpopular decisions, while the public rarely bands together to demand attention to policy concerns. Many people simply do not vote; political elites take advantage of this indifference to advance their own agendas.
Bruce Buchanan explores the presidential elections of the last half-century to answer pressing questions created by this situation: What has become of the policy relationship potential created by presidential elections? To what degree do candidates and presidents take voter policy concerns into account before and after elections? How much influence do voters really have on presidential policy? What can be done to increase voter participation and presidential responsiveness?
The central question of democratic politics comes down to the relationship between popular electoral choices and public policy: if voters can't influence what government does, then what is the point of democracy?
"A powerful and important work that links democratic theory to political practice, electoral behavior, the popular will, and presidential leadership. Buchanan pulls together a variety of political strands to demonstrate when and how the public influence politics in America. This book greatly enhances our understanding of democratic theory in our complex political system.
-Michael A. Genovese, Chair of Leadership Studies, Loyola Marymount University
"Professor Buchanan's study of the influence of voters' opinions on the policies presidents follow after entering the White House is meticulous, informative, and enlightening. His proposal for increasing that influence is thoughtfully conceived and worthy of serious consideration.."
-Paul F. Boller, Jr., Emeritus Professor, Dept. of History, Texas Christian University and the author of "Presidential Campaigns
"This is a visionary look at the national conversation between presidents and citizens. Buchanan provides a reasoned and convincing argument for strengthening the will of the people in selecting and guiding the nation's most important public representative: the president.
-Lance Bennett, Professor of Political Science and Ruddick C. Lawrence Professor of Communication, University of Washington