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Unformatted text preview: ,y\ VVU|uvucr\\ w’~v [\‘H‘v’ o .Hc a emunHC l"‘“’"""l PATRICIA CONLEY Tom? 'C ”‘5 14 The American Presidency and the Politics A of Democratic Inclusion No ACCOUNT OF THE EXTENSION OF THE RIGHTS and privileges of Citizenship would be complete Without reference to the actions of our nation’s chief executive. Presidents are central players in the politics of democratic in— clusion, and we expect them to be so. Our expectations for presidential action ., have grown along with the institution. In the past century, presidents have _ reinforced their identification with the people, expanded executive branch . responsibilities and bureaucracy, and played a more active part in all stages 1 of policy formation and implementation. It is hard to believe how significant , progress could be made without their support or cooperation. In popular mythology, presidents are great initiators and supporters of ‘ democratic inclusion. We dwell on the accomplishments of presidents such as Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. But presidential power is a double—edged sword. Though presidents have the power to promote democratic inclusion, they also have the power to block it. Since the time of the founding, the majority of presidents have been indifferent or unfriendly to marginalized groups and hesitant to be at the forefront of social change. Some have actively stifled inclusion for the sake of their party’s elites or electoral coalition. Only a small number have served at historical moments when their support dramatically altered the political landscape. The president’s role in the process of political incorporation has been severely neglected by scholars of the American presidency. There is little or no dialogue about democratic inclusion as a research agenda——no sys— tematic discussion of how to measure responsiveness to marginal groups or form general explanations for presidential activism. We have hardly begun to understand the role that presidents have played, much less compare the president’s responses with those of other national institutions. In this chapter, I argue that we need to think seriously about how to measure presidential responsiveness to marginalized groups, incorporating the notion that presidents may encourage or discourage democratic inclusion. Presi~ dents can advocate social policies aimed at helping members of marginal- ized groups become more fully incorporated into civil society and political life. But they can also advocate social policies that slow political incorpo— ration. Presidents can actively mobilize voters and partisans for the cause of marginalized groups, or they can actively mobilize majorities to suppress marginalized groups. Presidents may actively encourage or discourage the formation of group consciousness. They can ignore groups or give them vorce. The American Presidency and the Politics of Democratic Inclusion 315 I also argue that the constitutional role of the chief executive provides the president with contradictory incentives so that the growth in presiden- rial power has not always led to the promotion of democratic inClusion. For Instance, the instruction to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Constitution 1” the United States and see that the laws are faithfully executed has led ome presidents (like Lincoln) to further democratic inclusion when this educes social turmoil or restores national unity. But this imperative has more frequently meant upholding a status quo based upon the exclusion of certain classes of citizens. Similarly, the singularity of the office and the fact that the President’s geographic constituency is the entire nation has en— couraged presidents to use populist rhetoric and promote themselves as the guardian of all of the people. However, these features also give the president .. mcentives to ignore divisive and controversial issues. Presidential populism '1 may lead the president to pander to a majority at the expense of minority ’1 groups. Since the constitution does not dictate that the presidentpromote the in- , terests of marginal groups, the president’s actions are best explained by con— ' sidering his historical and political context. The president is embedded in his own sort of “political opportunity structure,” where particular historie . cal forces converge to provide incentives or disincentives for action—Where the president interacts with and reacts to his environment (McAdam 1996). He is not an isolated and independent force for social change. Over time, presidential activism will be a function of changes in norms concerning the appropriate role of the, executive, the development of the executive branch bureaucracy, and the changing dynamics of the political party system. In the short run, presidential responsiveness to marginalized groups will be a func— tion of factors such as partisan support in Congress, pressure from activists and social movements, and re—election concerns. If the political climate is fa— vorable, those presidents with leadership skills and ideological commitment will take action. Ibegin the chapter with a working definition of presidential responsiveness to marginalized groups. Next, I examine various explanations for the presi— dent’s behavior: his constitutional role, the historical growth of the executive branch, Congressional support or opposition, re-election concerns, pressure from interest groups and public opinion, and presidential character. In the final section, I offer suggestions for future research. I argue that we should abandon the “person vs. environment” framework that currently structures academic debate about the sources of presidential behavior. I also argue that we must study more than a handful of great presidents, so that our theories are more generalizeable and true to the historical record. I should note two limitations at the outset. Though my empirical examples focus ahnost exclusively on African American civil rights, my theoretical discussion is meant to generalize to a Wider spectrum of groups. Second, though the executive branch includes the cabinet, staff, and bureaucracy, I limit my discussion to the president and his closest advisors. The role of 316 PATRICIA CONLEY bureaucracy and the politics of democratic inclusion, particularly at the level of policy implementation, are beyond the scope of this chapter. WHAT COUNTS As PRESIDENTIAL RESPONSIVENESS? A logical starting point for the study of a political institution and political incorporation is .an examination of descriptive representation. This is a sober- ing exercise with respect to the chief executive: All forty—three occupants of the office have been white and male, all but one from a Protestant religious background. When we look at presidential candidates, cabinet members and staff, and presidential appointments, the picture is only marginally better. Nearly all disadvantaged or minority groups had no representation in the 6X- ecutive branch until the mid-to—late 19603. Descriptive representation in the executive branch is a relatively recent and slow—growing phenomenon. A few examples and statistics illustrate the historical lack of diversity in presidential electoral politics and executive administration. Geraldine Ferraro is the only woman to have been part of a major party presidential ticket; no person of color has ever been part of a major party presidential ticket. Lenora Fulani of the National Alliance Party is the only African American to have been listed on the presidential ballot in all fifty states. Margaret Chase Smith ‘ (1964) and Shirley Chisolm (1972) are the only women to have their names placed in nomination for President at a major party convention. The Reverend Charming Phillips (1968), Shirley Chisolm (1972), and the Rev. Jesse Jackson (1984, 1988), are the only people of color to win delegates at a major party convention. Only a handful of women and minorities beyond those already named have entered any state presidential primaries for either major party. The diversity of executive branch cabinet and staff is not much better (See Borrelli and J. Martin 1997; M. Martin 1999; Miles at al. 2001). In the last two hundred years, only twenty-two of more than six hundred cabinet ap- pointments have gone to women (J. Martin 1997, 60). Only fourteen cabinet appointments have gone to African Americans, with only five of these ap- pointments occurring before the Clinton and Bush, Jr. administrations. Only five Latinos have been cabinet secretaries, with the first appointed in 1988. Norman Mineta, secretary of commerce under Bill Clinton and secretary of transportation under George W. Bush, is the first Asian American man to serve in the cabinet. Elaine Chao, George W. Bush’s secretary of labor, is the first Asian American woman to serve in the cabinet. No Native Americans have ever served. Presidential appointments to US. district and appeals court judgeships ‘ reflect a similar pattern, though Democratic presidents appoint a more di— verse group of judges than do Republican presidents (Sourcebook of Crim— inal Justice Statistics 2000). Around 20 percent of George H. W. Bush’s appointees and 30 percent of Bill Clinton’s appointees to the courts were women. Roughly 7 percent of Bush’s appointees to district court judgeships were African American as opposed to 17 percent of Bill Clinton’s appointees to the district court. On average, only about 5 percent of appointees to dis- trict court iudgeshins are Hispanic. Asian and Native American appointees The American Presidency and the Politics of Democratic Inclusion 317 are still virtually nonexistent. The majority of appointees of all races hold undergraduate degrees from private or Ivy League institutions. On the other hand, the trend is definitely toward more diversity. Prior to the 19605, there were only a handful of judgeships awarded to women and minorities. Two percent of President Kennedy’s appointments to positions of 4 cabinet secretary, undersecretaries, regulatory commissions, and other posts . were women; by the Clinton administration, women constituted 30 percent of all such appointments (J. Martin 1997, 58). In the time of Franklin Roosevelt, women constituted 10 percent of all White House staff. During the Clinton administration, women constituted nearly 40 percent of all White House staff, though these women were disproportionately concentrated in low—level positions (Tenpas 1997, 93). When we turn to the general question of whether or not American presi— dents have advanced the struggle to extend the recognition, rights, and priv— ileges of citizenship to disadvantaged groups, we see a decidedly mixed picture. On the one hand, some of the greatest advances in American polit— - ical history involve moments where American presidents very publicly and courageously promotedthe rights of dis advantaged groups. Abraham Lincoln is the most dramatic example. Teddy Roosevelt spoke publicly against the lynching of African Americans in the South. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs addressed economic and social welfare issues relevant to poor and disadvantaged citizens. Harry Truman issued an executive order to desegre— gate the military and supported the civil rights plank in the 1948 Democratic platform that caused Southern delegations to defect from the party. Dwight Eisenhower ordered federal troops to Little Rock, AR, to enforce school de— segregation. The efforts of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were crucial for the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Ronald Reagan appointed the first woman to the US. Supreme Court. Bill Clinton was the first major party president to speak openly about gay rights. On the other hand, these presidents and others have ignored or purpose~ fully obstructedpolitical incorporation (O’Reilly 1995; Riley 1999). With the exception of Lincoln, nineteenth-century presidents had an abysmal record in the politics of democratic inclusion (Riley 1999). In the twentieth cen— tury, Woodrow Wilson explicitly endorsed segregation in federal employment (Klinkner, with Smith 1999, 110). Herbert Hoover refused to speak publicly against the lynching of Afiican Americans in the South (Brown 1995, 35). During his twelve years in oifice, Franklin Roosevelt made only one brief reference to voting rights (Shull 1989, 47). The Nixon and Ford administra— tions sought to curtail the enforcement of civil rights policy, particularly in the area of school desegregation (Shull 1989). Ronald Reagan opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and slashed budget expenditures for civil rights agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the US. Commission on Civil Rights (Shull 1989, 146451). In 1988, the Bush campaign ran the infamous “Willie Horton” ad as President George Bush repeatedly opposed civil rights legislation, referring to the legislation as “quota bills.” 318 PATRICIA CONLEY The American Presidency and the Politics of Democratic Inclusion 319 These examples highlight the challenge of measuring presidential resPo‘ siveness. How would we rank presidents? How would we describe variations within and across administrations? Presidential actions (and non-actions) Ina be located on a continuum from responsiveness to indifference to oppositio For the purposes of this chapter, I consider responsive behavior to be th appointment of disadvantaged group members in the executive branch and agencies; the provision of formal channels by which marginalized groups have1 voice in the White House; advocacy of legislation or executive orders aimé “ at ending discrimination and extending basic rights of citizenship (1e gal, Civi economic); and public rhetoric emphasizing equality and political incorp ration. Presidents who are indiflerent ignore issues of democratic inclusion. altogether. .Active opposition includes discrimination in appointments and access to the White House; advocacy of legislation or executive orders that perpetuate discrimination and deny basic rights of citizenship; and public rhetoric that promotes racism and the continued oppression of marginalized groups. possible, the disruptive force of mass movements created powerful incen- tives for presidents to revisit the logic of the nation-maintaining role. To have done otherwise under these new conditions would have cultivated a contin— uing threat to the strained fabric of the American polity” (Riley 1999, 19). Lincoln’s goal, for instance, was preservation of the Union. “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do tha ” (Riley 1999, 77). In the 19603, members of the Kennedy and Johnson administra— tions felt that domestic peace and stability could only be restored through the passage of civil rights legislation. The president ’s roles as our commander in chief and primary foreign diplo— mat also provide contradictory incentives. Presidents concerned about the in— ternational consequences of domestic disarray could suppress minorities or social movements rather than promote democratic inclusion. War could lead to the oppression of minority groups associated with the perceived foreign threat (for example, the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II). On the other hand, international pressures could force presidents to further democratic inclusion. Lincoln’s preservation of the Union was related to fears about European intervention and alliance with the South (H. Jones 1999). Maj or advances in African American civil rights have occurred when gov— ernment leaders had to reconcile wartime rhetoric promoting inclusiveness, democracy, and equality throughout the world with the reality of the political and social dis enfranchisement of African Americans within the United States (Klinkner, with Smith 1999). Though the executive branch is by no means a single unitary actor—if one includes the cabinet, executive departments, bureaucracy, and so forth—— the president can move quickly and unilaterally relative to other national institutions. Unlike a legislature, the president suffers from no collective action problem (Moe 1985). Further, though he operates in a system of shared powers, the president has the capacity for unilateral action in the form of veto power and executive orders. Like other structural features of the executive branch, however, these traits reinforce the presidency as a place for action and responsibility, but do not guarantee that any individual president will work toward democratic inclusion. EXPLANATIONS FOR PRESIDENTIAL RESPONSIVENESS Constitutional Role According to Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the president’s job is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” and “preserve, protect, and. defend the constitution of the United States.” The president is the only official I with the entire nation as his geographical constituency. He represents our . country in our interactions with other nation states and international actors. , , The president is a natural focal point for citizen expectations about public policy; he is a symbol of the nation. The quest to preserve national unity is generally a conservative impulse with respect to social change. “The presidency has routinely served as a nation-maintaining institution on the issue of racial inequality. . . one of the enduringroles each president is required to execute is that of nation-keeper, a protector of the inheritedpolitical and social order and apreserver of domestic tranquility” (Riley 1999, 10). The president’s job is to defend the government structures and processes outlined in the Constitution as well as “the social and cultural institutions upon which the superstructure of that Constitution rests” (Riley 1999, 18). Civil Rights activist James Farmer, opposing Lyndon Johnson’s attempt to halt civil rights demonstrations in 1964, observed “This wasn’t just Johnson. Every administration, ‘just try [sic] to keep it cool.’ And one could understand it. \If we were the administration, we’d want to keep it cool” (Miroff 1981, 22). As keeper of law and order, the president tries to ‘ ~ discourage signs of internal division and protest. ‘ 7 At the same time, the president’s nation—maintaining role may force him to take the lead in times of social crisis to heal the nation and bring peace, Civil rights have been advanced during times of domestic instability, when ac— tivists successfully mobilized mass movements behind change. “When demo- graphic and political conditions ripened so as to make extensive mobilization The Evolution of the Presidency: Populism and Growth Several scholars have compared the limited executive envisioned at the found— ing with the development of the “rhetorical” or “public” presidency of the modern era (Edwards 1983; Kernell 1986; Tulis 1987; Ellis 1998; Miroff 2000). In contrast to the executives of the early Republic, modern presidents publicly campaign for office, promote a policy agenda, and cultivate a close relationship with the public. They promote themselves as representatives and interpreters of the popular will. The presidential tendency to appeal directly to voters is reinforced by the political primary system and a nomination pro- cess no longer controlled by party elites (Polsby 1978). Furthermore, in the 320 PATRICIA CONLEY The American Presidency and the Politics of Democratic Inclusion 321 fragmented political system of the post-Watergate era, it is ofte cient for presidents to use public opinion to pressure Congress th in more traditional forms of bargaining (Kernell 1986). The rise of the rhetorical presidency has important implication f - politics of democratic inclusion. First, the claim to be a representatixs/ QLth entire nation puts the p...
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