When a president's governing philosophy is out of step with the dominant ideology of the culture, his options for leadership are much different from those of a leader more in sync with the times. Such "opposition leaders" face distinctive challenges and opportunities. They should be judged by different standards, argues political scientist David A. Crockett.
Crockett has analyzed presidents from Whig times through the Clinton presidency to develop a model for understanding presidential success and the strategies that are appropriate to the circumstances. Focusing on the terms of twelve opposition presidents, Crockett details the approaches they have taken to maximize their own goals and maintain political power. He illustrates vividly how these leaders must balance personal and partisan success, and he lays out the relationship between personality or character and the larger political context.
All opposition presidents face roughly the same type of leadership situation -- governing in an era in which they do not control the power to define politics -- but Crockett's broad historical perspective demonstrates that they do not all handle this situation in the same way. Studying the presidency in such a political context enables Crockett to break free of the one-size-fits-all model of presidential leadership. Leadership strategies are contingent and context-bound, and the wise president understands the constraints history places on his leadership. In the case of opposition presidents, history demonstrates that pursuing a path of moderation is far healthier than launching a frontal assault on the governing party. It is healthier for the president and his party and healthier for thepolitical system as a whole.
Breaking free of the standard focus on post -- World War II presidencies, this volume offers challenging understandings of presidential effectiveness. Students of American politics will join historians and scholars of the presidency in welcoming it
DAVID A. CROCKETT is an assistant professor of political science at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. His dissertation, the basis for the present volume, won the prize for the Best Dissertation on the Presidency, awarded by the Center for Presidential Studies.