A volume in the series:
Political Development of the American Nation: Studies in Politics and History
A Seat of Popular Leadership
The Presidency, Political Parties, and Democratic Government
A reassessment of the rise of the modern presidency
A study of the relationship between presidential leadership and public opinion, this book challenges the commonly held view that the American presidency did not become a truly "popular" institution until the early twentieth century. According to Michael J. Korzi, the democratization of the presidency can be traced back to the antebellum period, when broadly based political parties first emerged.
With the development of nominating conventions, party platforms, and party patronage, presidents became bound up in a system of collective leadership anchored in the political party and beholden to a diverse and decentralized, but clearly powerful, public. Presidents were expected to act as partisans, cooperating with their fellow party members in the legislature to make good on the party’s promises and to ensure victory at the polls.
After the Civil War, this party-based model of presidential leadership gradually gave way to a new paradigm—the modern "rhetorical" presidency—marked by the establishment of a more direct relationship between the president and the people. The result was an institution at once more responsive to the vicissitudes of public opinion and less constrained by the obligations of partisan politics.
Although he acknowledges the need for a strong executive in today’s global world, Korzi sees problems in the ascendancy of this new form of presidential leadership and suggests that a partial return to the party model would be a welcome development. A modern presidency tempered and restrained by political parties, he argues, not only would restore a measure of constitutional balance but also would offer a more full-bodied relationship between president and public.
"The strength of this book is the new understanding it offers of the presidency’s constitutional development. Other scholars have shed light on the centrality of party in shaping the first hundred years of presidential history, but Korzi is the first to view the party system as the engine of a new constitution that transformed the nature of presidential leadership."—Sidney M. Milkis, author of The President and the Parties:
The Transformation of the American Party System since the New Deal
"An original and provocative argument concerning the oft-obscured popular features of nineteenth-century presidents, and an important addition to the existing literature on U.S. executive politics and democracy."—Daniel Tichenor, Rutgers University
"Michael J. Korzi's book is a refreshing addition to the literature on the presidency and the public. 'A Set of Popular Leadership' is another important step in questioning the paradigm of the modern presidency. The study of public opinion and the presidency has focused on twentieth-century presidents for quite some time; it is good to see more attention paid to the popular nature of earlier presidents."—Presidential Studies Quarterly
"Through an examination of the political biographies and annual messages of selected presidents, Michael Korzi provides a rich description of the rise and decline of party government in the nineteenth century."—Perspectives on Politics
"Professor Korzi has authored a path-breaking study in American Political Development (APD), and his significant contribution will guide the thinking of scholars in both the presidency and parties subfields for years to come. . . . A Seat of Popular Leadership is beautifully written, engaging the reader on virtually every page, and I highly recommend it to my colleagues, also undergraduate majors in political science or history, and even interested laypersons."—Congress and the Presidency