In the News

Essential podcast for US Politics students

Mike McCartney

8th March 2022

The presidency is a prescribed question, so this is A Level Politics gold

Right, if you are being completely utilitarian and want to ace your summer exams, then you have to be as up-to-date with the analysis and evaluation of the Biden presidency as possible.

That said, this excellent podcast is worth listening to in its own right.

The link is below, but before you have a listen.

Here follows an attempt at explaining why you MUST listen to it:

It is an insight into why as an individual I have long been fascinated by US politics. As it's arguably the world's only superpower, and it is the hegemonic territory/nation/state in the era we live in, why would you not want to understand it - in the same way as you would to understand the Roman Empire 2000 years ago?

So to the nuts and bolts of the US system...

When the framers of the American constitution got together in Philadelphia in the fabled 'long hot summer' of 1787 it would have been impossible for them to imagine that one day the limited role they had designed for the head of the executive branch would have grown so much in size and scope that that person would one day be the de facto chief legislator.

Ever since the days of FDR, and the birth of what we now regard as the 'modern presidency' the POTUS has been expected to deliver on legislative promises made during their victorious election campaign.

The thing is, that there is a massive gulf between the burdens placed on the White House incumbent in legislative terms and their ability to control the process.

Consider these quotes:

"The President and Congress are like two halves of a dollar bill, each useless without the other half." (Professor Samuel Finer in "Comparative Government")

"In short, the President needs Congress." ("Presidential Power", Richard Neustadt)

"A mile and half is a long way." (Anthony King in "Both ends of the Avenue" [ed.]) - NB that a mile and a half is the geographical distance from the White House to Congress.

Each of these, by among the most well respected authors and academics in the field of American political science give a flavour of the constitutional structures and political reality that shape modern executive-legislative relations.

So, Biden faces a range of challenges both domestically and internationally. And with regards to the latter, and the Ukraine catastrophe, the complex issue of the bifurcated presidency and, potentially, what Wildavsky called the dual presidency thesis is potentially pivotal. There's no doubt about the troubles Biden is facing at home, but could his handling of foreign affairs assuage some of the doubts among voters about his capacity for leadership?

The link to the podcast is here.

To finish, massive hat tip to my friend and colleague Michael Simpson for bringing to the surface what an extra-excellent edition of the checks and balance podcast this is.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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