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Study Notes

Power to Persuade

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

In 1960, the political scientist Richard Neustadt announced that ‘Presidential Power is merely the power to persuade’. This seems rather odd conclusion on an office whose holder is frequently referred to as the most powerful man in the free world. However the claim is not without substance and there are several key findings that support Neustadt’s notion.

Firstly, unlike the UK, President’s cannot reward loyal members of their parties with Cabinet posts as a US Cabinet post is not seen as a reward down to the separation of powers. In addition to this the US lacks any formal honours system that the President can use to reward loyalty to the party or Presidential agenda. The US lacks a House of Lords to elevate those Congressmen who have done well.

Finally, the President is the de facto leader of the party, yet they cannot remove the whip from troublesome members in Congress. Therefore the President doesn’t have a tasty carrot to entice members of their party to vote the way they would like, nor do they have a sizeable stick.

It is therefore true that the power of the President, is merely that of persuasion. However, the President can persuade in a number of ways. Firstly they can make use of the Vice President, for example sending them to fundraising dinners for congressmen, visits to states, or as a negotiator for the administration.

Secondly the President could use EXOP to persuade congressmen to advance the Presidential agenda on ‘the Hill’. This would typically be done through the Office of Legislative Affairs. In a similar fashion the President could appeal directly to the Party Leadership who might be able to assist in getting the agenda through Congress.

Thirdly, the President may appeal to the public to try and build popular support for a measure, in an attempt to persuade Congress into action. If all else fails, the President may intervene personally to persuade Congressmen to cooperate. This could be done with phone calls, visits to the Oval Office, Presidential campaign stops or even a ride in Air Force One.

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