Book Summary and Review: Going Public by Samuel Kernell Essay

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Going Public: New Strategies of Presidential Leadership by Samuel Kernell

OVERALL: Presidents use sympathetic crowds rally public opinion to his side (promote himself and his policies) going public remains a potent weapon in the president’s arsenal, for advocating his own agenda and blocking initiatives from adversaries in Congress. This strategy continues to evolve given the intense polarization of Congress and the electroate AND changes in communications technology Implications of these factors (especially in combination) on the future of presidential leadership the lessons of 9/11 on going public in foreign affairs

Going public means making direct appeals to voters in order to scare Congress into passing legislation that hte president wants. this is not the only strategy, and choosing gp over other options has its costs. Central question of the book: Why should presidents come to favor a strategy of leadership that appears so incompatible with the principles of pluralist theory? (p11) pluralism (in politics): political system of power-sharing among a number of political parties a system in which two or more states, groups, principles sources of authority, etc. coexist.

Read also this Summary – Brent Staples “Just Walk On By”

Kernell’s answer to this: divided government makes bargaining a less appealing and successful strategy, forcing presidents into their public appeals. main argument sequence of the book: only outsiders can go public why going public is a new strategy: institutionalized vs. individualized pluralism other (less important) reasons that going public is a new strategy constraints on going public



Going Public in Theory and Practice power of the president and how he bargains in washington why the president would choose to “go public” Example: Ronald Reagan – accomplished more because of his success in going public. he trend of “going public” was led by Ronald Reagan (“The Great Communicator”) see Chapter

Chapter 2: How Washington Has Changed


Politics has made the transition from inst to indv two different presidential styles: institutionalized pluralism and individualized luralism institutionalized – the process of presidential bargaining with Congress to pass measures features a small number of fixed groups as actors. major players: committee chairs, party leaders, interest groups, and other oligarchs. here is continuity among the players, so bargaining can take a long-term perspective. favors today can be exchanged for unspecified future favors. the (Neustadt) bargaining community pluralist views = bargaining views of the president (e. g. Neustadt, Dahl, Truman, Lindblom) FDR – although he was a master of public relations, he succeeded mainly by dealing with powerful elites who dominated the various “protocoalitions” in DC (e. g. Congress) on one hand, political elites do mediate the impact of public opinion – this makes it effective. but, there’s lots of political risks accompanid with efforts to rally the masses. nstitutionalizing allowed FDR to operate within the margins of political power individualized – going public features a plethora of individuals rather than a few leaders. (The emerging community) bargaining is far more difficult thus, going public is more attractive bc it enables a president to rile up public opinion against several individual legislators simultaneously. it’s more heavy-handed tactic, but it’s effective. reasons why a president would go public decline in party loyalty increase in teh number of interested parties (interest groups) due to the growth of the welfare state rise of independent political entrepreneurs especially in Congress, but also in the presidency as a result of increasing importance of the primaries). because there are more players, bargaining is harder. reneging on deals is easier the collective action obstacles are greater.

See bottom of this guide for additional reasons** the downside of individualizing is that it decreases the presiden’ts power of bargaining with the elite. so the president must mobilize the electorate to pressure Washington elites to submit to the president’s leadership. Going public conflicts with bargaining in several ways: ** t often includes fluff, not the substantial exchanges necessary for bargaining it does not extend benefits for compliance but imposes costs for noncompliance. more like a threat than a mutually advantageous bargain it entails posturing, it hardens positions and makes bargaining more difficult it undermines the legitimacy of other politicans, Congress in particular (p3-4) individualized is the preferred strategy by modern presidents examples of successes

Chapter 3 – How the presidents entering washington have changed: outsiders and divided government

Truman: cooperation

ONLY OUTSIDERS CAN GO PUBLIC gp is a strategy for independent politicians with few group or institutional loyalties and who aren’t so interested in sacrificing short-term gain for hte longer-term advantages of bargaining. when gp, a president seeks to mobilize other politicans’ supporters on his behalf. usually, a particular audience or constituency is targeted with a particular message. *organization is crucial to success. Chapter 4: the President and the press how the press has led to the trend of going public charts to show trend (beginning of chapters) he Washington press corps’ relationship to executive has changed with the transformation in the political community reporters used to jockey for access and exclusivity, so the president could manipulate the press to his advantage back then. ex. FDR’s good rapport with the working press stemmed from their dependency on him. then a shift occurred: professionalism among journalists created norms guiding access to the White House (e. g. daily press briefing) this allowed reporters more autonomy in regard to the president and their own newspapers. stature of key journalists permitted them even to challenge the pronouncements of presidents.

He trend continues: break with FDR’s system came with JFK – innovative use of television gave him direct access to the American people and set the stage for future developments Under the “Kennedy system,” the televised press conference became like a studio set. this is a trend over the 1930s-1980s marked increase in media usage by modern presidents: addresses, tv time, public appearances, days of political travel the modern system: everybody goes public to combat the strategy of the chief executive. It wasn’t incremental though; Reagan led the fundamental transformation. Chapter 5: The Growth of going public oing public might be losing some of its effectiveness- or at least it is growing more difficult the rise of cable television makes the public harder to reach, forcing presidents to be more strategic in requesting network coverage Chapter 6: President Reagan and his first three budgets: a classic case of going public in action Reagan personifies presidential leadership in the modern era he was the one who “altered the character of leadership in Washington” (p106) his presidency reflects the ups and downs associated with individualized pluralism (budget battles of 1981, 82, and 83) 1981 – honeymoon period > dramatic successes 982 – difficulties related to steep popularity decline 1983 – GOP loss of 26 house seats in the midterm elections > Reagan’s “aloof posture” Side note: the budget battles reflect reagan’s ability to safeguard his standing in the opinion polls, but can we accept this as meaningful leadership?

Chapter 7: Opinion leadership and foreign affairs The truman doctrine speech (1947): opinion leadership public familiarity, effects on public opinion the speech marked the start of the Cold War ess about re-educating the public on foreign public, and more about getting them to trust him as a leader the historical importance was overshadowed by Truman’s reliance on public trust Chapter 8: present and future prospects for going public implications of presidents who go public future presidents and their staffs must take into account the power of the media and public opinion has on their term(s) in office. “strategic presidency” strategic president – one who recognizes that going public can be a double edged sword; the more appearances he makes, doesn’t necessarily equal more points on the popularity scale. here is a trade-off between policy making and popularity, and the president can cope with this in one of two ways “general problem solving” approach – one solution for the entire country “marginal” strategy – makes policy choices in terms of a differentiated population the relationship between how partisans evaluate presidents during periods of inflation and unemployment BOTH democrats and republicans react similarly to either macroeconomic problem thus, presidents oeprate as problem-solvers: “The American public holds the president responsible for promoting the general welfare.

Although presidents may be expected to engage in public relations… they will succeed neither in country nor D. C. if they pursue their public image to the neglect of active problem solving. ” (p 204) Conclusion 2 far-reaching consequences of individualized pluralism: greater variability in the political agenda and more volatility in the policy outcomes. the reason for this: public is more fickle than the elites are. despite these drawbacks, the new age necessitates that presidents get public support. aybe the ultimate question isn’t whether president should exploit the opportunity to go public, but whether we will systematically elect presidents that have the capability to effectively mobilize public opinion. Issues on generating presidents that are able to do this the opportunity to arouse the mass public is not authority. opinion leadership can’t be routinzed so that a president can simply follow modern day involves constant challenging of presidents by the mass media and counter-elites through the system what are the limits of presidential influence?

Constraints on going public president can be hurt (politically embarrassed) if going public fails thus the threat of gp is employed more often than the act*** the message must be latently popular presidents can’t go public too often, or the public will become fatigued gp generates resentment in congress (since it is, at root, a threat and a shot at their electoral base) there is some loss of flexibility involved however, Reagan often staked out a strong position and caved in finally, going public is a strategy of weakness hen you can’t win by other means, going public is the last resort.

MAJOR THEMES: the president can no longer govern solely through bargaining among washington elites. going public has displaced bargaining as the primary mode of exercising presidential leadership the key to going public is to maintain public trust presidential popularity depends on peace and prosperity REASONS WHY GOING PUBLIC IS A NEW STRATEGY (AND/OR WHY A PRESIDENT WOULD CHOOSE IT) (see above too) given the safety net of institutionalized, why do presidents increasingly go public? any reasons: clientelism, mass communications, decline of the party, congressional reform, rise of caucuses and PACs and democratized nomination procedures. these factors are taking away the power of local hierarchies where few members represent the majority in real life.

OTHER (LESS IMPORTANT REASONS) THAT GOING PUBLIC IS A NEW STRATEGY new technologies make going public easy (especialy tv) presidents used to be “insiders,” selected by conventions since the 1970s, the parties have shifted much more toward using primaries, which favor outsiders and strong campaigners. o, modern presidents have less attachment (and familiarity) to old modes of bargaining and instead continue doing what they know how to do: campaign directly to the people. Divided government has become increasingly common (table p 47) in unified government, presidents don’t want to embarrass their co-partisans since they don’t want to yield seats to the opposition. but in divided government, going public is useful both because it can hurt the other party at election time and because it might be more effective than bargaining with a Congress that sharply disagrees with you .

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