Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism

  • Colleen J. Shogan (a1)

Due to the amplified importance of forging an intimate connection with the American public, modern presidents must adjust their political personalities and leadership. To combat allegations of elitism, recent Republican presidents have adopted anti-intellectualism as a conservative form of populism. Anti-intellectualism is defined as disparagement of the complexity associated with intellectual pursuits, and a rejection of the elitism and self-aware attitude of distinction that is commonly associated with intellectual life. This article focuses on the benefits and costs of anti-intellectualism as a strategic response to the plebiscitary demands of contemporary presidential politics.Colleen J. Shogan is a member of the Affiliate Research Faculty at George Mason University ( She is a full-time employee of the United States Senate, and the author of The Moral Rhetoric of American Presidents (Texas A&M Press, 2006). Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Miller Center of Public Affairs Colloquia Series on Politics and History and Notre Dame's Program in American Democracy Speaker Series. She would like to thank Sidney Milkis, Brian Balogh, Jennifer Hochschild, Peri Arnold, Bruce Miroff, Eileen Hunt-Botting, Christina Wolbrecht, David Adesnik, and several anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and institutional support.

Hide All


Berke, Richard. 2000. Head games: What a mind! In politics, that's not what matters. New York Times, June 25.
Bose, Meena, and Fred Greenstein. 2002. The hidden hand vs. the bully pulpit: The layered political rhetoric of President Eisenhower. In The Presidency and Rhetorical Leadership, ed. Leroy Dorsey. College Station, TX: Texas A&M Press.
Brookhiser, Richard. 2003. Mind of George W. Bush. The Atlantic Monthly, April, 5566.
Bush, George W. 2001. Commencement address at Yale University. May 21.
Cannon, Lou. 1982. High-risk presidency at the crossroads. Washington Post, January 21.
Chait, Jonathan. 1999. Race to the bottom. New Republic, December 20.
Dallek, Robert. 1999. Ronald Reagan: The Politics of Symbolism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
D'Souza, Dinesh. 1997. Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader. New York: The Free Press.
Eisenhower, Dwight David. 1996. Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower XIV. Louis Galambos and Duan Van Ee, eds. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
Fineman, Howard. 2003. Bush and God. Newsweek, March 10, 2230.
Frum, David. 2003. The Right Man. New York: Random House.
Galvin, Daniel, and Colleen Shogan. 2004. Presidential politicization and centralization across the modern-traditional divide. Polity 36 (3): 477505.
Gergen, David. 2000. Eyewitness to Power. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Gitlin, Todd. 2000. The renaissance of anti-intellectualism. Chronicle of Higher Education, December 8.
Heclo, Hugh. 2003. Ronald Reagan and America's search for a public philosophy. In The Reagan Presidency: Pragmatic Conservatism and Its Legacies, ed. W. Elliot Brownlee and Hugh Davis Graham. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Hertsgaard, Mark. 1988. On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.
Hofstadter, Richard. 1963. Anti-intellectualism in American Life. New York: Vintage Books.
Isaacson, Walter. 2000. My heritage is part of who I am. Time, August 7, 55.
Ivins, Molly, and Lou Dubose. 2000. Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush. New York: Vintage Books.
Johnson, Haynes. 1991. Sleepwalking through History: America in the Reagan Years. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Johnston, Richard J.H., 1952. McCarthy terms Stevenson unfit. New York Times, October 28.
Leibovich, Mark. 2005. Don't stop him even if you've heard this one. Washington Post, March 14.
Lim, Elvin. 2003. “The anti-intellectual presidency.” Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Conference, Philadelphia, PA, August 29.
Milbank, Dana. 2002. Another ol' hickory in the White House? Washington Post, September 17.
Milbank, Dana. 2003. Background checks. Washington Post, January 28.
Minutaglio, Bill. 1999. First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. New York: Random House.
Miroff, Bruce. 2003. The presidency as spectacle. In The Presidency and the Political System, ed. Michale Nelson. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Moe, Terry, and William Howell. 1999. Unilateral action and presidential power: A theory. Presidential Studies Quarterly 29 (4): 85072.
Pach, Chester J. Jr., and Elmo Richardson. 1991. The Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.
Reagan, Ronald. 1968. The Creative Society: Some Comments on Problems Facing America. New York: Devin-Adair Company.
Skinner, Kiron. 2001. What the Ronald Reagan archives tell us about the final decades of the Cold War. Colloquium in International History and Security at Yale University, October 17.
Skowronek, Stephen. 2005. Leadership by definition: First term reflections on George W. Bush's political stance. Perspectives on Politics 3 (4): 81731.
Stuckey, Mary. 1989. Getting into the Game: The Pre-presidential Rhetoric of Ronald Reagan. New York: Praeger.
Troy, Tevi. 2002. Intellectuals and the American Presidency: Philosophers, Jesters, or Technicians? Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
VandeHei, Jim, and Peter Baker. 2005. President struggles to regain his pre-hurricane swagger. Washington Post, September 24.
Weisberg, Jacob. 1999. Do dim bulbs make better presidents? Slate, November 3.
Woodward, Bob. 2002. Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Perspectives on Politics
  • ISSN: 1537-5927
  • EISSN: 1541-0986
  • URL: /core/journals/perspectives-on-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 30
Total number of PDF views: 131 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 686 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.