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The Particularistic President
Executive Branch Politics and Political Inequality

Award Winner
  • Date Published: June 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107616813


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About the Authors
  • As the holders of the only office elected by the entire nation, presidents have long claimed to be sole stewards of the interests of all Americans. Scholars have largely agreed, positing the president as an important counterbalance to the parochial impulses of members of Congress. This supposed fact is often invoked in arguments for concentrating greater power in the executive branch. Douglas L. Kriner and Andrew Reeves challenge this notion and, through an examination of a diverse range of policies from disaster declarations, to base closings, to the allocation of federal spending, show that presidents, like members of Congress, are particularistic. Presidents routinely pursue policies that allocate federal resources in a way that disproportionately benefits their more narrow partisan and electoral constituencies. Though presidents publicly don the mantle of a national representative, in reality they are particularistic politicians who prioritize the needs of certain constituents over others.

    • Comprehensive analysis of how electoral and partisan forces compel presidents to pursue policies that systematically prioritize the needs of some Americans over others
    • Translates the results of sophisticated statistical analyses of decades of data into intuitive graphics illustrating the tangible effects of these particularistic forces in dollars and cents
    • Speaks to a timely debate over our broken political system and warns that further concentration of power in the presidency is far from a panacea; rather, presidents, like members of Congress, engage in particularistic politics that lead to unequal policy outcomes
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    • Winner, 2016 Richard E. Neustadt Award, Presidents and Executive Politics Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    "In this well-informed and rigorous work, the authors challenge the view of presidential universalism with their finding that presidents routinely allocate federal resources to benefit their partisan and electoral constituencies. The fact that chief executives skew policy to the demands of the electoral college encourages us to reconsider our views of the presidency and the manner in which we elect its occupants."
    George Edwards, University of Oxford

    "Doug Kriner and Andrew Reeves have written a terrific book that is destined to shake up the presidency subfield. I, myself, will be arguing with it for a long time. Marshaling an eclectic array of data, Kriner and Reeves contend that presidents are not quite the national statesmen that they are made out to be. Rather, in their basic orientation toward distributive politics and disaster relief aid, presidents can be just as narrow-minded and shortsighted as legislators. Whether presidents and legislators are of a piece, well, that remains to be seen. But with this stimulating book, a gauntlet has been dropped."
    William Howell, Sydney Stein Professor in American Politics, University of Chicago

    "In a book that is beautifully crafted and filled with careful empirical analysis, Kriner and Reeves offer a forceful challenge to mainstream thinking on the presidency, arguing that presidents are just as particularistic in their approach to politics as members of Congress are and cannot be relied upon to counterbalance the latter’s parochialism. This volume is destined to be controversial and to stimulate new thinking and research on the presidency."
    Terry Moe, William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, California

    "Political scientists, historians, students of communication studies and political rhetoric, and journalists write many books on the American presidency every year. Although these studies add incrementally to our understanding of executive branch politics, very few new books fundamentally reshape scholarly thinking about the presidency … Douglas Kriner and Andrew Reeves have written a book that meets this threshold, providing a systematic and empirical analysis of presidential efforts to target key constituencies in the electorate with public policy and federal resources … [they] have produced a well-written study that has the potential to reach a broad audience in political science. Scholars of the American presidency and public policy specialists will find The Particularistic President to be an important book that expands their knowledge about the strategic nature of presidential decision making and the implementation of federal policies."
    Adam L. Warber, Congress and the Presidency

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107616813
    • length: 248 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 153 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 40 b/w illus. 5 maps 27 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. The origins of presidential particularism
    3. Base closings and trade
    4. Disaster declarations and transportation grants
    5. Federal grants and presidential particularism
    6. The electoral rewards of presidential particularism
    7. Conclusion.

  • Authors

    Douglas L. Kriner, Cornell University, New York
    Douglas L. Kriner is an associate professor of political science at Boston University. He is the author of After the Rubicon: Congress, Presidents, and the Politics of Waging War, which received the 2013 D. B. Hardeman Prize from the LBJ Foundation for the best book that focuses on the US Congress from the fields of biography, history, journalism, and political science. He is co-author (with Francis Shen) of The Casualty Gap: The Causes and Consequences of American Wartime Inequalities. His work has also appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics, among other outlets.

    Andrew Reeves, Washington University, St Louis
    Andrew Reeves is an assistant professor of political science at Washington University, St Louis, and a research fellow at the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy. He previously held a faculty position at Boston University and has held research fellowships at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and at the Center for the Study of American Politics within the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Politics, among other outlets.


    • Winner, 2016 Richard E. Neustadt Award, Presidents and Executive Politics Section, American Political Science Association

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