1st Edition

The Imperial Presidency and American Politics Governance by Edicts and Coups

By Benjamin Ginsberg Copyright 2021
    156 Pages
    by Routledge

    156 Pages
    by Routledge

    Those who saw Donald Trump as a novel threat looming over American democracy and now think the danger has passed may not have been paying much attention to the political developments of the past several decades. Trump was merely the most recent—and will surely not be the last—in a long line of presidents who expanded the powers of the office and did not hesitate to act unilaterally when so doing served their purposes. Unfortunately, Trump is also unlikely to be the last president prepared to do away with his enemies in the Congress and transform the imperial presidency from a theory to a reality.

    Though presidents are elected more or less democratically, the presidency is not and was never intended to be a democratic institution. The framers thought that America would be governed by its representative assembly, the Congress of the United States. Presidential power, like a dangerous pharmaceutical, might have been labelled, "to be used only when needed."

    Today, Congress sporadically engages in law making but the president actually governs. Congress has become more an inquisitorial than a legislative body. Presidents rule through edicts while their opponents in the Congress counter with the threat of impeachment—an action that amounts to a political, albeit nonviolent coup. The courts sputter and fume but generally back the president. This is the new separation of powers—the president exercises power and the other branches are separated from it.

    Where will this end? Regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, the imperial presidency is inexorably bringing down the curtain on American representative democracy.


    Chapter 1: How the Imperial Presidency Has Poisoned American Politics

    Chapter 2. The Rise of Presidential Imperialism and the Politics of Edicts and Coups

    Chapter 3. Fighting to Control the Nation’s Bureaucracies

    Chapter 4. How the FBI and Other Security Agencies Interfere in American Politics

    Chapter 5. How the Courts Enable the Imperial Presidency

    Chapter 6. The Presidency and America’s Future




    Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University, USA. He is the author, co-author, or editor of 30 books including The Fall of the Faculty; Presidential Government; Downsizing Democracy; The Captive Public; Politics By Other Means; and America’s State Governments: A Critical Look at Disconnected Democracies (Routledge, 2021). Ginsberg received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1973 and was Professor of Government at Cornell until 1992 when he joined the Hopkins faculty.

    Praise for The Imperial Presidency and American Politics

    "The modern presidency seems to be out of control—powerful, unilateral, and, ultimately, destabilizing to the political system. In this provocative and engaging book, Benjamin Ginsberg diagnoses these long-term developments and treats Donald Trump’s presidency as emblematic of, rather than a departure from, the disturbing trends of presidentialization, bureaucratic in-fighting and legal warfare, and the overall decline of democratic control over national government."

    Douglas B. Harris, Loyola University Maryland, USA

    "A giant in the field of institutional politics, Benjamin Ginsberg once again delivers a highly insightful and engaging work. The book shines a light on the growing and largely unchecked power of the U.S. presidency. This is a must-read for scholars and citizens alike who are concerned about the future of American democracy."

    Jennifer Bachner, Johns Hopkins University, USA

    "Ginsberg brings together the fascination with Trump and the imperial presidency to lay out a driving narrative about the nature of American governance as it has evolved in recent decades to become ever-more presidency-centered. He has elegantly distilled this as 'the politics of edicts and coups.' Yet this is not simply a polemical work. Ginsberg parses the component elements that have brought the country to this point, examining battles over the bureaucracy, the role of law enforcement/security agencies, and consistently pro-executive court rulings. Ginsberg’s end point is as sober as it is significant: that the American system is about power, not democracy."

    Robert J. Spitzer, SUNY Cortland, USA

    "The book’s insightful, detailed peeks under the implementation hood of the executive office of the president show where lasting, real-world consequences flow from the edict pen."

    J. Farrier, University of Louisville