Presidential Politics

A primary focus of the research at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies is the institution of the presidency. Our work focuses both on relationships between the President and Congress as well as outside interests lobbying the executive branch. Additionally, CCPS scholars have studied the presidential campaigns to see what works, what does not, and what influences voters to cast their ballots one way or the other (or at all). CCPS scholars have written numerous books and articles examining these relationships and behaviors.

Current Projects

The Use of Clemency in the Trump Administration
Clemency: The President of the United States may grant clemency (usually a pardon or a sentence commutation) to those who commit federal crimes. Traditionally, the rationales for doing so have been to show mercy to an individual or to address a larger societal problem. CCPS Fellow Jeffrey Crouch observes that, so far, President Donald J. Trump has used clemency largely for his own personal interest. While Trump has offered clemency to a few “ordinary” offenders, he has also done so for friends (Conrad Black), political allies (Joe Arpaio), and people with a celebrity connection (Alice Marie Johnson had Kim Kardashian to lobby on her behalf). Moreover, Trump has hinted via tweet that he may have the ability to pardon himself. Professor Crouch will continue to monitor and write about the Trump administration’s developing record on federal executive clemency. 

How to Keep the Republic (Before It's Too Late): Why a New Constitution Is Necessary to Strengthen Liberal Democracy in the United States
Assistant Professor of Government and CCPS Fellow Chris Edelson’s current project focuses on tension between authoritarianism and constitutional democracy in the context of the U.S. presidency. Current scholarly discussion of the authoritarian threat Donald Trump’s presidency poses to constitutional democracy in the United States either underestimates the danger or fails to consider whether the current system has failed and fundamental change is needed to strengthen democracy. This working paper proposes a test to determine whether constitutional failure has occurred and evaluates possible authoritarian action Trump has taken in several areas. The paper concludes that Trump’s presidency has revealed the failure of the current system and proposes a new constitution to strengthen liberal democracy in the United States.

The Unitary Executive: Myth and Presidential Power
This project considers the ”unitary executive” theory, which, to some proponents, provides the president with all of the federal government’s “executive power” and affords him complete control over his subordinates. In a book-length analysis and critique, Jeffrey Crouch (with Mark J. Rozell and Mitchel A. Sollenberger) argues that such interpretations of the “unitary executive” theory clash with traditional notions of the separation of powers. Crouch has received funding for this project from an American University Faculty Research Support Grant.

The Unitary Executive Theory: A Danger to Constitutional Government, will be released in November 2020 and will be available here.

  • Crouch, Jeffrey. 2020. “Resolved, Congress should have the power to override a presidential pardon by a two-thirds majority vote of both houses.” “Con” essay. In Debating the Presidency: Conflicting Perspectives on the American Executive, 5th Ed. Richard J. Ellis and Michael C. Nelson, Eds. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press/Sage Publications.
  • Joshua Busby, Dina Smeltz, and Jordan Tama, “Trump and His Advisers Are Probably Wrong about What Foreign Policy Americans Want,” Washington Post (July 3, 2019)

  • Crouch, Jeffrey. 2019. “President Donald J. Trump and the Clemency Power: Is Claiming ‘Unfair’ Treatment for Pardon Recipients the New ‘Fake News’”? In Presidential Leadership and the Trump Presidency: Executive Power and Democratic Government. Charles M. Lamb and Jacob R. Neiheisel, Eds. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 91-120.

  • Crouch, Jeffrey, Mark J. Rozell and Mitchel A. Sollenberger. Forthcoming, November 2020. The Unitary Executive Theory: A Danger to Constitutional Government. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas.

  • James A. Thurber and Jordan Tama, editors, Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations, Sixth Edition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2018)

  • Representing Red and Blue: How the Culture Wars Change the Way Citizens Speak and Politicians Listen (Oxford University Press, 1st Edition, 2012)(David C. Barker and Christopher Jan Carman).
  • Campaigns and Elections American Style (Boulder, CO.: Westview Press, 3rd Edition, 2009)(Eds. James A Thurber and Candice J. Nelson).
  • Rivals for Power: Presidential-Congressional Relations (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 4th edition, 2009)(Ed. James A. Thurber).
  • "A Perfect Campaign: The Role of Money, Organization and Strategy in the 2008 Presidential Campaign," in Erik Jones and Salvatore Vassallo (eds.), The 2008 Presidential Election: A Story in Four Acts (New York, Palgrave MacMillan, August 2009).
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