Liberals & the Presidency
AMONG THE many reversals of ideological role that have taken place in American politics in recent years, perhaps the most spectacular has been the abandonment by American liberals of their longstanding commitment to the strong Presidency. This may at first seem a minor development, reflecting nothing more than the current pattern of party strengths in Washington, but in fact it represents a profound departure from the liberal tradition, and indeed from the constitutional order of 20th-century America. The practical alternative to what Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., now stigmatizes as an “imperial” Presidency is not, as many seem to imagine, a somewhat less grandiose style in the White House and a general revitalization of our institutions. It is instead a seriously diminished Presidency and a sharp reduction in the capacities of American government. The Presidency is not an isolated office but the centerpiece of a complex political system. To change it is to change the whole of which it is a part, and the constitutional whole whose future depends on the fate of the strong Presidency is one created largely by liberals for the purpose of promoting liberal values.
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