Combating Polarization through a study of the Presidency

If party ideology were the only explanation for a president’s stance, we would not have identical approaches from a Democrat, Barack Obama and a Republican, George W. Bush on the same economic issue. Due to this observed discrepancy, it inspires the question: to what extent is a presidents’ stance on an issue a function of his party ideology? Rather than depend on party ideology alone, understanding the presidential stance with an understanding of how the president sees the government as a function of sustaining good economic and social relations between nations. Furthermore, an understanding of how the president thinks about individual rights might be helpful to explaining a stance on an issue. These explanations can be investigated through comparing the president to a Founding Father, or various Founding Fathers’ principles.  Using another means of explaining a presidents’ stance, such as the method of matching him with the ideologies of the Founding Fathers’, I hypothesize that including party ideology coupled with Founding Father ideology to explain a president’s stance on an issue will account for deviation from party ideology, and will unite party ideologies together by discovering with Founding Father principles; they fall under common ground and can implement beneficial and impacting policies. My research will involve drawing upon several historical and current primary and secondary sources as I analyze the stances of four presidents on unemployment using their party ideology, but most importantly with Founding Father ideology.  


About chrisbazak12

Denison University, Senior Class of 2012, Political Science and Education Studies Double Major, Combating Polarization in Congress, Aspiring Lawyer
This entry was posted in 2012-2013 General, The Presidency. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Combating Polarization through a study of the Presidency

  1. Kirstin says:

    There were two articles in the latest issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly that addressed this in a modern context:

    “POWER OR POSTURING?” By Marshall and Prins, and “Presidents, Polarization, and Divided Government” by Jeffrey E. Cohen.

    The first deals with understanding the president’s relationship with Congress as a determinate of whether or not s/he will pursue a stronger/forceful international agenda or a more rigorous domestic one. The second has to do with his/her place on the political spectrum relative to the relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Ultimately, if the opposition is in power, s/he tends to migrate towards the center; but if his/her party is in power, they will appease the “activists” in their party to secure a renomination.

    Ultimately, they both argue that the president’s job and goal is to lead and will do anything to accomplish that and secure a favorable legacy.

  2. sestenger says:

    “I hypothesize that including party ideology coupled with Founding Father ideology to explain a president’s stance on an issue will account for deviation from party ideology”

    Not sure I completely understand the relationship of party ideology coupled with a founding father’s to explain a current president’s party deviation. I think it is a good point that party ideology does not solely account for a president’s stance but not sure how much influence founding father ideology has on modern day presidents.

  3. Jonathan Robinson says:

    I have to quibble with your discussion of ideology. According to new research…ideology is a recent phenomenon as party becomes less powerful of a factor over time:

  4. Kirstin says:

    Is that really what that graph is showing, though? The use of the word “ideology” came about with authors more during the ’60s and has been a steady uphill climb since. You have to consider, though, that the Cold War is now historically relevant and is seen as a clash of ideologies. It makes sense that historians, journalists, and authors in general would use the term to not only write about the Cold War, but also in relating that idea to current trends.

    In order to make the assertion being made about that graph, you’d have to read every instance in every book where those words come up and see what it’s in reference to. What it is saying is that the term “ideology” was not used by authors until a bit before the ’20s, meaning that before that, party and ideology were bound up in each other. The recognition that they may be different things did not come about until around 1920.

    I’d be curious to see what the first instance was.

    That being said, the graph does not say that the power of parties is diminishing. Look at the polarization along party lines today. It’s not hard to see that the August 1st deal was so hard to negotiate because of people steadfast in their convictions and party lines.

  5. chrisbazak12 says:

    Hey All,

    Thank you for the comments. And also pointing out those articles Kirstin, I really appreciate that. I am conducting this research really to understand what causes polarization and how it can be diminished (as we know there will always be disagreement, but there needs to be less to get something done!). I know Founding Father Ideology might sound weird in modern day, but the same time, there has been recent literature that made me design my research since the findings of that literature were significant in the realm of explaining the history of international politics, but I would like to see if this is significant in the realm of the presidency and congress.

    Also, I looked at the ideology graph you posted. I agree with that graph: party ideology does become less important over time, otherwise we would not see so much deviation and disagreement from the party ideology now from liberal and conservatives. But, what principles do they agree on? What is maintained as an influence on political actions besides party ideology? I can’t completely dismiss the fact that parties don’t matter at all, but I can hypothesize that characterizing a president and their policy to a Founding Father is going to explain a lot more than just characterizing a president and their policy by their party ideology. Before I completely dismiss party ideology, I need to do more research into that.

    Thank you again and look forward to seeing you all at conference in November,

  6. Kirstin says:


    You’re welcome 🙂 If I come across anything else, I’ll be sure to let you know.

    I think considering Founding Fathers is important, because if you look at what they wrote, a lot of them were opposed to the formulation of political parties for the fear of people being manipulated by or unquestioningly loyal to the parties. Perhaps it shouldn’t be the main focus of your paper, but you could certainly devote a section to the debates about parties.

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