U.S. Presidency IV: Institutional Change and the Modern Presidency–From Conventions to Primaries


James Hanley

James Hanley is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.

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5 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    In Singapore, our latest presidential election was a four way battle between people with the same surname (okay granted it is an extremely common surname, but still). Three of the candidates campaigned on basically exceeding their constitutional role (though they did not put it that way) because they alone had the democratic legitimacy of the whole country as opposed to MPs who only enjoy democratic legitimacy in the constituency in which they were elected. Luckily the 4th guy won, but it was a close fight between two of the candidates. Presumably, there is going to be some point at which the demagogues will win. The similarity of the dynamic, I think stems from the fact that presidential candidates self select. So even if there is no primary, since they are not beholden to party leaders (in fact they have to quit their political party before they run) the same thing happens.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

      That’s really interesting, Murali. I, of course, know nothing about the Singaporean system, but as you explain it, it sounds like a similar dynamic with a similar institutional foundation. As such, it would provide a nice independent verification of the hypotheses, and possibly the basis fir a research project.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:

        Here is a link to the particular incident I mentioned: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_the_President_of_Singapore#Public_expressions_of_opinion

        The article is actually quite good. A point of interest is that the president was only popularly elected after 1991. Prior to that, the president was selected by parliament. So, we’ve had 4 presidents (Yusof Ishak, Benjamin Shears, Devan Nair, Wee Kim Wee) who were selected by parliament and 3 who were popularly elected (Ong Teng Chiong, S R Nathan, Tony Tan) Intrestingly, it is Devan Nair who is perhaps our most colourful president. The circumstances behind his resignation contain allegations of alcoholism and counter allegations of forced druggingReport

  2. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Really interesting stuff. There is a lot in here and it will take a while to absorb it all. But I have difficulty poking any holes through your thesis. It’s also interesting to ponder the role that the primaries play in the increasing disdain for the electoral college itself. Rather, the role of the primaries making the electoral college stand out even more as being anti-democratic for a “people’s office.”

    As mentioned, I’ve been reading recently about the 1952 election for my writing project. It’s a pivotal election in this alternate timeline. Except that, because the Republican side is so different (Taft dies early, so Eisenhower never runs, it comes down to Stassen, Warren, and John Bricker) I found myself reading up on the Democratic side. Forgetting so much of what I learned in history, I had kind of figured that Stevenson emerged at the convention because nobody had won the primary. I was surprised to see that the primaries were pretty decisively won and that the convention just didn’t care. Of course, if primaries were to have mattered, all of the states (okay, not all, but more) would have had them.Report

  3. Like Will T., I can’t find anything to fault in what you’re arguing, although I had *heard* in 2008 that the superdelegate thing was a reaction to McGovern winning the nomination in 1972. That could be all wrong, and it could have been covered in the reading, which I (ahem( might not have done as thoroughly as might have been required to get the relevant fact.

    Good luck on the promotion!Report