The Ruling Class

Kevin Lewis

January 27, 2010

Being There: Why Leaders Should Not "Fiddle" While Rome Burns

Joanne Ciulla
Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 38-56

A leader's "being there" for his or her constituents is a matter of moral importance even when it lacks immediate practical value. Physical presence during or after a crisis plays a signal role in conveying moral solidarity, commitment, and concern, apart from the leader's actual empathy or sensitivity. The familiar story of Nero fiddling while Rome burned illustrates, by contrast, the importance of a leader's presence. Similar illustrations are provided by more recent examples of leaders who failed to "be there" when disaster struck: Vladimir Putin remaining on vacation during the Kursk submarine disaster, and George W. Bush's conspicuous absence in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In contrast, President Bill Clinton made it a priority to show up at the scene of disasters, a priority that may have contributed to his resilient popular support.


Consistent Biases in Electoral Environments: Evidence from Entry and Exit of Senators

Yosh Halberstam & Pablo Montagnes
Northwestern University Working Paper, September 2009

In this paper, we compare senators first elected in midterms with those first elected in presidential elections and find them strikingly different: The cohort of senators first elected in presidential elections is consistently more ideologically extreme and party disciplined than the cohort first elected in midterms. This result is surprising in light of empirical evidence suggesting that the electorate in presidential elections is more ideologically moderate and less partisan than the electorate in midterm elections. Furthermore, we find that senators who are ousted or retire from office during the time period around presidential elections are significantly more ideologically moderate and vote more independently than those who exit around midterms. Together, these two empirical regularities suggest that the relatively more moderate electorate in presidential elections generates a more extreme and polarized Senate. These findings suggest that holding concurrent races for office is not outcome neutral and raise policy questions about the timing of elections and ballot initiatives. Our empirical approach is robust to econometric specification and outliers and can be extended to examining models of electoral competition and voting behavior.


Institutions and Behavior: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Democracy

Pedro Dal Bó, Andrew Foster & Louis Putterman
American Economic Review, forthcoming

A novel experiment is used to show that the effect of a policy on the level of cooperation is greater when it is chosen democratically by the subjects than when it is exogenously imposed. In contrast to the previous literature, our experimental design allows us to control for selection effects (e.g. those who choose the policy may be affected differently by it). Our finding implies that democratic institutions may affect behavior directly in addition to having effects through the choice of policies. Our findings have implications for the generalizability of the results of randomized policy interventions.


Listen to What I Say, Not How I Vote: Congressional Support for the President in Washington and at Home

Christian Grose & Keesha Middlemass
Social Science Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 143-167

Objectives: Are legislators' party affiliations or is district partisanship the greatest predictor of legislative support of the president? Do members of the U.S. House emphasize different policy positions when casting roll calls than when communicating their positions to constituents? We theorize that party is less important in legislators' district-oriented behavior than in roll-call voting. When casting roll calls, legislators are agents facing multiple principals, namely, political party leaders and their district constituencies. When engaging in district-oriented behavior, the only key principal is the legislator's constituency.

Methods: We analyze legislators' positions on roll calls and in platforms. Platforms are examined with a unique data set of franked mass mailings sent by House members. Linear and limited dependent variable models are employed.

Results: Our findings show that constituency preferences are a more consistent predictor of legislative support for the president when analyzing legislators' platforms, and that political party has a relatively limited effect. When analyzing roll-call votes, party is the key predictor.

Conclusions: Political parties may be interested in what legislators do as opposed to what they say. The platform findings are in contrast to most recent empirical work examining position taking, though consistent with the canonical works of Mayhew and Fenno. This has implications for theories of parties in Congress that tie party behavior in the legislature to partisanship in the electorate.


Polls and Elections: What's the Matter with the White Working Class? The Effects of Union Membership in the 2004 Presidential Election

Peter Francia & Nathan Bigelow
Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 140-158

Thomas Frank asserts that the Republican Party built a winning coalition in recent elections by convincing white working-class voters to cast their ballots on the basis of cultural wedge issues. Larry Bartels, conversely, argues that economic issues remain paramount to white working-class voters. The authors contend that the white working class is a more diverse bloc than both Frank's and Bartels's analyses suggest. Using data from the 2004 National Election Pool, their results show that there are significant political differences between white working-class voters in union households and those in nonunion households.


Going it Alone: The Politics of Signing Statements from Reagan to Bush II

Christopher Kelley & Bryan Marshall
Social Science Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 168-187

Objectives: Until recently, the signing statement-a written statement the president can append to a bill after he signs it into law-remained buried in the footnotes of history. However, for modern presidents, the signing statement has become one important, albeit understudied, example of presidential unilateralism-strategies employed to preserve executive prerogatives and advance presidential policy in the face of gridlock. This article examines how presidents exert influence through signing statements and their role in the context of the separation of powers.

Methods: Descriptive time-series data and logit models assess signing statement behavior from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush (1981-2008).

Results: The analysis demonstrates how features of the political (especially unified government) and policy context explain variation in the type of signing statement.

Conclusion: The evidence suggests presidents have incentives to use constitutional signing statements when Congress is the least likely to challenge them and not necessarily for reasons related to policy gridlock.


Prudence and Presidential Ethics: The Decisions on Iraq of the Two Presidents Bush

Patrick Dobel
Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 57-75

A very exacting type of prudence is demanded of ethical and effective political leaders. It requires critical self-awareness, diligence in obtaining information and modifying one's conduct in light of it, and attentiveness to the fit and proportionality of means and ends. Although there are counterparts in personal life to these attributes, the prudence of political leaders has a further dimension because of their responsibility for the welfare of the polity, whether a city or an entire nation. The importance of political prudence in the U.S. presidency is illustrated by a comparative analysis of the decision-making processes regarding Iraq in the administrations of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. The sharp contrasts between them suggest that prudence and other political virtues may be substantially independent of ideology, class, and social background.


A Bayesian Hierarchical Topic Model for Political Texts: Measuring Expressed Agendas in Senate Press Releases

Justin Grimmer
Political Analysis, forthcoming

Political scientists lack methods to efficiently measure the priorities political actors emphasize in statements. To address this limitation, I introduce a statistical model that attends to the structure of political rhetoric when measuring expressed priorities: statements are naturally organized by author. The expressed agenda model exploits this structure to simultaneously estimate the topics in the texts, as well as the attention political actors allocate to the estimated topics. I apply the method to a collection of over 24,000 press releases from senators from 2007, which I demonstrate is an ideal medium to measure how senators explain their work in Washington to constituents. A set of examples validates the estimated priorities and demonstrates their usefulness for testing theories of how members of Congress communicate with constituents. The statistical model and its extensions will be made available in a forthcoming free software package for the R computing language.


Constitutional Character: Virtues and Vices in Presidential Leadership

Dennis Thompson
Presidential Studies Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 23-37

Presidents and presidential candidates should be assessed more than they usually are on the basis of what may be called constitutional character. This refers to the disposition to act, and motivate others to act, according to principles that constitute the democratic process. Its virtues and vices are distinct from personal or private morality. Constitutional character includes such qualities as sensitivity to basic rights, respect for due process in the broad sense, willingness to accept responsibility, tolerance of opposition, and most importantly a commitment to candor.


Gubernatorial Crime Control Rhetoric: A Study in Symbolic Politics

Nancy Marion, Colleen Smith & Willard Oliver
Criminal Justice Policy Review, December 2009, Pages 457-474

Past research on presidential rhetoric about crime shows that presidents use crime rhetoric in a specific manner. When talking about crime, they are most likely to use symbolic statements that are designed to make people feel satisfied about government action. To date, no research has analyzed how governors employ political language related to crime. The current study draws on hypotheses derived from research related to the federal executive and applies them to the 50 state executives. A content analysis of 7 years (2002-2008) of governors' State of the State speeches was conducted to assess how governors employ the issue of crime in their political communication. Overall, the results show that governors rarely follow the same patterns as presidents when speaking to their constituents about crime.


Assimilation and Contrast in a Test of the Hostile Media Effect

Albert Gunther, Nicole Miller & Janice Liebhart
Communication Research, December 2009, Pages 747-764

Recent empirical research has vividly demonstrated the hostile media effect - the tendency for individuals highly involved in a controversial issue to see media coverage of that issue as hostile to their own point of view. This type of contrast bias - along with its assimilation counterpart - is hypothesized to stem from preexisting partisan attitudes coupled with other explanatory factors, including perceived reach of the message and characteristics of the source. To test these predictions, we recruited partisan respondents who were either Native American or sympathetic to native issues. Participants (N = 152) read information, varying in apparent circulation (low, medium and high reach) and source (friendly vs. not friendly) characteristics, on the issue of genetically modified wild rice, a controversial topic for native people in the upper Midwest. Variations in reach produced a linear trend in judgments of bias in the predicted direction. However, overall evaluations tended toward assimilation rather than contrast effects, and two distinct dimensions of partisanship produced surprising and provocative results.


The Revolution in Presidential Studies

Terry Moe
Presidential Studies Quarterly, December 2009, Pages 701-724

In recent years, presidential studies has been transformed by a seismic shift in the scope, power, and analytical rigor of its theories. The mechanism of this revolution has been rational choice theory. In this article, I describe what has happened and offer some perspective on how the revolution came about, what it consists of, and why it is on balance a very good thing. But I also argue that, while rational choice will be the prime vehicle of theoretical progress in the near future (emphasis on "near"), it is destined to lose its dominance over the over the longer haul, both in presidential studies and in political science more generally, to competitors that are better equipped for scientific inquiry and progress-and more in keeping with the concerns of its critics.


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