The American Presidency: Past, Present, and Future
Where: New York Institute of Technology
212-261-1500 Price: $159
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This class will explore the early American Presidency, from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln. In some ways, the two were remarkably similar: strong Unionists who guided their country through years of bloodshed and sacrifice. But the differences are also stark. Washington positioned himself above the political fray—elected and reelected unanimously—whereas Lincoln was intensely polarizing. Washington came to power as a Virginian with extraordinary military and diplomatic credentials—and virtually all other elected presidents prior to 1860 were likewise generals and/or diplomats, and were either southerners or northerners with substantial southern political support. Lincoln broke the mold.
The twists and turns of antebellum American history are powerfully embodied in the life stories, electoral strategies, and presidential policies of America’s first sixteen chief executives. Come hear, for example, how the electoral college was designed by and for Washington and other leading Virginians; was quickly redesigned by and for Thomas Jefferson’s pro-southern party; yet ultimately came to place an emphatically anti-slavery northwesterner in the White House.
Throughout American history historians, political scientists, and policymakers have frequently lamented the trajectory of the Presidency and argued for institutional reform. Some presidential observers argue that the Presidency is too powerful, while others claim it’s too constrained. This lecture will assess the health of the Presidency, forecast its likely future, and offer prescriptive renovations.
The guiding questions of the session will look into whether the modern institution lives up to the Founders original vision, how the American presidency compares to other presidential systems around the world, what type of presidential aspirants will dominate the future, and what institutional changes would correct any modern deficits to Article 2 of the Constitution. The lecture will end with an argument for how to change how we both vet and select the President of the United States.
The quadrennial televised faceoffs are now an established part of presidential campaigns, but they’re a relatively recent addition to presidential campaigns. Since John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon participated in the first televised general election debates in 1960, they have changed considerably in format and news coverage. While the responses are short and not much different from what candidates say on the campaign trail, they are the only way to directly compare the candidates. Debates have the potential for gaffes, unrehearsed responses, and dramatic moments that can change a campaign trajectory.
Over the years, myths and misunderstandings have developed about the debates: Did Nixon lose because of his makeup? Did George W. Bush have a device that enabled someone to feed him answers? Did Hillary Clinton and Lester Holt have secret hand signals? Professor Diana Carlin has researched the history and evolution of the debates and their impact on voters. In this lecture, she will trace the history of presidential debating from the 19th century to the present, examining the changes and important moments. Through extensive research, she answers questions about their impact on voters and why they are a vital part of a political campaign.