A "WEAPON IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE": THE RHETORICAL PRESIDENCY IN HISTORICAL AND CONCEPTUAL CONTEXT

Author
Jeffrey Friedman
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal
Critical Review
Volume
19
Issue Number
2
Publication Date
January 2007
Institution
Critical Review Foundation
Abstract
The Tulis thesis becomes even more powerful when the constitutional revolution he describes is put in its Progressive-Era context. The public had long demanded social reforms designed to curb or replace laissez-faire capitalism, which was seen as antithetical to the interests of ordinary working people. But popular demands for social reform went largely unmet until the 1910 s. Democratizing political reforms, such as the rhetorical presidency, were designed to facilitate “change” by finally giving the public the power to enact social reforms. The resulting political order has created systemic pressure for policy demagoguery in place of rational deliberation. Mass political mobilization seems to be better achieved by contests of grand principle that pit the well-meaning supporters of obviously needed reforms against “villains and conspirators,” than by technical discussions of the possibly counterproductive effects of those reforms.