Third dynamics is the changing shape of the political regimes, which links presidents past and present at parallel junctures in "political time". This third dynamic is the point of departure for our investigation.
The dominant coalition operates the federal government and perpetuates its position through the development of a distinctive set of institutional arrangements and approaches to public policy questions. Conflicts among interest within the dominant coalition threaten to cause political disaffection and may weaken regime support. As the nation changes, the regime's traditional approach to problems appear increasingly outmoded. The government it dominates appears increasingly hostaged to sectarian interests with myopic concerns, insufferable demands, and momentary loyalties. The longer a regime survives, the more it becomes encumbered and distorted, and becomes less competent in addressing the manifest governing demands.
One can distinguish many different political contexts for presidential leadership within a given historical period. Leadership situations might be characterized by the president's posture vis--vis the dominant political coalition. Leadership situation might be differentiated according to political time, that is, when in a regime sequence the president engages the political institutional order.
This changing relationship between the p...
First, the presidents who traditionally make the historians' roster of America's greatest came to power in an abrupt break from a long-established political-institutional regime. Each led a movement of new political forces into control of the federal government. Second, after the initial break with the past and the consolidation of a new system of government control, a general decline in the political effectiveness of regime insiders is notable.
Taking different regimes into account simultaneously, this essay will group presidents together on the basis of the parallel positions they hold in political time. The analysis focuses on three pairs of presidents drawn from the New Deal and Jacksonian regimes. All were Democrats and thus affiliated with the dominant coalition of their respective periods. Each aspired to great national leadership. Coming to power on the displacement of an old ruling coalition, these presidents became mired in remarkably similar political struggles. Although separated by more than a century of history, they both faced the distinctive challenge of constructing a new regime. Leadership became a matter of securing the political and institutional infrastructure of a new governmental order. All six of these presidents had to grapple with the erosion of political support that inevitably comes with executive action.
New economic and social conflicts had been festering in the US since the financial panic of 1819, but Jackson's campaign gained its special meaning from the confusion and outrage unleashed by the election of 1824. In that election, the Congressional Caucus collapsed as the engine of national political unity, and the once monolithic