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This title brings together seven presidential politics scholars to address the Trump presidency and the current functioning of American democracy based on recent provocative research. These studies focus on several important topics, including presidential leadership theory and the Trump presidency, examining its mistruths, analyzing its record in the lower federal courts, probing its use of the pardon power, debating whether it requires an entirely new United States constitution to prevent future authoritarian threats, and assessing Trump's contribution to presidential power research. Taken together, these chapters represent a snapshot view of the early Trump presidency and its implications for US politics moving forward.



Chapter 1. On Studying the Trump Presidency

This book presents several early appraisals of the presidency of Donald J. Trump by prominent scholars in presidential politics. In the introductory chapter, Lamb and Neiheisel argue that the presidential leadership literature in political science provides one productive means for conducting these appraisals. After surveying several leadership theories, they suggest why Trump’s leadership is inconsistent with theoretical expectations. Finally, they briefly describe the studies in this volume and suggest several reasons why President Trump has received poor grades as a leader from many academics, public officials, political commentators, and citizens alike.
Charles M. Lamb, Jacob R. Neiheisel

Chapter 2. The Lies of Donald Trump: A Taxonomy

Although most presidents have lied to the public, Pfiffner argues that President Trump’s lies differ in volume and kind. He distinguishes four types of Trump’s lies: (1) trivial lies, (2) exaggerations and self-aggrandizing lies, (3) lies to deceive the public, and (4) egregious lies.
He analyzes the consequences of these lies with respect to public trust, misinformation encoding, and the relationship of lies to loyalty and power.
Trump’s most serious lies are egregious false statements that are demonstrably contrary to well-known facts. Pfiffner concludes that Trump’s lies are detrimental to the democratic process, and that his continued adherence to demonstrably false statements undermined enlightenment epistemology and corroded the premises of liberal democracy.
James P. Pfiffner

Chapter 3. Legal Challenges to Trump Administration Policies: The Risks of Executive Branch Lawmaking That Fails to “Take Care”

President Trump’s executive branch lawmaking has spawned an extraordinary number of lawsuits in his first two and a half years in office over such policies as the travel ban, rescission of DACA, zero tolerance/family separation, sanctuary cities, the ban on military service by transgender persons, the rollback of environmental rules, the ban on asylum seekers, and the citizenship question on the census.
Kassop finds a pattern of unforced errors by the administration that resulted in near-universal adverse lower federal court rulings on most of these policies. Prominent features were pretextual (i.e., illegitimate) reasons for policy changes and repeated failures to comply with basic statutory procedures for executive branch policymaking. However, this trend of judicial defeats for the administration could change, as more Trump appointees are confirmed to the federal courts.
Nancy Kassop

Chapter 4. President Donald J. Trump and the Clemency Power: Is Claiming “Unfair” Treatment for Pardon Recipients the New “Fake News”?

President Donald J. Trump commuted four prison sentences and pardoned seven offenders in the first half of his first term in office. He often justified his decision to grant mercy as his way to address “unfair” treatment by the federal judicial system. The word “unfair” has been repeated so frequently that one wonders whether it may be a calculated branding decision, much like Trump redefined “fake news” to describe not just untrue stories, but any unfavorable media reports. In this chapter, Jeffrey Crouch considers each of Trump’s clemency decisions and then discuss the “self-pardon” question. He concludes with a look at several clemency reform proposals.
Jeffrey Crouch

Chapter 5. How to Keep the Republic (Before It’s Too Late): Why a New Constitution Is Necessary to Strengthen Liberal Democracy in the United States

Recent scholarly discussion of the authoritarian threat Donald Trump’s presidency poses to constitutional democracy in the United States either underestimates the danger or fails to consider whether the existing constitutional system has failed and fundamental change is needed to strengthen democracy. In this chapter, Edelson proposes a test to determine whether constitutional failure has occurred and evaluates possible authoritarian action Trump has taken in several areas. Edelson concludes that Trump’s presidency reveals the failure of the current constitutional system, and Edelson proposes a new constitution to strengthen liberal democracy in the United States.
Chris Edelson

Chapter 6. Conclusion: The Five Rules of Trump

Spitzer offers five rules the he argues explain Donald Trump’s decisions and actions as president. The rules, derived from Trump’s business career, are explicated by applying them to Trump’s handling of the issue of gun policy. They also provide a framework for examining the findings of the other chapters in the book, including addressing presidential lying, threats to the Constitutional Order, unilateral powers, and court actions. Finally, the case of Trump is examined for the numerous avenues of future presidency research suggested by this unprecedented presidency.
Robert J. Spitzer

Chapter 7. Epilogue: Donald Trump’s Contribution to Research on Presidential Power

Many observers, scholarly and popular alike, have noted that Donald Trump’s approach to the presidency differs in many ways from that taken by other modern presidents. In parting, Jacob Neiheisel argues that this fact may provide students of presidential power with a nearly unparalleled look at the degree of success that might be enjoyed by presidents who employ the formal powers of the office without engaging in negotiations with other political stakeholders prior to taking direct action—much as other presidents have often done. Revisionist challenges to the “dominant theoretical understanding” of presidential power emphasize that presidents often take into account the potential costs of exercising “power without persuasion” and act accordingly prior to turning to their command authority. President Trump, by all outward indicators, rarely if ever engages in such efforts, preferring instead to take unilateral executive action without first soliciting input from other relevant political actors. He has instead been remarkably forthcoming about the strategic logic behind his use of executive power and has articulated a view of direct action that seems almost inspired by views on the presidency that underscore the significant first-mover advantage afforded to the chief executive. If this characterization is accurate, future scholarship might be able to leverage the Trump presidency to explore the subject of formal presidential power in isolation.
Jacob R. Neiheisel


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