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Two Presidents Are Better Than One

The Case for a Bipartisan Executive Branch

David Orentlicher

Publication Year: 2013

“Can Orentlicher be serious in calling for a plural executive? The answer is yes, and he presents thoughtful and challenging arguments responding to likely criticisms. Any readers who are other than completely complacent about the current state of American politics will have to admire Orentlicher’s distinctive audacity and to respond themselves to his well-argued points.”
—Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America’s 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance
“In this refreshingly provocative book, David Orentlicher explains why it is due time for us to reconsider dominant ideas about the presidency, now arguably our most powerful political institution.”
—William E. Scheuerman, Indiana University
When talking heads and political pundits make their “What’s Wrong with America” lists, two concerns invariably rise to the top: the growing presidential abuse of power and the toxic political atmosphere in Washington. In Two Presidents Are Better Than One, David Orentlicher shows how the “imperial presidency” and partisan conflict are largely the result of a deeper problem—the Constitution’s placement of a single president atop the executive branch. Accordingly, writes Orentlicher, we can fix our broken political system by replacing the one person, one-party presidency with a two-person, two-party executive branch.
Orentlicher contends that our founding fathers did not anticipate the extent to which their checks and balances would fail to contain executive power and partisan discord. As the stakes in presidential elections have grown ever higher since the New Deal, battles to capture the White House have greatly exacerbated partisan differences. Had the framers been able to predict the future, Orentlicher argues, they would have been far less enamored with the idea of a single leader at the head of the executive branch and far more receptive to the alternative proposals for a plural executive that they rejected.
Analyzing the histories of other countries with a plural executive branch and past examples of bipartisan cooperation within Congress, Orentlicher shows us why and how to implement a two-person, two-party presidency. Ultimately, Two Presidents Are Better Than One demonstrates why we need constitutional reform to rebalance power between the executive and legislative branches and contain partisan conflict in Washington.
David Orentlicher is Samuel R. Rosen Professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. A scholar of constitutional law and a former state representative, David also has taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago Law School. He earned degrees in law and medicine at Harvard and specializes as well in health care law and ethics. 

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. c-c

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book is about the very high price the United States pays for its one-person presidency and how it can avoid those costs by adopting a islative power between a House and Senate and rest an undivided executive power in a single president, they paved the way for the development of the “imperial presidency.” Presidents have assumed ...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-21

Weary after eight years of George W. Bush and Republican leadership, Americans voted in a big way for change in 2008. A strong economy had been shattered by the Great Recession, and U.S. troops had suffered thousands of casualties in two wars that yielded imperceptible gains for national security. The public believed it could ...

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2 A Two-Person, Bipartisan Executive

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pp. 22-38

If the United States adopted a two-person, bipartisan executive, how would the two presidents be nominated and elected, and how would they share presidential responsibilities and White House office space? Who would be in charge in the event of an emergency? This chapter answers these and other questions about the structure Under a two-person presidency, there would be a doubling in the ...

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3 The Problem of the Imperial Presidency

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pp. 39-87

When the constitutional drafters considered the possibility of excessive power in one of the branches of the national government, they worried not about the executive branch but about the legislative branch. As James Madison wrote about the legislature in Federalist 48, “it is against the enterprising ambition of this department that the people ought to indulge all their jealousy and exhaust ...

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4 The Problem of Partisan Conflict

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pp. 88-143

As discussed in chapter 3, the U.S. constitutional structure has not been able to cabin the power of the presidency. Although the framers worried about the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches, and designed a system to ensure an appropriate balance, they did not leave the United States with the intended balance. The decision to adopt a one-person presidency has ...

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5 A Bipartisan Executive and Presidential Decision Making

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pp. 144-170

In chapters 3 and 4, I argued that a two-person, coalition presidency would compensate for the Constitution’s failure to cabin the power of the executive branch or contain partisan conflict in Washington. There is a third key argument for a presidential partnership — two heads are better than one. Experience with decision making in other settings demonstrates that we get better results when we have shared ...

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6 Representation for the Public in Washington

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pp. 171-190

Many scholars have criticized the “winner-take-all” nature of presidential elections in the United States. Whether the most successful candidate secures 43 percent (Bill Clinton in 1992) or 61 percent (Lyn-don Johnson in 1964) of the popular vote, whoever receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College gains 100 percent of the executive ...

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7 The Prospects for Adopting a Bipartisan Executive

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pp. 191-204

There are good reasons to doubt the possibility of the United States adopting a two-person presidency. In the more than 220 years since the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the United States has adopted only seventeen amendments to the Constitution. Moreover, the desire for a decisive leader who can act with dispatch not only was important to the framers of the Constitution but also ...

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8 Conclusion

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pp. 205-208

The problems of the imperial presidency and partisan conflict have plagued national politics in the United States for decades, and despite persistent concerns about the problems, they only are get-Presidents from both sides of the political aisle press for an expansive executive authority, even when they come into office after criticizing their predecessors’ claims of presidential power, and they have ...


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pp. 209-258


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pp. 259-278


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pp. 279-291

About the Author

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pp. 292-292

E-ISBN-13: 9780814724682
E-ISBN-10: 0814789498
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814789490
Print-ISBN-10: 0814789498

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 847715158
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Two Presidents Are Better Than One