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Delivering the People’s Message

The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate

by Julia R. Azari

Publication Year: 2014

Presidents have long invoked electoral mandates to justify the use of executive power. In Delivering the People’s Message, Julia R. Azari draws on an original dataset of more than 1,500 presidential communications, as well as primary documents from six presidential libraries, to systematically examine choices made by presidents ranging from Herbert Hoover in 1928 to Barack Obama during his 2008 election. Azari argues that Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 marked a shift from the modern presidency formed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to what she identifies as a more partisan era for the presidency. This partisan model is a form of governance in which the president appears to require a popular mandate in order to manage unruly and deeply contrary elements within his own party and succeed in the face of staunch resistance from the opposition party.

Azari finds that when the presidency enjoys high public esteem and party polarization is low, mandate rhetoric is less frequent and employs broad themes. By contrast, presidents turn to mandate rhetoric when the office loses legitimacy, as in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam and during periods of intense polarization. In the twenty-first century, these two factors have converged. As a result, presidents rely on mandate rhetoric to defend their choices to supporters and critics alike, simultaneously creating unrealistic expectations about the electoral promises they will be able to fulfill.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

In the course of researching, writing, and rewriting this book, I have been fortunate to have never been without the company of wonderful friends, family, and colleagues; likewise, I have never been without the support of terrific institutions that have helped to bring this project to fruition. I ask...

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Introduction: Political Institutions and the Politics of the Presidential Mandate

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pp. 1-20

Twenty- first- century U.S. presidents operate in an age of mandate politics. Compared with mid- twentieth- century leaders, contemporary presidents draw on the logic of campaign promises and election results much more frequently. The use of mandate claims is not mere rhetorical window dressing...

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1. Changes in Mandate Rhetoric: From the Progressive Era to the Partisan Era

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pp. 21-58

Between the presidencies of Herbert Hoover and Barack Obama, presidential mandate rhetoric has changed in frequency, context, and content. In the modern era, which began with a transition period under Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, mandate rhetoric became relatively infrequent. When presidents...

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2. The Changing Presidential Script: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the Politics of Transition

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pp. 59-82

One week after he took office in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt received a telegram urging him to act quickly to resolve the nation’s economic problems. Invoking the election as a mandate for swift action, the telegram read, “Mr. President the people of the United States have elected you. The people of the United...

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3. President of All the People? : Eisenhower, Johnson, and Leadership in the Modern Era

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pp. 83-110

Between 1939 and 1968, presidents were elected and reelected with landslide majorities and with excruciatingly close margins. Both groups, however, demonstrated restraint in their use of mandate rhetoric. When they did refer to the elections that installed them in office, they often shied away...

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4. The Presidency in Crisis: Nixon, Carter, and the Decline of Consensus

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pp. 111-134

In April 1969, Leonard “Len” Garment, one of Nixon’s domestic policy advisers, wrote a memorandum to Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman describing the decline in presidential status and the growing concern in the White House about public and media hostility. Garment expressed the view that...

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5. What an Election Is All About: Reagan, Bush, Obama, and the Age of Mandates

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pp. 135-164

Writing in Time magazine after Obama’s 2008 victory, Michael Grunwald posed and answered the ubiquitous postelection question: What did the result mean? He predicted, “When historians remember the 2008 election, they’re going to remember that the two- term Republican president had 20...

Conclusion: Delivering the People’s Message

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pp. 165-178


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pp. 179-202


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pp. 203-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780801470264
E-ISBN-10: 0801470269
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801452246
Print-ISBN-10: 0801452244

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 874563449
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Delivering the People’s Message

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- History -- 20th century.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election -- History -- 21st century.
  • Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
  • Political leadership -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Political leadership -- United States -- History -- 21st century.
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