I wrote a bit yesterday on what we can expect from Bush after his clear win. I see that John Podhoretz has an op-ed today on Bush’s mandate. I just wanted to add a few more quick thoughts on the subject.
Most presidential scholars believe that expectations about what a president can do far exceed what he can accomplish. Theodore Lowi wrote that these expectations are so high, that the public is quickly disappointed. After the first two years of a presidency, mandates dissolve. Stephen Skowronek says that a major hinderance to a president are layers of bureaucracy appointed during previous administrations. Clinton was undone by Linda Tripp, a former Bush appointee.
And, as I already pointed out, the president has little control over his party and Congress.
That said, I think that the president has more discretion over foreign policy than domestic policy. Here, we might see the biggest differences between a Kerry presidency and a Bush presidency.
Also, the bully pulpit is perhaps the president’s strongest weapon. He can set an agenda for the nation and determine the course of action that others will carry out for him.
I’m convinced that a president is too hamstrung by institutions and expectations to make the radical changes that some hope for and others fear.
But what if this election was about more than Bush? Has there been a shift in the priorities of the nation? If that’s the case, then not only Bush, but Congress and state and local officials will work in tandom towards those ends. Then, my friend, you have something to worry about.