The United States: Providing Leadership in an ‘Anti-Leadership Environment’

  • Ludger Helms


While it is now common to refer to the president as the ‘chief legislator’ within the American system, this role of the president did not emerge before the 1930s, and became an established feature of American government only after the Second World War. It was clearly not intended by the framers and has to date never been codified in the constitution. For nineteenth-century presidents it was highly unusual even to formally address Congress. Woodrow Wilson, having in mind a model of prime ministerial government for the American presidency, was the first president since the days of Thomas Jefferson to address Congress in person in his 1913 State of the Union message. The idea of a more activist government took shape during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and his ‘stewardship theory’ of presidential leadership. The real historical turning point in presidential-congressional relations, though, came with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous first ‘100 Days’. Since then, there has been a firm expectation among both the political elite and the wider public that presidents consider it one of their foremost duties to provide strong leadership in the legislative arena. However, it took until the late 1960s before it became the norm to expect presidents to expand their policy-making role from the economic sphere to more specific areas of domestic policy, such as social welfare and civil rights measures.


Leadership Style Divided Government Executive Leadership Congressional Party Party Control 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 15.
    In scholarly assessments combining a more specific focus on the president with a broader historical perspective, Bush was characterized as ‘The most radical president of the past fifty years’ (Rockman, 2004: 352), who exacerbated significantly the problems stemming from intense partisanship.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ludger Helms 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ludger Helms
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceUK

Personalised recommendations