Conclusion: Refounding Succession

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


It is possible to offer a number of generalizations about these accidental presidents relevant to political succession. Overall, in their attempts to govern in both capacities of rex and dux, these accidental presidents found themselves characterized either as usurpers or as under the power of regents. These twin threats of usurpation or regency, of course, are dangers that elected successors face as well. This is particularly the case with presidents who promote ambitious agendas. Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, Nixon, and George W. Bush have all been charged with seizing power illegitimately. Others have been perceived as so completely under the thrall of cabinet members (Washington, Eisenhower), Congress (Madison), sectional interests (Pierce), and advisors (McKinley) that they perform only in the role of rex. Some, such as Washington and Bush, have been alternately accused of both. Particular sequences in presidential administrations, such as the last years of a second term seem to naturally suggest regency.


Vice President Democratic Theory Electoral Victory Constitutional Convention Independent Strategy 
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    Max Farrand, ed., The Records of the Constitutional Convention, vol. II (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 537.Google Scholar
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    See James W. Davis, Presidential Primaries: The Road to the White House (New York: Crowell, 1967). This general endorsement, however, needs to be considered in terms of a myriad of questions concerning sequencing of primaries, their form, turnout, and campaign financing. See these samples, from a very large, continuous body of literature: Austin Ranney, “Turnout and Representation in Presidential Primaries,” American Political Science Review 66 (1972), pp. 21–37; James I. Langle, Representation and Presidential Primaries (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981); Nelson Polsby, “The Reform of Presidential Selection and Democratic Theory,” PS 164 (Autumn 1983), pp. 695–68; Karen Kaufman, James G. Gimbel and Adam F. Hoffman, “A Promise Fulfilled? Open Primaries and Representation,” Journal of Politics 65 (May, 2003), pp. 457–76.Google Scholar
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© Philip Abbott 2008

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  • Philip Abbott

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