How does public opinion, presidential patronage, iron triangles, the distribution of power within congress, and whether the presidents agenda involves, foreign or domestic policy affect the president’s ability to mobilize congressional support for his programs and bills? Are these relations between the president and congress showing signs of support towards elite or popular democracy? These are the questions brought to light in this paper and each factor will be discussed as to why these functions operate as they currently do.
Without congressional approval the president is helpless as to his power to but a bill or a proposal into law. Therefore, it is mandatory for the president to gain congress’s support for his bill, or at least his main goals associated with this program. The first factor that contributes to a presidential proposal being successful is the president’s ability to rally public opinion in support of his bill. The best way to get a proposal through congress is keep the public informed and active as its situation.
Public opinion is key for success because the public has direct access to its congress-people and is able to voice their opinions as to what they want accomplished and sway their congress-person’s position. If enough people from their respective districts voice concern over the standings of said bill they may change their opinion in favor over to this current standpoint of public opinion. The president may chose to rally public opinion in a number of ways. In order to gain public’s interest on a given topic, it is necessary to get its attention.
The president has many options available to him, as the most public of all American figures. Through press, the president has to him available millions of possible supporters of his programs that he is pushing. The president may chose to hold a press conference, run commercials, hold a “fireside” chat, or run a propaganda or slandering campaign in order to bring public opinion over his bill into favor. Another factor in the president’s mobilization of support for a program in congress is presidential patronage.
Presidential patronage as defined by the president now in office, giving his best supporters or contributors key positions in office. In order for the president to be able to rally support quickly and efficiently from the public, having people in offices or positions of influence over many people is very favorable. As these people who being given patronage jobs for their support of the president, will feel obligated to show support. Not only can the people the president appointed to office show their support but they can rally their “underlings” in office for their support also.
This is a very favorable way for the president to gain momentum with his bill, because these people are basically guaranteed votes and need only to show their strength to congress to support this idea. Mixed into the patronage idea are the contributors necessary for most of the funds behind a campaign. The president has the advantage here, because he can appoint these contributors to honorary positions. Therefore threatening the individual congressmen with the thought of losing a valuable contributor for their own campaigns for office (if they go against the president and his now loyal campaign contributors.
The president having both control over public opinion and influence with his patron appointments, runs into trouble with congress when iron triangles are faced. The iron triangle basically depicts the actions of president being judged by congress, who then are judged by the interest groups. The problem with this situation is that congress may propose something that the interest groups support, but be shot down in turn by the president. The opposite holds true when the president and congress are hammering a program together, and interest groups step in threatening negative public attention to the very same program.
In basic terms, this iron triangle set-up is the most general form of checks and balances. One that was basically created to not only split presidential-congressional power, but allow interest groups themselves a small part of the “say” as well. Iron triangles exist not only between the president, congress, and interest groups, they also exist inside of congress as well. These iron triangles inside of congress are the real problem. They exist due to poor communications between committee’s and their sub-committees. Poor interactions between these groups, and minor squabbles over the fine print can literally kill a perfectly good program.
The coordination and co-operation between committees in congress itself is a key factor in a government that is habitually slow to act on even the non-political hand grenade type issues. Some good news about poor congressional coordination, is that these inner-triangles are becoming weaker and congress is now able to facilitate better communication between the “corners. ” So now this once anti presidential-congress bargaining tool, is starting to allow greater flow of information between the groups and less time spent gripping about the small things.
I won’t say that the inner squabbles of congress will cease anytime soon. However, it seems that for the most public of issues, such as education and welfare and the such, seem to get the attention that they require. Now if only the president and his congress could start agreeing on some one these items (especially the budget. ) The advent of committees and sub-committees is a big hindrance to presidential and congressional interactions. The distribution of power within congress hampers congress’s ability to work as a whole.
Committees have their sub-committees who may in turn have committees of their own. All of which break down a program into tiny parts and mercilessly scrutinize them without stepping back and looking at the big picture. The benefit to this is that a program, if passed, will have gotten a complete run-through and should adequately fill its purpose without any hampering side effects. Until congress resolves a better way for the committees to communicate and work together as a whole on programs, this will be the biggest burden between the presidents ability to mobilize the congress.
The final factor between the president and congress relations is their take on domestic and foreign relations. The president is fortunate to be able to mobilize congress pretty easily when his objective has to do with foreign policy. Foreign policy issues usually get plenty of press regarding the United States standpoint with foreign relations. Due to this, the president and congress usually work very hard to either resolve the situation, or find some other means of bringing the policy debate to an end (including possible armed occupation or domestic support to a foreign country.
Domestic policy here in the states is something we need to put a little more emphasis on. If the president or congress would take more aggressive stands on such things as the national budget and Social Security, I feel more work could be accomplished. More work would be accomplished not because the president and congress are working hard to fix the problems on hand, but because the American public that would be more aware would also be putting a fire under the issues. Of course both parties would work harder with the threat of upsetting the public (and killing hopes of re-election in some cases.
In the 1980s the mobilization of congress was even more difficult because government was divided between a republican executive branch and a democratic congress. Relations between the president and congress also got a little hairy during the republican overthrow of congress earlier this decade. It seems to me that the current congress-president communication is working relatively fluidly, however I would like to c a more informed general public on the issues being worked on.
With Presidential mobilization of congress working decently, only one question remains… Do these relations support elite or popular democracy? I would like to praise congress and the presidency, but I have to say that the way in which they work together supports elitism very much. Upon being elected into congress, a congress –person is placed in some echelon of the committee system. The most senior member of the committee is the placed at the head of the group. While it is definitely a good idea to have more experienced people heading these groups, I feel that they tend to oppress popular democratic views.
While in the head position of the committee this singular person now has the ability to sway the ENTIRE committee to his likings…very elitist. I also feel that the relation is elite due to “politicking” of certain programs. What I mean by politicking is how the congress people may vote on an issue in a different matter merely because of some past position, or in order to save face. Right now the only popular democratic input into the congress-presidential mobilization is interest groups. These groups have many members from a greater cross section of the public than the elite congress and president can account for.
Basically, interest groups and an occasional scandal or other media event are all that keep these transactions from a totally elitist system. Otherwise the public goes completely unaware of the daily happenings of congress which to me, calls for a change in the congressional system that allows for MORE popular democratic input… or at least someway to keep the public informed about the issues discussed. Until the “middle-man” of between congress and the American public is cut out, these proceedings will continue to show a fully elitist standpoint for procedures.