Share this

The Myth of Coequal Branches: Restoring the Constitution’s Separation of Functions, David Siemers

Reviewed by Lauren Mattioli



In his new book, David Siemers details the origin and perpetuation of the “coequal branches” myth in American politics, elegantly devastates it, and proposes more authentic alternatives. For Siemers, this is not a purely academic task—a correction for its own sake—but a necessary precursor to effective government.

The book describes the myth of coequal branches as imprecise and volatile—features, as Siemers points out, that allow the myth to serve the goal of the teller. The persistent conceit is that the three branches of the American federal government have, or should have, equal influence over policymaking and, to a lesser extant, that interbranch cooperation is essential for policy creation and execution. The credulous suggest that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution intended coequality and that their “warped vision of constitutional theory has taken hold through repetition and has been used to sell a wide array of political products that have no constitutional validity” (p. 23). These political products are the phenomena that energize the study of American political institutions. Each receives its own chapter: the aggrandizement of the executive, judicial overreach, and a hyperpartisan and stolid Congress.

After demonstrating the inexactitude of the term “coequal,” Siemers offers and justifi

To continue reading, see options above.

About PSQ's Editor

Demetrios James Caraley

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

Editor’s spotlight

Primaries and Conventions

Will the Outcome be “Democratic”?: Delegate Selection and the 2020 Primaries
Marianna Palumbo and Robert Y. Shapiro

On To the Convention, Again
Caroline Monahan and Robert Y. Shapiro


Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

Presidential Selection and Democracy   PRESIDENTIAL SELECTION AND DEMOCRACY


Money and Poltics Webinar

April 6, 2020

This event is part of the nearly yearlong Challenges and Opportunities in 2020 election series.  The series fosters interdisciplinary conversations exploring themes affecting the upcoming election and trust in our democratic institutions.


About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS