No Blank Check: The Origins and Consequences of Public Antipathy Towards Presidential Power, Andrew Reeves and Jon C. Rogowski

Reviewed by Kenneth Lowande

Reeves and Rogowski argue people hold presidents accountable for how presidents accomplish their goals. More to the point, when presidents reach their goals by sidestepping Congress—say, by forgiving student loans or building a border wall—people react negatively, even if they like what the president tried to achieve. Presidents know this and adjust accordingly.

If you asked political scientists about this argument sans evidence, a majority would probably think it was wrong. People who study public opinion poll very little about how politicians accomplish goals. These scholars care more about what a majority thinks the goals ought to be. They might say only elites care about those things, or pretend to. Scholars who study institutions, on the other hand, tend to be allergic to the kind of constraint Reeves and Rogowski propose, because public opinion is informal, fluid, and difficult to measure passively. Like any important book, this one advances an argument that is not conventional.

The authors do that with some success. They present an avalanche of surveys showing that if you ask, people seem to care about how presidents exercise power, even after partisan cues and their own preferences. The strongest evidence comes from their panel surveys, which show that, within respondent, there are stable levels of support for executive action, de

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