Get access

Above the Fray? The Use of Party System References in Presidential Rhetoric

Authors

  • JOHN J. COLEMAN,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Wisconsin–Madison
      John J. Coleman is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of Party Decline in America: Policy, Politics, and the Fiscal State and various articles, and coeditor of several books.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • PAUL MANNA

    Corresponding author
    1. College of William and Mary
      Paul Manna is an assistant professor of government and faculty affiliate in the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William and Mary and is the author of School's In: Federalism and the National Education Agenda.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: We wish to thank Teresa Gorbett for excellent research assistance.

John J. Coleman is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is the author of Party Decline in America: Policy, Politics, and the Fiscal State and various articles, and coeditor of several books.

Paul Manna is an assistant professor of government and faculty affiliate in the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at the College of William and Mary and is the author of School's In: Federalism and the National Education Agenda.

Abstract

Examining communication items from four presidents, we find that presidents link themselves to the party system rhetorically. Employment of party references is tested against recurrent features of the office and shifts in the political environment, including presidential approval, partisan independence, presidential successes and defeats in Congress, and the presence of divided government. Presidents strategically employ party system references with regard to audience and calendar. We find greater support for the rhetorical president as politician rather than as statesman above the fray, and we consider our findings in relation to the concept of political time. These findings suggest rethinking accounts of the contemporary presidency that presume that presidents determinedly place themselves “above politics” and “beyond party” when crafting their communications imagery.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary