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The Contemporary Presidency: And We Will Know Their Greatness by the Trail of Controversy: Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Their Increasingly Contested Successors


  • AUTHOR'S NOTE: Earlier versions of this paper received constructive comments at seminars at the Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen, and at the 2007 American Politics Group Annual Conference, University of Leicester. Thanks are due to Mike Alvarez, Tim H. Blessing, Richard J. Ellis, Sandra Halverson, Tor Midtbinline image, Bill Shaffer, Kristin Strinline imagemsnes, Lars Svåsand, Eirik Vestrheim, and two anonymous reviewers for useful comments.

Gunnar Grendstad is Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bergen, Norway.


Presidential scholars hypothesize that presidential contestedness increases among recent presidents only because of unfinished research or within historical eras because of growing governing problems. Applying unused data from studies of scholarly assessments of presidential performance, this analysis disconfirms the recency hypothesis and confirms the era hypothesis. Presidential contestedness increases after each of the least contested presidents: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Uncontestedness is a hard act to follow.