Would the Founders of Our Nation Recognize the Presidency of Today?

Jan 9, 2024 | Politics

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The Framers of the Constitution, most notably George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, wrote very detailed guidelines to the Office of the Presidency and the Executive Branch. Even with those guidelines in place, there is still discussion surrounding if Framers would recognize the Presidency or Executive Branch of today. The Presidency has changed tremendously in modern times, so I do not think the Framers would recognize the residency of today.

According to Julia Azari, “one of the defining features of the modern presidency is that the president is at the center of the policy show.” This was especially true during the Presidency of Donald Trump, who wanted to be the center-man for every policy and claim all actions as his own. The use of social media to govern is another way the Trump Administration made the Presidency unrecognizable to the Framers. President Trump governed through Twitter and often made extreme remarks or unrealistic policy promises. He tried to speak directly to the American citizens through his Twitter account instead of making appropriate speeches regarding policy.

Julia Azari continues by saying that the 20th century changed the role of the Presidency. Nowadays, the presidency is a large office containing all members of the Executive Office of the President (EOP). President Trump controlled the people who worked for him via his Twitter account often firing officials via tweet, without even notifying them that they have been fired.

Another way the Framers of the Constitution would not recognize the current Office of the President is because currently, the President speaks directly to the citizens of the United States. Presidents give an annual State of the Union address in front of Congress, that was not always the norm. According to James Ceaser, and others,. in “The Rise of the Rhetorical Presidency”, until President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration, Presidents delivered their prepared remarks to Congress to read on their own. President Jefferson however “ceased delivering the address in person.” With the status quo now being a large State of the Union speech given by the President, the EOP must have a team of speechwriters constantly writing to ensure the President always has a statement for every occasion that may pop up.

The aspect of campaigning would make the Presidency unrecognizable to the Framers. Nowadays, Presidential campaigns are driven by constant campaigning for the vote of the people. The early Presidents never campaigned for the office; “Campaigns quickly changed from their intended place as quiet affairs into spirited events replete with fanfare and highly charged popular rhetoric”.

As touched on before, the expanded size of the Executive Office would make it unfamiliar to the Framers. The Framers wanted a small government, but today, our government is excessively big and continues to grow. Recent additions to the government include the foundation of the Council on Environmental Quality (1969), the addition of the Office of National Drug Control Policy by President Reagan (1988), the combination of the Homeland Security Council and the National Security Council by President Obama (2009), and most recently, the establishment of the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention by President Biden.

With all of these changes to the role of the Presidency, I do not think the Framers of the Constitution would recognize the Presidency of today. With the rise in social media, as well as the President becoming a popular leader amongst the nation, it looks very different from what the Framers intended. Many of the modern presidents have also expanded the size of the

government, a wish that the Framers hoped would not happen, but with all the changes in our political world and the evolution of the Presidency, the United States leadership role looks very different than it did in 1776.

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