Stephen Skowronek, Stephen Skowronek | Department of Political Science
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The Presidency in the Political Order
Presidential leadership from Presidents Washington to Bush and beyond: assessing presidents within the cycled circumstances of institutional expectations

Stephen Skowronek proposes that the US Presidency runs in cycles with four main sorts of presidencies: Reconstruction, Articulation, Disjunction, and Preemption. The cycle begins with Reconstruction, a president reshaping the political landscape for the next few decades at least. It continues with Articulation, presidents working in that tradition. It ends with Disjunction, a president trying to cope with new problems within that tradition, and failing. Or at least being perceived as having failed. Alongside Articulation is Preemption, presidents from the opposite party who nevertheless try to work within the existing tradition.
Strong Weak
Same Art Dis
Opposite Rec Pre
Dominant coalition: strong vs. weak
Side relative to dominant coalition: same vs. opposite

The presidents:
1789 Washington: Rec (1st PS)
1796 J Adams: Dis

1800 Jefferson: Rec
1808 Madison: Art
1816 Monroe: Art
1824 JQ Adams: Dis

1828 Jackson: Rec (2nd PS)
1836 Van Buren: Art
1840 WH Harrison: (Pre)
1840 Tyler: Pre
1844 Polk: Art
1848 Taylor: Pre
1850 Fillmore: Pre
1852 Pierce: Dis
1856 Buchanan: Dis

1860 Lincoln: Rec (3rd PS)
1864 A Johnson: Pre
1868 Grant: Art
1876 Hayes: (Art)
1880 Garfield: Art
1881 Arthur: Art
1884 Cleveland: Pre
1888 B Harrison: Art
1892 Cleveland: Pre
1896 McKinley: Art

1901 T Roosevelt: Art (Rec?) (4th PS)
1908 Taft: Art
1912 Wilson: Pre
1920 Harding: Art
1924 Coolidge: (Art)
1928 Hoover: Dis

1932 FD Roosevelt: Rec (5th PS)
1945 Truman: Art
1952 Eisenhower: Pre
1960 Kennedy: Art
1963 LB Johnson: Art
1968 Nixon: Pre
1974 Ford: Pre
1976 Carter: Dis

1980 Reagan: Rec (6th PS)
1988 Bush I: Art
1992 Clinton: Pre
2000 Bush II: Art (Dis)
2008 Obama: Pre
2016 Trump: Dis

The best presidents were all Reconstructing ones, those who helped create a new political order. They were usually succeeded by their vice presidents, though they became Articulating presidents. The "PS" for them is the emergence of a party system, a characteristic set of constituencies and platforms for each of the two political parties.

Preemptive ones often suffered their legitimacy being questioned, either from within (Tyler's Cabinet resigning, A Johnson, Nixon, Clinton getting impeached, Obama getting obstructed) or from outside (Eisenhower as a Communist, Obama birtherism).

Disjunctive ones include some of the worst presidents, though Articulating and Preemptive ones can also be very bad. They are all one-term presidents.