John A. Dearborn Receives the 2020 E. E. Schattschneider Award

The E. E. Schattschneider Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of American government.

John A. Dearborn is a Postdoctoral Associate at Yale University, holding appointments in the Center for the Study of Representative Institutions at the MacMillan Center and in the Policy Lab at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies.  He received his Ph.D. from Yale in 2019.  His research areas include the Presidency, Congress, American Political Development, and American Political Thought.  He has published articles in the Journal of Policy HistoryPresidential Studies Quarterly, and Congress & the Presidency.  He is the author of two forthcoming books, Power Shifts: Congress and Presidential Representation and Phantoms of a Beleaguered Republic: The Deep State and the Unitary Executive (with Stephen Skowronek and Desmond King).

Citation from the Award Committee:

In this exhaustive and illuminating dissertation, John Dearborn investigates how a singular idea namely, that presidents uniquely represent national interests has shaped not only our understanding of the American presidency, but the efforts of legislators to remake it.  This notion of presidential representation, as Dearborn calls it, became powerful enough to convince members of Congress to grant the president broad agenda setting authority over the budget, trade, the federal bureaucracy, and the domestic economy.  His thorough research and sharp analysis helps solve the historical puzzle of why bipartisan congressional majorities became willing to cede wide policy-making capacity to an increasingly powerful executive branch during the first half of the 20th Century.  After the presidential scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, however, the idea of the representative president lost its purchase on Capitol Hill, and legislators, not coincidentally, became less deferential to executive autonomy.

“The Representative Presidency: The Ideational Foundations of Institutional Development and Durability” is much more than an accounting of legislative debate, however.  It is a tribute to the power of ideas in American politics and the ongoing and contested efforts of successive generations of politicians to grapple with constitutional legacies.  Responding to previous scholarship that often treated presidential-congressional relations as a mere product of partisan alliances and ideological commitments, Dearborn convincingly shows that ideas about representation and form matter in our politics, and that these ideas have lasting consequences for the design of our nation’s most powerful political office.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: David A. Hopkins (chair), Boston College; Dr. Pearl K. Dowe, Oxford College, Emory University; and Dr. William G. Howell, University of Chicago.

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