A governor's mansion is often the last stop for politicians who plan to move into the White House. Before Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, four of his last five predecessors had been governors. Executive experience at the state level informs individual presidencies, and, as Saladin M. Ambar argues, the actions of governors-turned-presidents changed the nature of the presidency itself long ago. How Governors Built the Modern American Presidency is the first book to explicitly credit governors with making the presidency what it is today.
By examining the governorships of such presidential stalwarts as Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, political scientist Ambar shows how gubernatorial experience made the difference in establishing modern presidential practice. The book also delves into the careers of Wisconsin's Bob La Follette and California's Hiram Johnson, demonstrating how these governors reshaped the presidency through their activism. As Ambar reminds readers, governors as far back as Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who ran against Rutherford Hayes in the controversial presidential election of 1876, paved the way for a more assertive national leadership. Ambar explodes the idea that the modern presidency began after 1945, instead placing its origins squarely in the Progressive Era.
This innovative study uncovers neglected aspects of the evolution of the nation's executive branch, placing American governors at the heart of what the presidency has become—for better or for worse.
Introduction. The Hidden Prince: Unveiling the Presidency's Executive Narrative
Chapter 1. Emerging Executives of the Second Republic, 1876-1912
Chapter 2. Theodore Roosevelt and the New American Executive, 1881-1911
Chapter 3. An "Unconstitutional Governor": Woodrow Wilson and the People's Executive
Chapter 4. Prince of the Hudson: FDR's Albany Executive
Chapter 5. "Undoing the Framers' Work": Executive Power and American Democracy
"Ambar identifies the origins of the expanded twentieth-century presidency in late nineteenth-century gubernatorial leadership. This is the first effort I know of that undertakes a systematic examination of the relationships between gubernatorial politics and the emergence of presidential activism in the Progressive Era and after."—Bruce Miroff, University at Albany-SUNY
- Awarded the 2013 Robert C. and Virginia L. Williamson Prize in Social Sciences by Lehigh University
This book’s publication is supported by the Haney Foundation, a fund established by a generous gift from Dr. John Louis Haney, one-time chair of the English department at the University of Pennsylvania.