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Executive, Current Trends and Issues

way laws, executive orders, better relationships, acts of Congress, bureaucracy

It has always been necessary for presidents to work with Congress, but in the second half of the 20th century, relations between the two have often been strained and divided by political-party affiliation. Until after World War II (1939-1945) most presidents worked with a government in which their political party also controlled the House and Senate, making relations smoother. But since 1952 presidents have often confronted a Congress where the opposition party has a majority in at least one House. Such circumstances have limited the effectiveness of presidential leadership.

In an age when presidents initiate more legislation and relations with Congress are often chilly, the chief executive’s public image and persuasive abilities have become more important. Because the one voice of the president commands attention in a way that the 535 voices of Congress cannot, the president often uses public opinion to gain support for his or her agenda. Presidents distribute news releases, give favored reporters and journalists anonymous news leaks, and send their advisers to talk on news shows. Increasingly in the 20th century the voice of the people has come to be heard in sophisticated polls and interviews conducted by the media, which in turn influence the way that presidents respond to specific issues.

The presidency also needs to find a way to deal more effectively with the large numbers of administrative agencies that exert influence over legislative policies. Over the years, Congress has given broad authority over certain public issues to regulatory agencies. In turn, these agencies make regulations that frequently affect the way laws are carried out. These regulations have the force of law, though there is no review of them. Often, administrative orders read like acts of Congress or executive orders, despite the fact that no elected official had anything to do with them. Sometimes these regulatory agencies have better relationships with Congress than with a president who may not agree with their policies. This closeness diminishes the authority of the president over the bureaucracy.

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