Amidst the stress and chaos of the upcoming election, Bates invited Stephen Skowronek to give a public lecture about Mobilization, Management, and the Modern American Presidency. Skowronek was presented as the keynote lecturer of the Bates 2016 Election Season Series.
Currently, Skowronek is a Pelatiah Perit Professor of Politican and Social Sciences at Yale University. He has authored multiple books including the Building a New American State, The Politics Presidents Make, The Search for American Political Development, and Presidential Leadership in Political Time.
His presentation was a historical perspective and analyzed the institution of presidency and elections since the 1800s compared to the present times. Election season, according to Skowronek, is the worst time to analyze the policies of the candidates because the focus is on the personalities, strategies, and campaigns, which are all tactics used to attract voters. However, the Presidential institution continues to evolve.
There are two techniques used by candidates to attract voters during the campaign process—mobilization and management. Mobilization is the act of speaking about possible political changes, while management is promising to fulfill the government operation and duties, for there is an obligation to be fulfilled. The distinctions between the two have slowly disappeared.
Candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were campaigning from the mobilization point of view because they were both outsiders to the political system and attacked the establishment of the president. Hillary Clinton, however, focused on leadership and used her competence, management skills, and prior experience; she wants to make the political system work, as opposed to transforming it. Yet, it would be beneficial to Trump if he focused on management that is, proving to us that he can manage the government and would be beneficial to Clinton if she started to mobilize with minority groups.
While it is critical to look back at history and analyze the behavior of candidates when they were running for the position of president, it is also critical to remember that times have changed. Social media and television has become an important platform for Trump and Clinton to share their ideas and attacks on one another. Saturday Night Live, Twitter, and multiple talk shows have been used multiple times by the two leading candidates.
Neither Trump nor Clinton holds the magic recipe to fixing the institution of elections. Typically, in the past, presidential candidates would attempt to mix both mobilization and management when campaigning; however, it can be seen in the 2016 election that there is a clear divide between the two.
Further, there is the notion that, as Alexander Hamilton stated, independent candidates threaten the government. That is, every time a new President enters office, he threatens the position and the management.
Skowronek finished the talk by asking a rather pertinent and pressing question—when can this institution be reconstructed, for it does not depend on who wins the presidency.