Daniel E. PonderOct 4, 2018
Presidents, Approval, and the American State
Stanford University Press 2017
Dan Ponder’s new book, Presidential Leverage: Presidents, Approval, and the American State (Stanford University Press, 2018), is an important and thoughtful exploration of the concept of presidential leverage, specifically how much capacity the president has to accomplish goals, particularly in terms of asserting power to produce outcomes from Congress. Ponder examines leverage in context, which makes this book very useful in thinking about not only the Executive, but also the Legislature, and the ways in which the branches and political bodies operate in our political system. Presidential Leverage explores not only the president’s role in many of the ways scholars generally assess the president, but also the presidency as part of the state itself. Ponder braids together this understanding of position of the president (and his/her general approval or disapproval by the citizens) and how the strength of that position is tied not just to the office and the person in it, but also to broader conceptualizations of citizen trust in government. Ponder interrogates this dynamic, unpacking and examining the different parts of it, and then integrates these pieces into a quantitative scoring of presidential leverage, giving the reader an understanding of when presidents may have more capacity or political capital and when they may have less influence or ability—but that these capacities, or lack thereof, are not just about the person in the White House, but very much connected to how we, the people, think about our government.