Mr. Almighty President
Presidential figures have always been better known across the United States than other political actors. That is why “Postmodern presidency” might refer to a presidency “On steroids”.
In Leah A. Murray’s book Politics and Popular Culture (2012) John Freie identifies Ronald Regan as responsible for making the transition from modern to postmodern presidency, as the first could be traced back to Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson’s administrations (Ibid). Regan marked a precedent where, regardless that his agenda was not consistent to the will of the majority, he was capable of contradict himself in order to maintain a high popularity. This first postmodern presidency was referred, by academics, as the “Reagan Paradox” (Ibid).
With the exception of George W. H. Bush- whom seemed unable to adequate to Regan’s new style- the subsequent administrations postmodern presidency was later embraced and improved.
Among the most important components of a postmodern presidency is the way in which publicity is conducted. Since Bill Clinton, the presidential figure has been in a state of “Permanent campaign” that for Clinton, translates in a closer relation to smaller clusters of public opinion (Ibid). Such strategy is not different from marketing campaign nowadays, in which marketers stratify populations, for they attempt to diversify one product, promising to please the entire market. Likewise, a postmodern president would appeal to micro-policies that satisfy the interest of specific circles. For instance, Clinton’s micro-policies were not only aimed to pleased targeted sections of the public, additionally, they were promoted as part of a Neoliberal agenda that promised government action at low cost. (Roberts, 2009).
However, because of the complexity of presidency itself, a head of state like Clinton appealed to the “60 percent rule” (Murray, 2010) by doing so, Clinton reinforced other characteristics of postmodern presidency: Presidential character and pragmatism. These two, when “going public” provide a president with the sufficient media power to not only maintain his popularity but “to influence other political actors” (Ibid.)
Furthermore, George W. Bush did not only enhance in relentless publicity to influence other branches of the government, he also strengthened the presidential figure by challenging the constitutional limits of its power through the excessive use of executive orders. This could explain the mentioned focus on connecting more with the public than to congress.
Postmodern presidency targets the public through spectacles that appeal to people’s emotions. By becoming more accessible, postmodern presidents try to resemble voters and their preferences. For this matter, postmodern presidency implies new forms of intervention in popular culture. One instance could be when in 2002 Ozzy Osbourne was invited to a dinner at the White House, which was partly televised on MTV’s reality show “The Osbournes”. Despite, the presence of Osbourne might have seemed to have most of the attention, Bush was successful in introducing himself to a non-political scenario.
The evolution of postmodern presidency is also highly influenced by technology. Internet access has entitled political actors to have real-time access to public opinion and the ability to interact (even if it is through a dedicated staff) with citizens. President Barack Obama has capitalized cyber-platforms to present what, according to Freie is an image of change with vague ideas (Murray, 2010) because a postmodern president does not take ideological sides, at least publically. Obama’s administration has pretended to follow Clinton’s formula of cluster policy making, even when policies are neither necessarily oriented to a specific target, nor low budget. Like Bush, Obama has also used executive orders and like Reagan, he has contradicted himself without being massively disapproved.
Postmodern presidency could only be compared to the profile of Machiavelli’s “Prince” a pragmatic leader; loved (or feared) able to keep his word, as long as it does not affect his position.
Leah A. Murray, Politics and Popular Culture, (Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2010), 14,15,19,20, 21 & 28.
Roberts, Alasdair. “The War We Deserve” Foreign Policy, October 12, 2009. http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/12/the-war-we-deserve/
(Accessed February 28, 2015).
ABC News, WHCD Memories, Ozzy Steals the show from Bush, Web, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/video/whcd-memories-ozzy-steals-show-bush-16222903
(Accessed February 28, 2015).