The opposition between the founding and Progressive conceptions of the Constitution underlies this insightful ten-essay evaluation. The unifying thread relates how President Obama, with a Progressive preference for domestic over foreign policy and a "living constitution" philosophy, employs executive, judicial, and legislative power to attain greater economic equality. Obama uses features of the unitary executive such as signing statements and the Office of Management and Budget to manage agency rule making, but "has ceded to judges and lawyers" prerogatives relating to CIA oversight and terrorist interrogation policies. The inopportune political time inhibits the use of judicial power to establish "constitutional welfare rights," which is instead "half-heartedly" pursued via statutory interpretation. Obama emerges as a strong chief legislator, an agenda setter, and even a detailed mechanic in low-profile Jeffersonian "collusion" with his party, yet he is criticized among supporters for insufficiently promoting the "black agenda." The founding "constitutional space" to govern insulated from popular pressures collides with the Progressive popular leader. James Ceaser notes instances of demagogic rhetoric by Obama that would be proscribed by founding conceptions. In the most panoramic essay, Marc Landy describes Obama as more LBJ than FDR; he approaches domestic policy with a sense of urgency, but foreign policy with ambivalence.
Carol McNamara is senior lecturer in the Political Science Department at Utah State University. Melanie Marlowe is a lecturer of political science at Miami University.