John A. Dearborn (2019) The “Two Mr. Wilsons”: Party Government, Personal Leadership, and Woodrow Wilson’s Political Thought. Congress & the Presidency, Published online: 12 Sep 2019. DOI: 10.1080/07343469.2019.1654560
Woodrow Wilson’s political thought on statesmanship and governance reveals a consistent tension between party and personal leadership. I trace three phases of Wilson’s political thought, analyzing this tension under a framework of Edmund Burke’s idea of party government and Henry Bolingbroke’s conception of the “Patriot King.” First, in his early scholarship, Wilson adopted the Burkean notion of unifying the legislative and executive branches to promote effective party government. Second, in his later scholarship and political career, Wilson embraced a view of the president as having the ability to bring about responsible party government through the power of personal leadership—implicitly using Bolingbroke’s means for Burke’s ends. Third, as his presidency came to focus more on foreign affairs, Wilson defended presidential prerogatives for personal leadership akin to a patriot king. This tension influenced Wilson’s presidency and subsequent American political development.
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