LMU Professor on Presidential Power

Prof. Michael Genovese, president of LMU's Global Policy Institute, discusses the state of presidential power.

American presidents are set up to fail. “To do otherwise is unusual and extraordinary,” said Loyola Marymount University Professor Michael Genovese during last week’s lunchtime presentation entitled, “Sisyphus and Leviathan Meet Goldilocks and the Three Presidencies Who Confront Donald Trump.”

Held on campus on Wednesday, March 20, the event was hosted by Loyola Law School, Los Angeles’ chapters of the American Constitution Society and American Civil Liberties Union. During the wide-ranging talk, Genovese evaluated how the Constitution’s mechanisms for checks and balances on the executive branch have the potential to both serve and undermine Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Presidential power is either too hot or too cold,” said Genovese, president of LMU’s Global Policy Institute, explaining that the Founding Fathers’ intention to limit presidential power has left many office holders feeling constrained. “It’s too hot in foreign policy where you want more restraint, not hot enough in domestic and economic policy where you might want more leadership. We have a hard time getting it just right.”

Over time, Genovese suggested, the balance has settled with an expanded electorate transforming America into a mass democracy. “How can presidents lead in this system?” asked Genovese. “Maybe they need to follow.”

Looking at Trump’s base of white, working-class voters, Genovese pointed out that fearmongering has been a successful tactic for Trump on subjects such as race and immigration. “If race hadn’t been as important of a factor, Trump would have lost the election handily,” opined Genovese.

What does this mean for the future of American politics? Genovese suggested that dealing with race in all of its manifestations could hold the key for moving past Trump-style politics. “We need to learn how to reach a dialogue with working-class Americans about what race means and what the changes taking place in America mean,” Genovese said.

Want to engage in dialogue that makes a difference? Loyola Law School students are invited attend regular events with leading scholars, including an array of faculty workshops.