30 Module Introduction

The Presidency: Design and Evolution

Module Introduction

Topic Covered

  • The constitutional origins of the presidency
  • The scope and evolution of presidential power
  • The work of the presidency

Today, the American presidency is central to the idea of American democracy. It is, without a doubt, the most visible—and, perhaps, the most powerful aspect of our nation’s system of governance. In this way, the office of the presidency overwhelmingly defies the original intent of the Framers.

The Framers were deeply suspicious of presidential power. Generally speaking, they believed that the role of the presidency should be confined to exercising those powers specifically outlined in the U.S. Constitution; thus, the vagueness of the presidential powers detailed in Article II. However, the problem with such ambiguity is that it ironically undercut the initial skepticism presented by the Founders. In particular, this lack of clarity has led to a model of interpretation that has greatly expanded the power of the presidency.

Such expansion of power has largely been on display since the early twentieth century and beyond. Beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, the power of the presidency has increased significantly. From the onslaught of executive orders to the proliferation of presidential war powers, one thing is certain, no president, since this time, shrinks the power of the presidency; they elevate it, in turn.

Notwithstanding, it should be noted that the increase in presidential power is not attributable to personal ambition alone. While the personal and political agenda of the presidency is necessary to explain the expansion of presidential power; it is by itself not sufficient to explain the evolution of presidential powers through the years. There are a number of accompanying variables related to this phenomenon. For instance, both foreign and domestic developments have helped to shape the power of the presidency. In particular, world wars and economic crises are just a few illustrations of the internal and outward effects on the progression of the American presidency. (1)

Learning Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to articulate an understanding of the individual in society.
  2. Students will be able to think critically about institutions, cultures, and behaviors in their local and/or national environment.
  3. Students will be able to think critically about institutions, cultures, and behaviors of the peoples of the world.
  4. Students will develop a historical context for understanding current issues and events
  5. Students will develop a greater understanding of world events


Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Identify the constitutional origins of the presidency.
  • Describe the scope of presidential power.
  • Describe the organization and function of the executive branch. (1)

Readings & Resources:

(Note: Some reading materials contain the media form of online videos, are considered supplemental and thus are not used for assessment purposes.)

Supplemental Material/Resources

(Note: This material, in the media form of online videos, is considered supplemental and thus is not used for assessment purposes.)

Assignments & Learning Activities

  • Review Readings & Resources
  • Review Module 5 Learning Unit
  • Participate in Discussion
  • Submit Final Project Outline
  • Take Quiz 5


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