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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 14, 2022

Get Out of the Way: Joe Biden, the U.S. Congress, and Executive-Centered Partisanship During the President’s First Year in Office

Nicholas F. Jacobs and Sidney M. Milkis
From the journal The Forum


On the campaign trail and at his inauguration, Joe Biden pledged, above all else, to be a uniter to restore the soul of America. At the end of his first year in office, many campaign promises have been met, but unity has not been one. Far from transcending partisanship as promised, Biden has embraced the levers of presidential discretion and power inherent within the modern executive office to advance partisan objectives. He is not just a victim of polarization, but actively contributes to it. This is not unexpected. Rather it is the culmination of a decades-long reorientation within both major parties: the rise of an executive-centered party-system, with Democrats and Republicans alike relying on presidents and presidential candidates to pronounce party doctrine, raise campaign funds, campaign on behalf of their partisan brethren, mobilize grass roots support, and advance party programs. Like Barack Obama and Donald Trump before him, Biden has aggressively used executive power to cut the Gordian knot of partisan gridlock in Congress. Even pandemic politics is not immune to presidential partisanship; in fact, it has accentuated the United States’ presidency-centered democracy, which weakens the public resolve to confront and solve national problems.

Corresponding author: Nicholas F. Jacobs, Colby College, Waterville, ME, USA, E-mail:


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Published Online: 2022-02-14

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