Sapna Rampersaud

Sapna Rampersaud

2018 Undergraduate Fellow
Government

Thesis title and description:

"Presidential Power and War: The Effect of Decreasing Conventionality"

In Federalist No. 8, Alexander Hamilton recognizes that “it is the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.” For centuries, scholars have held a consensus that wars contribute to the expansion of presidential power. Yet, war in the U.S. has changed in nature, from conventional to nonconventional, since the 1940s and this has serious implications for presidential power. Contemporary political science, however, lacks a formal definition of war and empirical analyses treat war as a binary rather than continuous variable, i.e. looking at the existence rather than the type of war. My thesis seeks to develop a scale to characterize U.S. military involvement for the past 80 years and use this measure to analyze presidential power based on war type. I hypothesize that as war decreases in conventionality, both the American public and Congress supports the president less in his legislative endeavor and thus renders him less powerful. To examine this phenomenon, I will conduct quantitative data analysis to calculate power based on indicators such as the discrepancy between requested and appropriated budgets, individuals support scores from members of Congress, and approval ratings. Additionally, I will conduct archival research at presidential libraries and purposive elite interviews to better understand how wartime presidents craft their legislative agendas in light of the type of war and how they appeal to the public and Congress to gain support and how successful they are.