chapter  12
11 Pages

Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to “W”: Popular Politics Meets Recalcitrant Reality

WithRichard M. Pious

The Rhetorical Presidency

, Woodrow Wilson’s contribution to a major transformation in the American presidency-and in American politics-came to be recognized. But while Wilson believed that the danger of presidential demagoguery was overrated, forms of demagoguery that he underestimated have undermined the legitimacy of America’s presidential democracy, in both its Wilsonian, plebiscitary form; and in the rule by decree to which presidents sometimes turn when their rhetoric does not suffice. The basic problem that Wilson overlooked is the mismatch between effective rhetoric and what can actually be accomplished, even by the most popular of presidents.