Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

John J. Pitney, Jr.

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© 2016 Joseph G. Hylton


This thesis tracks the direction of the development of unilateral executive power from Nixon to Clinton. The thirty-two-year process saw a mostly continuous growth of the power of the president to act unilaterally through a variety of mechanisms seizing the ability to act first from the other branches of government and the bureaucracy. The ability to enhance presidential power depends on many factors such as one time shocks (such as Watergate) and congressional support. The minority presidency of Richard Nixon responded to democratic control of Congress by aggressive assertions of presidential power via unilateral decrees. In fights such as impoundment, wage and price controls, and affirmative action plans, Nixon attempted to increase the power of the presidency while also laying groundwork for future regulatory reforms. Nixon’s resignation and Watergate crated stiff headwinds for the development of the unilateral powers of the presidency with Congress passed meaningful attempts to claw back presidential powers that had accumulated over time. Nevertheless, the Ford and Carter presidencies still saw the groundwork laid for the next major expansion of presidential authority. Under Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush, the “Reagan Revolution” saw the Presidency gain new powers to aggressively combat the growing state. The assault on government saw the creation of modern signing statements, and harsh anti-regulatory actions. Clinton’s presidency saw a continued evolution of executive power albeit shaped by the significantly different ends trying to be achieved than under the two previous Republican presidents while also seeing new innovations in the mix of powers.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.