Gubernatorial Power in the Face of War:
Applying Beyle's Scale of Gubernatorial Power
to Study Possible Effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction
on Executive Power in the South
29 October 2011
The United States' system of federalism has a long and storied history. Perhaps now more than ever, attention is focusing on the states and the particular role they and their governors play in conflicts of executive power and national policymaking. Often, governors can use their personal and institutional powers in order to influence or make national policy – both for their states and for themselves. Recently, Texas governor Rick Perry attracted national attention for his comments suggesting a possible secession from the union (Texas Politics 2009). On October 14, 2010, Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District Court of Florida ruled that a lawsuit contesting the constitutionality of the healthcare reform bill, brought by a coalition that included four state governors, could proceed (McQuillen 2010). The Republican Governor's Association (RGA), a so-called “527” organization, founded in 1963, has gained prominence as well as considerable policy influence and is poised to play a major role in the projected 2010 Republican sweep. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that “The group has raised $58 million between Jan. 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, compared with $40 million for the Democratic Governors Association . . . Both groups say the amounts are records” (Salant 2010). The RGA and DGA are relevant to another implication of gubernatorial power, the rise to national power: “Not only can gubernatorial policy and program innovations move on to other states and the national scene, but the governors behind these innovations can also continue their political and governmental careers on the national scene as well” (Beyle 1988, 134).
Whether they are acting from the position as advocate for individual states or acting on their own in the national political scene, state governors can be extremely relevant beyond simply their own states. However, not all governors are equal; with all the social and political factors at play, it is often difficult to isolate reality among the perceptions. In order to adequately understand gubernatorial power, it is useful to identify elements of power and develop a formal scale to measure variance in the allocation of executive power by state constitutions.
In 1965, Schlesinger introduced his “Index of the Formal Powers of the Governors”; in 1968, Thad Beyle updated this index, focusing on institutional and personal powers (Beyle 1968, 541). In 1983, Beyle again suggested several updates to the scale, namely, five main components of formal power (Grey, Jacob, and Vines, eds., 1983, 180-221). The scale measures institutional powers across several dimensions. He questions the electoral independence, the tenure potential, the appointment powers, the budget powers, and the veto power of the executive. He also examines the partisan control of the state government. Further, he measures the personal power of the executive according to the following elements: whether the governor enjoys an electoral mandate, what the governor's position is on the state's ambition ladder, what the personal future of the governor is, and what the governor's job performance rating is in opinion polls (Beyle 2010). Although the scale has been criticized (Dometrius 1987, 319-328), it is still widely used to determine gubernatorial power. However, one area that warrants closer attention is the topic of regional differences, particularly in light of one of the most staggering shifts of power in the United States' history: the Civil War and Reconstruction. Are there real power differences between Southern and Northern states, or is this area dependant on perception alone? Are power disparities a matter of coincidence, or can inequalities be traced back to Reconstruction?
Research Question Presented:
Are there common disparities in powers allocated to Southern gubernatorial offices, and can these differences in power be seen as a result of the events of Reconstruction? Is there a significant, real power difference between Northern States’ gubernatorial power and power among the eleven Southern states which formed the Confederacy, in terms of Beyle's scale? Is there a statistically-significant correlation and/or causation between Reconstruction and the contemporary disparities (both perceived and real) in gubernatorial power among the eleven Southern states, and how has this correlation/ causation carried through into actual policy?
Using Beyle's scale and its raw data as a quantitative measure, I will examine the current dispersion of power in order to isolate any geographical commonalities. Then, I will study the events during and after Reconstruction on a macro and micro scale; my macro study will include the state constitutions for the 11 Southern states and track any changes after Reconstruction; my micro analysis will include several in-depth case studies from representative Southern states including Mississippi. Additionally, I hope to include, if possible, several brief, personal interviews with Southern governors. Using this study, I will attempt to isolate any statistically-significant correlation/causation between Reconstruction and any geographical gubernatorial power disparities; I will utilize personal interviews, current events, and Beyle's scale of personal powers in order to qualitatively examine the common perceptions about and the policy of the Southern governors, in light of my qualitative findings, in order to better understand the real-world, contemporary implications of Southern gubernatorial power.
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Anticipated References and Research Sources
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