Political Parties and Presidential Oversight
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The intimate, and often underappreciated, relationship between political parties, the presidency, and the administrative state has profound consequences for the functioning of these three institutions at the heart of American political life. Failure to draw out and illuminate this connection has led to an incomplete understanding of administrative law — both descriptively in what the law does and can do, and normatively in what it should do. In particular, courts and commentators have not grappled with the fundamental shift experienced by political parties over the past several decades — from traditional party organizations that were locally focused and ideologically diverse to today’s high-tech, polarized, and nationally oriented parties. This transformation was strongly influenced by the growth of administrative agencies and the modern presidency, and has important implications for the practical realities of presidential control over agencies, for the normative justifications supporting the President’s prominent role in the administrative state, and for the struggle over control of agencies between the President and Congress. This Article maps out the intersection of President, administration, and contemporary parties and proposes “responsible party administration” as a normative framework to evaluate how well institutional arrangements and judicial doctrines forward administrative values such as expertise, coherence, and legality while accommodating a system of regulated rivalry in which two programmatically distinct parties compete for the reins of the administrative state.