Is it "President" or "president" of the United States?
A closer examination of these seemingly innocuous observations about capitalization shows a change in common usage that apparently coincides with the evolution and state of the "Presidency" (or "presidency"). If we consider the "President" (or "president") of the United States to be both "a person" and "an institution," and if the Constitution intends the legislative, executive, and judicial branches to be coequal institutions of government, one would expect to see the capitalization of "Congress" and "Supreme Court" and the "President." Yet that is not the current practice. Several examples from political science textbooks illustrate this inconsistency:
The Congress could "check" the power of the president, the Supreme Court, and so on, carefully creating "balance" among the three branches. (O'Connor and Sabato 1997, 57) The Supreme Court can declare laws passed by Congress and signed by the president unconstitutional. (Burns et al. 2000, 25) Legally, the president can.., and Congress did not renew it... the Supreme Court declared that.... (Wilson 1986, 349)
Indeed, one recent monograph has gone so far as to decapitalize the "presidency" in the title of the book: Foley and Owens's Congress and the presidency (1996).
The inconsistent capitalization of the title "president" of the United States and related titles is widespread in political science. It is common to see the decapitalized "president" simultaneously portrayed as the capitalized "Commander in Chief." For example, Dye (1994, 394) states, "As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States, the president is a powerful voice in foreign affairs." Similarly, Saffell (1981, 323) writes, "The Constitution confers upon the president the title of Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States."
It is a widespread practice to capitalize the "Speaker of the House" while decapitalizing the "president" of the United States. Consider Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry, who declare "the Speaker is also two heartbeats away from the presidency, being second in line (after the vice president) to succeed a president who resigns, dies in office, or is impeached" (Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry 1998, 297) or Patterson, who asserts "the Speaker is often said to be the most powerful official in Washington, after the president" (Patterson 1997, 337). Why should the "second most powerful" official be symbolically printed in uppercase while the "most important" official appears in lowercase? Although capitalization of the "Speaker" is often justified on grounds of clarity (to avoid confusion with other "speakers" on the floor of the House; see Chicago Manual of Style 1993, 241), it is equally important to distinguish the "President" of the United States from other "presidents." After all, the "President" of the United States frequently addresses assemblages of college "presidents," corporation "presidents," association "presidents," "presidents" of other nation-states, and even other "presidents" in the U.S. Congress. For example, the "president" of the United States typically begins the State of the Union address with the following salutation: "Mr. President ('Vice President' of the United States), Mr. Speaker, members of the United States Congress."
This article examines the semantic environment--the time frame and milieu--in which a grammatical shift from "President" to "president" took place. Before 1970, the uppercase referent was the prevailing standard for leading political science monographs, introductory college textbooks, professional journals, popular periodicals, newspapers, and style manuals. Currently, the capitalized referent appears to be the exception rather than the norm. Consider some examples from leading political science textbooks and references that altered capitalization between the 1960s and 1980s.
Before: "Should the President be chosen by the Congress?" (Dahl 1967, 86).
After: "Should the president be chosen by the Congress?" (Dahl 1972b, 123).
Before: "The Constitution provides that the President and Vice-President were elected by ..." (Sorauf 1968, 257).
After: "The Constitution provides that the president and vice-president were elected by ..." (Sorauf 1980, 258).
Before: Pocket Veto: The act of the President in withholding his approval of a bill after Congress has adjourned (Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1977, Glossary).
After: Pocket Veto: The act of the president in withholding his approval of a bill after Congress has adjourned (Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1978, Glossary).
Before: "The American Presidency is unique both as an office and as an institution" (Woll and Binstock 1972, 315).
After: "The American presidency is unique both as an office and as an institution" (Woll and Binstock 1984, 337).
This article examines the timing of the change in capitalization of the nation's highest office. We begin by examining political symbolism, the importance of the "President" as a national symbol, and the perceived status of that symbol as reflected in its capitalization. We propose a typology for analyzing the grammatical changes that have occurred in leading political science monographs, introductory college textbooks, professional journals, popular periodicals, newspapers, and style manuals over the past three decades. We demonstrate that (1) noted political scientists--not journalists, grammarians, publishers, or politicians--have led this national trend in lowercase usage; (2) this lowercase preference essentially began during the Nixon administration and accelerated greatly after the Watergate scandal; and (3) the original efforts to alter capitalization stemmed from a desire to "de-imperialize" or "de-glamorize" the "presidency."
Political Symbolism, the "Imperial presidency," and Capitalization
Symbols play a critical role in the lives of citizens. Symbols are objects or expressions that represent or stand for abstract things enabling us to simplify, categorize, prioritize, and understand complex concepts, theories, and beliefs. Symbols come in many forms, including logos, flags, banners, songs, coins, poems, medals, maps, insignia, clothing, numbers, words, slogans, and colors.
Symbols are particularly important for nation-states and politics (see Duncan 1968; Kendall and Carey 1970; Edelman 1971; Walker 1967). Lerner (1937, 1290) observed, "Men have always used symbols in the struggle for power." Political symbols serve a number of highly interrelated functions. They help citizens recognize political objects, make sense of politics, establish cultural values and morals, legitimize regimes, and maintain existing order. Political symbols also enable citizens to identify members of their own group or nation, support beliefs, and reinforce stereotypes. Political symbols evoke emotions, shape attitudes, and stir feelings of pride, hope, and respect (Edelman 1964, Chapter 2).
How people react to a political symbol depends on their emotional tie to that object, as well as their understanding of how the symbol is viewed by other people. Reactions to symbols have both emotive or affective and cognitive aspects (Elder and Cobb 1983, 37). People often learn the cognitive aspect of symbols from the media, in schools, and in daily living. The affective aspect is typically one of personal experience with the symbol. Additionally, the public responds to the use of symbols in evaluating and reacting to news and to events (Edelman 1964, 172).
Perhaps no other political symbol encapsulates so many of these elements as that of the "President" of the United States (McDonald 1994; Kallenbach 1966). When the "President" appears before television cameras, throws out the first baseball of the major league season, or bestows a medal upon a heroine, he becomes a personal symbol. Likewise, when he delivers his weekly radio address or enters to the trumpeting of "Hail to the Chief," he becomes a verbal symbol. And when we see Air Force One, the Presidential Seal, the White House, or the entourage of staffers and Secret Service agents, the "President" exhibits both pictorial and authoritative symbolism.
The scholarly community, of course, has long recognized this symbolic importance of the American "Presidency." For example, Rossiter declares "[the President] symbolizes the people" (Rossiter 1956, 6). "Like the flag," Koenig notes, "[the President] is the symbol of national unity, a focal point of loyalties, and the ceremonial chief of the nation" (Koenig 1968, 4). Similarly, Barber states, "The President is a symbolic leader, the one figure who draws together the people's hopes and fears for the political future" (Barber 1985, 2). Finally, Hinckley, who devoted an entire book to the subject, writes, "If symbolism is central to politics, it is clearly also central to the office of President as we understand it" (Hinckley 1990, 1).
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, this symbolism surrounding the office and powers of the "Presidency" came under close scrutiny. Led by Thomas E. Cronin (a political scientist), George E. Reedy (a journalist and presidential staffer), and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (a historian), political scientists began to question the "textbook" image of the "presidency" and challenge what they believed had become the "imperial presidency." Arguably, the leading article on this subject was Cronin's article, "Superman, Our Textbook President." He first presented this groundbreaking work to a panel at the 66th annual meeting (1970) of the American Political Science Association (among the discussants were Schlesinger and Reedy), then later published in the October 1970 issue of the Washington Monthly. In this article, Cronin, a White House Fellow during the mid-1960s, challenged textbook orthodoxy by dispelling the image of presidential "omnipotence" and offering a stern warning to those who unrealistically elevated the presidency. Cronin stated: "If the textbook presidency image has costs for the quality of citizen relationships with the presidency, so also it can affect the way presidents conceive of themselves and their job" (Cronin 1970a, 54; see also Cronin 1970b).
In 1970, Reedy published his oft-cited The Twilight of the Presidency. Reedy, a journalist and a long-time aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Senate before moving with Johnson to the White House, examined the symbolic trappings of the presidency from an insider's perspective. Reedy (1979, 22-23) warned,
The concept of the overburdened president represents one of the insidious forces which serve to separate the chief executive from the real universe of living, breathing, troubled human beings. It is the basis for encouraging his most outrageous expressions, for pampering his most childish tantrums, for fostering his most arrogant actions. More than anything else, it serves to create an environment in which no man can live for any considerable length of time and retain his psychological balance.
Subsequent monographs published by Schlesinger and Cronin echoed similar themes. In The Imperial Presidency, Schlesinger (1973) critically examined the powers and prerogatives of the modern chief executive (albeit using the uppercase "President") and warned that the growth and abuse of these extensive executive powers threatened to undermine America's most cherished values. The term "imperial presidency" itself became an important symbol in the lexicon of presidential scholars. Then, in The State of the Presidency (1975), Cronin carefully scrutinized the modern "presidency" in an attempt to peel back the layers of misconceptions that he believed had enshrouded the office and wrote, "The intent is to demythologize the American presidency for the reader and to help him or her gain a more rigorous appreciation of its promise, performance, and limitations" (Cronin 1975, 2).
The seminal writings of Cronin, Reedy, and Schlesinger, coupled with the growing cynicism and public mistrust associated with President Richard M. Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the infamous Watergate scandal, spearheaded an entire new genre of professional and popular publications that made judicious use of the term "imperial presidency." The term itself frequently became associated with the harsh criticism of Nixon and the sordid Watergate fiasco. Cronin's (1980, 209) own words best encapsulate the significance of the "anti-imperialist" movement:
The "imperial presidency" meant many things to many people. But it especially suggested the abuse and misuse of presidential power and it became an accepted term to describe presidential lying, transgressions against cherished notions of separation of powers. A growing skepticism set in as an increasing number of Americans lost confidence in President Nixon.... During the mid-1970s, the American public's attitude toward the government took on a deep, almost estranged cynicism.... Reaction to Watergate and Vietnam took two forms. Critics claimed irrefutable evidence that the presidency was isolated, autocratic and imperial. They charged too that the deceptions during Vietnam and corruptions of Watergate occurred because our checks and balances were inadequate and that too much power had been given to the presidency.
The theory of the "imperial presidency" has been the subject of much debate. However, scholars have largely overlooked and underappreciated one critical aspect of the imperial presidency: the alteration in the capitalization of various titles associated with the "presidency." Titles are symbolic expressions. Edelman (1964, 131) writes, "The terms in which we name or speak of anything do more than designate it; they place it in a class of objects, thereby suggesting with what it is to be judged and compared, and defined the perspective from which it is to be viewed and evaluated."
Furthermore, the decision to capitalize or decapitalize a title or word is, in itself, a telling form of symbolism that, again, may reveal as much about the title giver as it does the title itself (Lutz 1996, 47). For example, most writers, out of profound respect to monotheistic religions, use "God" instead "god." A hymn containing the capitalized words, "Thy," "Lord," or "Thee" (e.g., "I hear Thy welcome voice ... I am coming Lord, coming to Thee") suggests that the songwriter is, indeed, religious (Hartsough 1963, 217). Similarly, if an author purposely and repeatedly capitalizes "Jews" and "Muslims" but simultaneously decapitalizes "christian," one might assume the writer to be anti-Christian.
Uppercase letters suggest an importance, as with capitalized names of persons and places. Thus, capitalization is not only a matter of grammatical rules; it also reflects common practice and social status. Changes in capitalization of the same word over time indicate change in the meaning of that symbol. If social practice were to change and the proper names of certain persons or places were to shift from uppercase to lowercase, observers might infer that the importance of those persons and places had indeed diminished.
The institutions of American government are no exception. Each institution represents a combination of specific individuals, rules, traditions, history, and specific powers delineated in the Constitution. The symbols used to present these institutions to citizens also indicate the importance of each institution. Even if citizens are unsure about the names of particular officeholders or their specific duties of office, the printed symbols of the Capitol, the Supreme Court Building, the Pentagon, or the White House represent these American institutions to the public.
Titles associated with these institutions also reflect status and standing, such as President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John Marshall, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Senator Barbara Boxer, Attorney General Janet Reno, or First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. If these particular persons were to be called solely by their surnames or epithets instead of their officially designated titles, citizens might deduce that these persons had lost their status. Capitalization indicates social status, respect, and standing, and any alteration from uppercase to lowercase initial could reflect a loss of status, respect, or standing. Perhaps this is why at least one leading style manual goes so far as to recommend the uppercase title when referring to the current occupant of the White House (President George W. Bush) but the lowercase title for past officeholders (former president Jimmy Carter) (New York Public Library Writers' Guide to Style and Usage 1994, 207-08).
What is accepted as proper use of vocabulary and grammar changes over time. New words and capitalization often (but not exclusively) emerge as a result of political pressures. For example, the "Feminist Movement" of the 1960s ushered in new titles (e.g., "Ms." and "chairperson") and a plethora of gender-neutral words. In the 1970s, political science authors and editors replaced "Founding Fathers" with "Founders" ("founders" or "framers"), "Congressmen" with "members of Congress," and "policemen" with "police officers." As another example, titles such as "Native Americans" and "African Americans" gradually replaced less desirable titles in the American academic lexicon.
The grammatical evolution of Watson's Promise and Performance of American Democracy between the first (1973) and fourth (1981) editions illustrates the impact of these political and social movements.
Before: "Beard's classic study ... suggests that the Founding Fathers wrote ..." (1973, 34).
After: "Beard's classic study ... suggests that the Founders wrote ..." (1981, 32).
Before: "Contemporary congressmen resemble those described ..." (1973, 331).
After: "Contemporary members of Congress resemble those described ..." (1981, 287).
Before: "While many Negroes bettered themselves economically ..." (1973, 507).
After: "While many blacks bettered themselves economically ..." (1981, 479).
Before: "Moreover, significant minorities ... American Indians, the poor ..." (1973, 22).
After: "Moreover, significant minorities ... Native Americans, the poor ..." (1981, 25).
Before: "Of course, the conflict between the Presidency and the Congress ..." (1973, 410).
After: "Of course, the conflict between the presidency and the Congress ..." (1981, 358).
Before: "The President also.... As Commander in Chief ... the Chief Executive ... (1973, 562).
After: "The president also.... As commander in chief ... the chief executive ..." (1981, 594).
Few would doubt that Watson's decision to substitute the "more acceptable" gender and racial referents in the later publication was spawned by changing social and political norms. Similarly, Watson was likely motivated by a sense of changing social and political norms when he decided to decapitalize the "presidency" and "president." Indeed, in numerous conversations with his colleagues over the years, Watson made it perfectly clear that he agreed with Wiley's editorial decision to change gender and racial titles out of respect for women and ethnic minorities. However, Watson, a noted presidential scholar, also believed that the editorial decision to decapitalize the "presidency" and "president" reflected the growing trend by political scientists to "de-imperialize" the office in the wake of Watergate (Casey 2000; Yarwood 2000).
In sum, titles and the capitalization or decapitalization of those titles are important political symbols that frequently change with the times. Although it is interesting to study the manner in which important political titles have been capitalized or decapitalized over the years, it is equally critical to examine the persons responsible for altering the grammatical convention and the semantic environment in which these changes take place. The semantic environment includes not only the title but the writer, the writer's intentions, the targeted audience, and any events that may be associated with this title. We now turn to the semantic environment in which leading political scientists have transformed the uppercase "President" to the lowercase "president."
Political Scientists and Capitalization: A Typology
Any cursory examination of published works by political scientists over the past three decades suggests that a significant change in capitalization has occurred with respect to the office of "President." Although not each and every book or article published by political scientists prior to 1970 employed the uppercase referent (for exceptions, see Greenstein 1965; Tugwell 1967), before the Nixon administration it is clear that the vast majority of political science monographs, textbooks, and articles employed the uppercase "President." For example, the pre-1970s classic presidential monographs bear this out. Rossiter (1956, 19) noted that "the President is the American people's one authentic trumpet, and he has no higher duty than to give a clear and certain sound." Also, in 1956, Corwin and Koenig wrote that "virtually all Presidents who have made a major impact on American history have done so in great degree as legislative leaders" (1956, 83). Later, Koenig (1968, 3) observed that "the President also lives within the limits of his own political skills and personality." Roseboom's history of the chief executive began with remarks about "General George Washington as the first President of the United States" (1957, 1). Neustadt (1960, 6) exclaimed that "in form all Presidents are leaders, nowadays." Kallenbach wrote that "the President, as well as every state governor, plays a role in the governmental scheme" (1966, 272). However, beginning at the outset of the Nixon administration and accelerating after the Watergate scandal, there is a noticeable shift toward the decapitalized referent. The leaders of this movement appear to be Cronin and Reedy. Ironically, Schlesinger, who coined the phrase "imperial presidency," uses the uppercase "President" throughout (e.g., "What this country needs is a little disrespect for the office of Presidency") (1973, 441).
Skeptics might suggest that the lowercase titles that appear in Cronin's and Reedy's seminal works are the product of editorial policy rather than author discretion. This was not the case. Indeed, it appears both Reedy and Cronin made conscious decisions to decapitalize the "president." In an interview, Cronin explained that he had "to overcome serious editorial obstacles in order to de-capitalize the 'president'" (Cronin 2000). Note that in the October 1970 issue of the Washington Monthly in which Cronin's article, "Superman, Our Textbook President," first appears, all other articles in that issue employ the uppercase referent. Moreover, this highly quoted article was later reprinted in the Washington Monthly's anthology, where editors took the liberty to "re-capitalize" Cronin's lowercase appellations (Cronin 2000).
Regarding The State of the Presidency, Cronin revealed in a telephone interview that he "fought a hard battle" to overcome publisher Little, Brown's established grammatical policy. According to Cronin, "Yes, I purposely de-capitalized the word 'president' but my decision was not ideological ... I have profound respect for the institution, but it was my way of de-glamorizing the office" (Cronin 2000). Additionally, Cronin reasoned that "if one refers to U.S. 'senators' or 'representatives' in lowercase, then it is only fitting that U.S. 'presidents' also be de-capitalized" (Cronin 2000).
The mere fact that it is difficult to find a post-Watergate American government textbook that does not make reference to the "textbook presidency" or the "imperial presidency" is testament to the concept's impact. We are not alone in this belief. In his 1982 analysis, Hoekstra demonstrates that these same critics of the "textbook presidency," particularly Cronin, played a leading role in the way the "presidency" is viewed not only by political scientists but by the general public (Hoekstra 1982, 159-67). Hence, there is every reason to suspect that this effort to decapitalize the "presidency" may extend well beyond the discipline. More specifically, we believe that these "anti-imperialists" strongly influenced the way newspapers, popular periodicals, and even style manuals now treat the "presidency."
To demonstrate just how influential these "anti-imperialist" political scientists have been in altering established grammatical rules and usage for capitalization, we analyzed the content of six types of publications over time to determine whether and when the publications changed from "President" to "president." The categories were: (1) political science monographs, (2) introductory college American government textbooks, (3) political science journals, (4) popular periodicals, (5) newspapers, and (6) style manuals and reference books.
We cast our observations and data-collection net wide. We examined all the American government textbooks we, or our colleagues, used in classes or had received from publishers. The thirteen textbooks described in Table 1 are representative of the American government textbook market, which is estimated to consist of about twenty different textbooks each year. The fourteen political science journals listed in Table 1 are the universe of the top journals in our discipline. The eleven periodicals were chosen purposively to include the three most widely read news weeklies and several magazines with declared ideological orientation. Finally, Table 1 includes two national newspapers and a leading regional newspaper. We examined the physical or microfilmed copies of all publications in Table 1. We did not use digital reproductions available on the Internet.
Our unit of analysis is "publications" or "works"--not particular authors per se. This is because publications involve editors and publishers, not just authors. Publications have style manuals dictating capitalization and other conventions that authors are expected to follow. Additionally, as indicated below, individual authors may not be consistent in their use of "President" or "president" even between and among their own sundry publications. Even Cronin's co-edited reader, with Rexford G. Tugwell, The Presidency Reappraised(1974), uses the uppercase "President." We suspect that Cronin deferred to his senior co-editor and acceded to grammatical convention in this particular publication.
Each publication was classified according to a typology of presidential capitalization. The primary symbol is "President," although in the case of presidential monographs and textbooks we examined the use of other symbols, namely "Presidency," "Presidential," "Vice President," "Chief Executive," and "Commander-in-Chief." Figure 1 shows the time flame demarcating the change from uppercase to lowercase president for four patterns. Each publication may be grouped into one of the following four categories:
* "Relegators" (meaning to "relegate" or consign subjects to a lesser position or status) are publications whose authors/editors/publishers either initially employed "president" or subsequently changed "President" to "president" during the Nixon or Ford administrations (1969-1977). These are the tradition breakers, the grammatical trailblazers, or trendsetters. We group the Ford administration with the Nixon administration for the very reason that President Gerald R. Ford served as "Vice President" during the Watergate hearings and completed Nixon's unexpired term.
* "Modulators" (meaning to "modulate" or adjust or alter their views or positions over time) include publications whose authors/editors/publishers switched from "President" to "president" after the Ford administration (1977 and later). The modulators are those who appear to follow the relegators and go with the grammatical flow.
* "Vacillators" (meaning to "vacillate" or swing indecisively from one course of action to another) are publications that have oscillated between "President" and "president" (1) before, during, or after the Nixon/Ford administrations or (2) who employed both words in the same publication.
* "Preservers" (meaning to "preserve" or protect established traditions and symbols from injury, harm, or denigration) are publications whose authors/editors/publishers consistently maintained the use of "President" before and/or during and after the Nixon and Ford administrations (1969 through 1976--technically, of course, the Ford administration did not end until noon, January 20, 1977; however, for simplicity, we will use 1976 as the point of demarcation). These are the grammatical traditionalists who have maintained the integrity of the political symbol.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Table 1 is a summary of the evidence of a shift in capitalizing the "President." Leading examples of each type of publication are classified as falling into one of the four categories of the typology. Although there is variation in capitalizing the presidency among political science monographs, textbooks, and scholarly journals, Table 1 shows emphatically that the shift from "President" to "president" appears in academic outlets well before it appears in popular periodicals, prominent newspapers, and even leading style manuals such as the New York Times Style Manual and the Associated Press Stylebook. The lone exception appears to be the Chicago Manual of Style, but even that publication did not significantly alter its rules on capitalization until the outset of the Nixon administration. Thus, academic political scientists were on the cutting edge of this symbolic movement to decapitalize the "president"; in a sense, they were the trendsetters and opinion leaders, not followers, of social practice.
Table 1 summarizes examples of presidential-related monographs, textbooks, academic articles, and newspaper articles within each category. Scholars are encouraged to apply this typology to any book or article in their personal collections.
Presidential Monographs. Table 1 identifies the most notable subjects of our study--the presidential monograph "relegators." These represent the first books published during the Nixon-Ford administrations that consistently used the decapitalized "president." Reedy's The Twilight of the Presidency (1970), Cronin's The State of the Presidency (1975), and Polsby and Wildavsky's Presidential Elections (1976) are the leading examples. Both the Reedy and Cronin books, discussed earlier, employ the lowercase referent from first editions on, whereas the Polsby and Wildavsky book changed from uppercase to lowercase within our established time frame (that is, during the Ford administration).
The Polsby and Wildavsky election monograph provides the single most compelling illustration in this study. In the preface to the third edition (1971), Polsby and Wildavsky employ uppercase referents, but downshift to the lowercase referents in the fourth edition (1976). The two prefaces are identical except for the decapitalization and the date of completion. Compare and contrast these two passages carefully:
Original: "This book is about the winning of the Presidential office. In spite of the great and lonely eminence of the Presidency, this office exists within a cultural and political tradition that guides and shapes the ways in which the Presidency is won and, later, the ways in which the Presidential power is exercised" (Polsby and Wildavsky 1971, iii).
Revised: "This book is about the winning of the presidential office. In spite of the great and lonely eminence of the presidency, this office exists within a cultural and political tradition that guides and shapes the ways in which the presidency is won and, later, the ways in which the presidential power is exercised. August 8, 1974." (Polsby and Wildavsky 1976, xviii).
The preface to the 1976 edition is dated August 8, 1974--the day Richard Nixon announced his resignation.
Table 1, second column, shows the "modulators," presidential monographs that initially used "President" but changed to lowercase, but after the Nixon-Ford administrations. Wayne's The Road to the White House (2001) is notable here because the first edition appeared in 1980, a few years after the practice of lowercase "president" had appeared. Wayne employed "President" in 1980 but then switched to "president" in later editions. Hargrove's works offer the most dramatic shift in this category. Although the second Hargrove work is not a direct, revised edition of the first, the theme, formatting, and message are so strikingly similar that we have included it for contrast. Finally, note how Alexander's Financing Politics (1980) changed from "Chief Executive" to "chief executive" over the two editions.
The third category in the capitalization typology, "vacillators"--those publications that are inconsistent--is empty for political science monographs. We did not find a single authored monograph that uses both "President" and "president," although there are textbooks and edited readers, such as Wildavsky's Perspectives on the Presidency (1975), which reprinted previously published articles using the punctuation of the original publication.
Table 1, fourth column, presents examples of "preservers," political science monographs that maintain the use of the uppercase "President" in subsequent editions. "Preservers" include Barber's Presidential Character and Neustadt's Presidential Power, two classic works of political science that are well known outside the discipline. Interestingly, "preservers" also includes Congress and the Presidency, written by Polsby (1976), who co-authored Presidential Elections with Wildavsky, which is a significant "relegator," discussed above. Although each "preserver" in Table 1 employs the uppercase "President," there are some variations regarding other symbols. For example, Barber's and Neustadt's books use the hyphenated "Vice-President," whereas Koenig's and Asher's texts are dehyphenated. Note too the use of the adjective, "Presidential." Barber's is the only text we found that maintained the uppercase "Presidential." The Asher and Neustadt texts employed lowercase "presidential" over the time period, whereas the Koenig book shifted from upper- to lowercase.
Table 1 also presents examples of each category of the capitalization typology for introductory American government college textbooks. The very first introductory textbooks to decapitalize the "president" appear to be Dye and Zeigler's The Irony of Democracy (1970) and Dahl's Democracy in the United States (1972a). These two books differ in their pedagogy. Dahl's approaches the study of American politics from a "polyarchy" perspective, whereas Dye and Zeigler view it from an "elite" perspective.
Dye and Zeigler's Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics represented a distinct break from the standard, mainstream, institutions approach found in contemporary college American government textbooks. Although they write that "The Irony of Democracy is not necessarily 'anti-establishment,' " Dye and Zeigler quickly note that their objective was to challenge "the prevailing pluralistic ideology" (1970, vii). Paradoxically, we label The Irony of Democracy as a "relegator" text because it primarily utilizes the lowercase "president"; however, as will be seen, we also designate it as a "vacillator" because there are also numerous instances where the uppercase "President" appears in the text, particularly the 1970 and 1972 editions.
The Dahl text was originally entitled Pluralist Democracy in the United States (1967), and it contained the uppercase "President." In 1972, perhaps in reaction to criticism of the "pluralist" perspective by "elite" theorists, Dahl changed the title of this introductory text to Democracy in the United States, adopted the hybrid "polyarchy" theory, and employed the lowercase "president" (1972a, vii). Then, in his third edition (1976), Dahl continued the lowercase usage and devoted an entire chapter to "The Crisis of the Imperial Presidency" (Chapter 13) in which he details the Watergate crisis. Perhaps most telling is the following footnote (his number 21) that underscores the impact that the "anti-imperialist" literature may have had on Dahl's writing:
In previous editions, I also emphasized the excessive demands of the office in terms of time and energy--the workload of the presidency. Two recent accounts by White House insiders have persuaded me that this aspect of the presidential burden has been exaggerated.
Dahl (1976, 147) acknowledged that both Reedy (1970), who was press secretary and special assistant to Johnson, and William Satire (1975), who was a White House speechwriter for Nixon, flatly reject the view that the president is "overworked" in the ordinary sense.
Three other American government texts are "relegators." They are Ripley's American National Government and Public Policy (1974), Katznelson and Kesselman's The Politics of Power: A Critical Introduction to American Government (1975), and the omnipresent Government by the People (Burns et al. 2000). Both the Ripley and Katznelson-Kesselman texts, although short-lived, make conspicuous references to the "imperial presidency" and Cronin. For example, the Ripley text states: "Thomas Cronin has questioned the picture of the president presented in most textbook accounts" (1974, 115), and the Katznelson-Kesselman text contains a long quotation concerning the "president" that begins: "Thomas Cronin's description is useful" (1975, 220). The latter text deserves special attention. Burns and Peltason's Government by the People has been a mainstay in college classrooms for years. Through its eighth edition (1972), Government by the People used the uppercase referent. However, in the ninth edition (1975), when Cronin joined the Burns and Peltason team, the "presidency" chapter in the 1975 edition was totally revised and, for the first time, bore Cronin's characteristic decapitalized referents. Government by the People (now in its eighteenth edition) continues to rank among the top-selling books ever. Given its financial success, it seems axiomatic that other textbook authors, editors, and publishers would attempt to emulate Government by the People--including its grammatical usage.
Today, it is nearly impossible to find a newly published, college American government textbook that uses the uppercase referent. Frantzich and Percy's American Government: The Political Game (1994) may be the lone exception. In stark contrast, it appears that most high school American government textbooks still apply the uppercase referents. Among the leading high school textbooks are: Hardy's Government in America (1988-1989), McClenaghan's Magruder's American Government (1988-1989), and Remy's United States Government: Democracy in Action (1994). Most notable is the fact that, unlike all other texts we examined, Remy (1994, 445) is the only one that decapitalizes "speaker of the house" but capitalizes "President" (e.g., "The speaker of the house becomes President and nominates someone for Vice President").
A long list of textbooks are "modulators," those that switched capitalization after the Nixon-Ford years. "Modulators" include a veritable "who's who" of American government textbooks. Among them are Cummings and Wise's Democracy under Pressure; Freeman's Power and Politics in America; Parenti's Democracy for the Few; Ranney's Governing; Ripley's A More Perfect Union; Weisberg's Understanding American Government; and Woll and Binstock's America's Political System. Although each of these works modulated from "President" to "president," there remains considerable variation with respect to "commander-in-chief' versus "commander in chief' and "vice-president" versus "vice president." Nevertheless, despite these minor variations, it is clear the lowercase "president" is now the convention among introductory political science textbooks.
Table 1 presents two examples of a "vacillator" textbook. The first is the aforementioned Irony of Democracy by Dye and Zeigler. Although Irony of Democracy was among the first textbooks to use the lowercase referent, there are also numerous instances where the uppercase "President" appears. For example, in one paragraph, Dye and Zeigler write, "This action nearly led to the President's censure by Congress" and "Many presidents have been forced to discard" (p. 229). Later, they write, "It is interesting to note that because the President's elite advisors shared" and "The president of the United States is central to the elite structures" (p. 229). The second text we classify as a "vacillator" is The Politics of American Democracy (1971-1977) by Irish and Prothro and, later, Richardson, which employed the uppercase "President" in early editions, switched to lowercase "president" in the sixth edition (1977), then resumed the uppercase "President" in the seventh and final edition (1981)--all with the same publisher (but perhaps with different editors).
In a 1973 book review, Margolis described two of the books in Table 1, and three others not included here, as representing a "new genre of introductory texts in American government." Margolis also wrote: "All of them reject the pluralist explanation of American politics which have dominated standard textbooks for the past two decades. Four of the five are highly critical not just of the pluralist explanation, but of the American political system" (Margolis 1973, 457). Symbolically, this increased frequency of lowercase "president" appears to coincide with the emergence of the more critical perspective of successful textbooks, although the correlation is far from perfect. In sum, with the rare exceptions of these "preservers," it appears that the vast majority of political science textbooks in the post-Nixon era tend to comport with the innovation and diffusion pattern established by the "anti-imperialists."
Political science monographs and textbooks were not the only publications affected by the trend toward decapitalization. A close examination of leading newspapers, popular periodicals, style manuals, and professional journals reveals that political scientists were, indeed, on the cutting edge of the decapitalization movement. Unlike the presidential studies monographs and introductory political science textbooks, it is difficult to find the full range of presidential referents (e.g., "chief executive" and "commander-in-chief') in each and every newspaper, popular periodical, or professional journal article concerning the presidency. For simplicity, we confined our analysis of these publications to the primary symbol--"President" or "president." The methodology used was a content analysis of articles that contained the word "President" or "president." More specifically, we identified the demarcation between the last article in each publication that employed the uppercase "President" and the first article in that same publication that used the lowercase "president."
For example, using the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS), the line of demarcation between the upper and lower referent is between 1974 and 1975. The last AJPS article using uppercase "President" was Longley's "McNamara and Military Behavior," with the sentence "The Constitution provided that a civilian (albeit the President) serve as Commander in Chief" (1974, 3). The first AJPS article using the lowercase "president" was Hershey and Hill's article titled "Watergate and Preadults' Attitude toward the President," with the sentence "Finally we will explore the relationship between perception of Watergate and preadults' attitudes toward the president" (1975, 706).
The same procedure was employed for political science journals, news periodicals/ political commentary, leading newspapers, and style manuals, dictionaries, and political science reference materials.
Political Science Journals, We identify three political science journals in Table 1 as "relegators"--those that switched to the lowercase during the early 1970s, indeed, during the Nixon administration. They are the Annals of the American Association of Political and Social Scientists (Annals), AJPS, and Polity. As noted below in Figure 2, the Annals decapitalized in 1972, Polity followed a year later, and the AJPS adopted lowercase in 1975. The first article to employ lowercase "president" in the AJPS is Hershey and Hill (1975), which examined the effect of Watergate on preadult political attitudes.
Only two journals in our survey may be classified as "preservers": Public Administration Quarterly (PAQ) and Public Administration Review (PAR). These are journals that maintained the uppercase "President" before, during, and after the Watergate scandal. A plausible hypothesis for their maintaining tradition is that scholars tend to stress the importance of whatever it is that they study. And because the primary focus of PAQ and PAR is the "Presidency" and the administration of government, it seems only natural for those journals to elevate their subject matter. However, Administration and Society falls into the next category--the "modulators."
We classify six journals as "modulators," as indicated below. These are American Politics Quarterly, Foreign Affairs, Journal of Politics, Publius, State Government, and Administration and Society. Each of these professional journals decapitalized after the Nixon-Ford administrations. For most, the demarcation occurred in the late 1970s and, with only the exception of Administration and Society, took place before the early 1980s.
Many political science journals are inconsistent in capitalizing the "president" (or "President"). Whether a result of sloppiness, editorial ambivalence, or author discretion, many leading journals alternate between the uppercase and lowercase styles. These include: American Political Science Review (APSR), Presidential Studies Quarterly, Political Science Quarterly, and Political Research Quarterly (formerly Western Political Quarterly). To demonstrate the nature of the inconsistency in capitalization during the 1970s and 1980s, Table 2 presents a sampling of entries from the APSR and Presidential Studies Quarterly, perhaps the most likely outlets for presidential research. Despite initiating the lowering of the "p" in president, political scientists were not uniform in their practice.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
News Periodicals/Political Commentary. We also categorize popular news periodicals and political commentary according to their capitalization style. There are no periodicals that are "relegators" in Table 1. Indeed, we are unable to locate a single periodical that used lowercase "president" before, or switched to lowercase "president" during, the Nixon-Ford administrations. Likewise, we found no periodicals that are "vacillators" in their capitalizing style. Again, this bolsters our contention that it was the political scientists who influenced the journalists rather than the other way around.
There are a number of periodicals that have maintained the uppercase "President." These publications capture the full ideological spectrum of American politics and include The Progressive, The Nation, and Time on the liberal-to-moderate side; Congressional Record and National Journal in the moderate camp; and National Review and Reader's Digest on the moderate-to-conservative perspective.
We found many news periodicals that modulated and changed from "President" to "president" long after the Nixon-Ford years. The earliest modulator was The New Republic, which changed in 1979. Other notable modulators include Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.
Newspapers. Three leading newspapers--Boston Globe, Washington Post, and New York Times--are moderators. The first newspaper among the group that modulated was the Washington Post, switching in early 1978, followed by the Boston Globe in 1986. Note that the New York Times did not adopt the lowercase "president" until November 1999.
Style Manuals, Dictionaries, and Political Science References. Finally, we examined presidential capitalization in leading style manuals, dictionaries, and political science reference sources. Arguably, the three leading style manuals are the New York Times Manual of Style, U.S. Government Style Manual, and Chicago Manual of Style. The New York Times Manual of Style, as revealed below, recommended uppercase "President" in 1976 but a lowercase "president" in its newly revised and edited 1999 update. This change is now reflected in the New York Times, the nation's "newspaper of record." The U.S. Government Style Manual has never abandoned the uppercase referent. Yet, we have found examples where political scientists quote official governmental documents but editorially insert the lowercase "president" within those quotations.
The Chicago Manual of Style (1969) was the first to recommend the lowercase "president." Earlier editions of the Chicago Manual of Style permitted the uppercase referent; most recent editions recommend the lowercase usage. Of course, it might be argued that some editors and scholars have been influenced more by this style manual than by the "anti-imperialist" presidential scholars. This, indeed, may be the case. However, we do know that Cronin's decision to alter grammatical convention was based on conviction and independent of Chicago's editorial change. Additionally, other style manuals used by leading commercial presses continued to recommend the uppercase referent long after Chicago made its switch.
Although it is impossible to include each and every edition of each and every dictionary for analysis, the trend appears roughly the same: before the Nixon and Ford administrations, dictionaries employed the uppercase referent; after that time, some switched to the lowercase referent. More importantly, the majority of dictionaries that we examined continue to employ the uppercase reference to the "office of the President of the United States."
The last subject of our examination is political science reference material. The analysis reveals four works that reflect the ambivalence of the discipline with respect to capitalization. In the "preserver" category is Piano and Greenberg's The American Political Dictionary (1962-1963) that has continued to employ the uppercase "President" throughout the entire period. In the "modulator" camp are Peltason's Corwin and Peltason's Understanding the Constitution (1949) and Barone, Ujifusa, and Matthews's Almanac of American Politics (1978); both references employed the uppercase but later switched to the lowercase referent in later editions. As a case in point, Barone et al. write (1978, v), "In November 1976 American voters decided to elect a new President and the old Congress." Yet, in 1980, the same authors note: "The upshot was that the American public was force to admit that, for once, it had failed to choose an honest and fair minded man president. ... The presidency is of course the focus of our policies" (p. xii). A final example is the 2000 edition of Scott and Garrison's The Political Science Student Writer's Manual (2000) that "vacillates" between upper- and lowercase within the book itself.
Figure 2 is a timeline showing the change in capitalization in twenty-four selected publications. The diffusion pattern from uppercase "President" to lowercase "president" is from political science publications to mass periodicals, and not the other way around. Of the ten earliest publications to lower the "p" in president, eight are academic political science publications; of the ten latest, eight are nonacademic periodicals. Prominent political scientists have, indeed, made a difference with respect to capitalization of the "presidency."
Prior to 1970, the overwhelming practice by grammarians, journalists, publishers, political scientists, and other scholars was to write "President." However, beginning in the early 1970s, standard procedure became increasingly muddied. As early as 1973, grammarian Hulon Willis observed, "Though capitalization is the most purely conventional of all aspects of writing, there is an elusiveness about its rules that constantly plagues all writers who want to be wholly 'correct' in their usage." Willis then noted that one of the most frequently asked questions of English teachers concerns rules for capitalizing "President-president" (1973, 278).
The question of whether it is "President" or "president" of the United States continues to be of diverse and contradictory usage from grammarians, journalists, publishers, and political scientists. Although countless observers have offered divergent opinions on why this particular office and officeholder should or should not be capitalized, until now there has been no systematic research on this topic.
Printed words and titles are essential symbols, and the capitalization or decapitalization of those words and titles are conventions of grammar reflecting standing and meaning of those symbols. Change in capitalization is also a reflection of social and political practice, which invites examination and begs questions about the reasons and causes behind such change. Our study examined the semantic environment regarding the alteration in capitalization of our nation's highest elected official.
Before the 1970s, publications most generally employed the uppercase referent for the "President." However, beginning with the Nixon administration and accelerating in the decade after the Watergate scandal, this near-universal standard changed dramatically. Moreover, our study finds that it was neither journalists, grammarians, publishers, nor politicians but rather prominent presidential scholars (viz. Thomas Cronin and George Reedy) who led the nation's intellectual charge to make the lowercase "president" the rule rather than the exception. This grammatical relegation represents, to a large extent, a desire by leading political scientists to make the office appear less "imperial." These alterations, we contend, stem from the desire by prominent political scientists to "deimperialize" and "de-glamorize" the office than any concerted effort to establish "grammatical correctness." What began as an effort to "de-imperialize" and "de-glamorize" the "swollen presidency" of the late 1960s and early 1970s by decapitalizing the office has now become common practice, something that is largely taken for granted.
The decision in the post-Watergate period to decapitalize the "president" of the United States symbolically reduced the standing and respect directed toward the office. Although Cronin, Reedy, and other scholars provided a "reality check" in examining the "swollen textbook presidency," their arguments should be examined and either accepted or rejected by political scientists, authors, journalists, and the American people. The practice they started of decapitalizing the office should have received closer scrutiny before it was slowly adopted in other textbooks and periodicals. Evidently, political scientists do influence social convention.
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RICHARD J. HARDY
Western Illinois University
DAVID J. WEBBER
University of Missouri-Columbia
Richard J. Hardy is chair and professor of political science at Western Illinois University. He teaches and researches political socialization, civic leadership, civil rights, and constitutional law.
David J. Webber is an associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, specializing in American public policy and state polity making.
TABLE 1 Presidential Typology by Publication Relegators Modulators Switched from Changed from President to President to "president" during the "president" after the Nixon-Ford Nixon-Ford Type/Publication Administrations Administrations Political science Thomas E. Cronin's The Erwin C. Hargrove's monographs State of the Presidency Presidential Leadership Nelson W. Polsby and Frank J. Sorauf's Party Aaron B. Wildavsky's Politics in America Presidential Elections Stephen Wayne's Road to George E. Reedy's The the White House Twilight of the Herbert E. Alexander's Presidency Financing Politics Political science J. M. Burns and J. W. Milton C. Cummings and textbooks Peltason, with T. David Wise's Democracy Cronin's Government under Pressure by the People Kenneth Prewitt and Robert A. Dahl's Democracy Sidney Verba's An in the United States Introduction to Randall B. Ripley's American Government American National Austin Ranney's Governing Government and Public Richard A. Watson and Policy Michael Fitzgerald's Ira Katznelson and Mark Promise and Performance Kesselman's The of American Democracy Politics of Power Political science American Journal of American Politics journals Political Science Quarterly The Journal Annal Polity of Politics Foreign Affairs Publius State Government Periodicals The New Republic Newsweek Congressional Quarterly National Journal National Review U.S. News & World Report Leading New York Times Washington newspapers Post Boston Globe Style manuals/ The Chicago Manual of AP Stylebook references Style Almanac of American Politics New York Times Style Manual Vacillators Alternated between Preservers President and Maintained "President" "president" during and during and/or after after the Nixon-Ford the Nixon-Ford Type/Publication Administrations Administrations Political science James David Barber's The monographs Presidential Character Louis W Koenig's The Chief Executive Richard E. Neustadt's Presidential Power Nelson W. Polsby's Congress and the President Political science Marian D. Irish, James W. John Ferguson and Dean textbooks Prothro, and Richard J. McHenry's American Richardson's The Federal Government Politics of American Kenneth M. Dolbeare and Democracy Murray J. Edelman's Thomas R. Dye and L. American Politics Harmon Zeigler's The Stephen E. Frantzich and Irony of Democracy Stephen L. Percy's American Government: The Political Game Political science American Political Public Administration journals Science Review Quarterly Presidential Studies Public Administration Quarterly Review Political Science Quarterly Western Political Quarterly Periodicals Congressional Record The Nation The Progressive Reader's Digest Time Leading newspapers Style manuals/ U.S. Government Style references Manual Plano's Dictionary of Political Science TABLE 2 Inconsistency within American Political Science Review and Presidential Studies Quarterly American Political Science Review 1973 Edward R. Tufte "The Relationship between Seats and Votes in Two-Party Systems" 1974 Steven J. Brams and "The 2/3's Rule in Morton D. Davis Presidential Campaigning" 1975 Edward R. Tufte "Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections" 1976 George C. Edwards III "Presidential Influence in the House: Presidential Prestige as a Source of Presidential Power" 1976 Joel D. Aberbach and "Clashing Beliefs with the Bert A. Rockman Executive Branch: The Nixon Bureaucracy" 1976 A. Miller, W. Miller, "A Majority Party in Disarray: A. Raine, and Policy Polarization in the T. Brown 1972 Election" 1977 Samuel Kernell "Presidential Popularity and Negative Voting" 1978 Samuel Kernell "Explaining Presidential Popularity" Presidential Studies Quarterly 1980 Michael G. Krukones "Predicting Presidential Performance through Political Campaigns" 1982 Douglas J. Hoekstra "The Textbook Presidency Revisited" 1985 David H. Burton "The Learned Presidency: Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson" 1989 Jack E. Holmes and "Our Best and Worst Robert E. Elder Presidents" 1989 John A. Davis "Book Review" 1993 R. Gordon Hoxie "Democracy in Transition" 1994 James A. Davis and "The President's Party" David L. Nixon American Political Science Review 1973 LXVII, "The larger swing ratio in no. 2 on-year elections generally benefits the President's party" (548) 1974 LXVIII, "would be eliminated if the no. 1 president were elected by direct popular vote" (113) 1975 LXIX, "In this study, we seek to no. 3 explain the magnitudes of the national midterm loss of the President's party" (813) 1976 LXX, "Among these are the no. 1 President's party leadership" (101) 1976 LXX, "The latter course, especially no. 2 when the President threatens the interests.... Any aggressive president who wishes to" (468) 1976 LXX, "The nation was led by a no. 3 popular, largely non-partisan president and a government only dimly perceived as divided" (753) 1977 LXXI, "As a result, the President's no. 1 party loses congressional seats" (45) 1978 LXXII, "Students of public opinion no. 2 have noticed ... the public tends to rally behind the president" (512) Presidential Studies Quarterly 1980 Vol. 10, "This study indicates that no. 4 Presidents successfully executed ... their campaign pledges while in office" (541) 1982 Vol. 12, "That the President is the chief no. 2 catalyst" (159) 1985 Vol. 15, "The learning of many no. 3 American presidents is, in fact, one of the neglected aspects of that high office" (486) 1989 Vol. 19, "They ranked thirty-six no. 3 presidents in order of greatness" (530) 1989 Vol. 19, "The fact is, however, that no. 4 what these two Presidents did was" (847) 1993 Vol. 23, "We have entrusted much to no. 1 the President" (29) "The greatest of those presidents" (29) "Lincoln is the role model of Presidential greatness" (29) 1994 Vol. 24, "The president's party is a" no. 2 (363)
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|Author:||Hardy, Richard J.; Webber, David J.|
|Publication:||Presidential Studies Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2008|
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