Experts Examine Burden of Public’s High Presidential Expectations in New Book

Article ID: 613629

Released: 11-Feb-2014 1:00 PM EST

Source Newsroom: Boise State University

Newswise — Did President Barack Obama create such high expectations that they actually hindered his ability to enact his agenda? Should we judge his performance by the scale of the expectations his rhetoric generated, or against some other standard?

A new book, “The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency,” grapples with these and other important questions.

Coeditors Justin S. Vaughn, Boise State University, and Jennifer R. Mercieca, Texas A&M University, and the interdisciplinary scholars who have contributed to the book, focus their analysis upon three kinds of presidential burdens: institutional burdens (specific to the office of the presidency); contextual burdens (specific to the historical moment within which the president assumes office); and personal burdens (specific to the individual who becomes president).

Obama’s election seemed to many to fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the “long arc of the moral universe . . . bending toward justice.” And after the terrorism, war and economic downturn of the previous decade, candidate Obama’s rhetoric cast broad visions of a change in the direction of American life.

In these and other ways, the election of 2008 presented an especially strong example of creating expectations that would shape the public’s views of the incoming administration. The public’s high expectations, in turn, become a part of any president’s burden upon assuming office.

Vaughn is an assistant professor of political science at Boise State University. He also is the coeditor of “Women and the White House: Gender, Popular Culture, and Presidential Politics.”

Mercieca is associate department head and associate professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. She is the author of “Founding Fictions.”

The book will be available Feb. 26. Learn more at


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