Conventional accounts of the U.S. constitution laud its checks and balances for diffusing power across many venues, limiting the potential for government oppression, and protecting political minorities. I refer to this as constitutional folk wisdom and contrast it with an American political economy approach of veto exceptionalism to better understand how the U.S. constitution shapes, and is shaped, by power relations. This analysis illustrates the volume and scope of veto exceptionalism and its implication for democratic participation and accountability, contrasts it with the virtues championed by the folk wisdom, and suggests how veto exceptionalism can help explain political outcomes and processes in American politics. I argue that the folk wisdom is not only inaccurate as a description of how power functions in the American “checks and balances” system; it is cultivated and utilized most frequently by powerful economic and racial actors that benefit from the anti-democratic and elitist features of the U.S. constitutional system.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- political economy
- veto points