I just got around to reading Jack Balkin’s Skowronek-lite. I think it was one of the better examples of that pitiable genre. Three thoughts:
1. I wonder if it’s possible to have a disjunctive-preemptive president, who comes from the opposition and presides over the demise of the prior reconstruction while still implementing policies that bear its mark. I’d think Obama could be one of those, such that it’s up to the next president(s) to reconstruct.
2. I wonder whether it is helpful to categorize presidents, as opposed to slices of time, as disjunctive or reconstructive. Why does a reconstruction (or disjunction) need to be accomplished during a single presidency? It seems equally possible, maybe more likely, that a period of oscillating affiliation and preemption could shade into a period of disjunction, which could, in turn, shade into a period of reconstruction. While it gives me pause that Skowronek’s book always focuses on single disjunctive or reconstructive presidencies, thinking about it like that would refocus Skowronek’s epigones on what their majordomo himself wanted to concentrate: the politics the presidency makes as opposed to the politics presidents make. An added benefit: by making it more difficult to assimilate routine political commentary to a political science framework, decoupling Skowronek’s theory from election-cycles would also make it more difficult for academics who want to try their hand at commentating on the horserace to pretend they are doing something highbrow.
3. To my point that Skowronek’s theory is not meant to aid in the inferring of facts about where we’re situated in political time from the politics of the moment, I think it is notable that Skowronek has never tried to do this. (Bleg: is this true?)