The Power of Persuasion/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on February 5, 2019


Tonight is the President’s 2019 State of the Union Address. The anticipation lies in people guessing what the President will say, or not say, about the Wall. I came across a book review of a work written long ago (1960)entitled “Presidential Power” by Richard Neustadt. The authors describes one of the powers a successful President must possess; i.e. “the power to persuade”. Since the President is only one man in a vast bureaucracy, s/he must balance differing interests. S/he must show how it is in a party’s interest to go along with Presidential wishes.

In a review of this book, written by Leif Ellington (entitled “The Power to Persuade), we read the following vignette (Note: A number of titles should have been capitalized but were left as written):
“Failed integration of African American students into a central high school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 triggered a meeting with president Eisenhower and governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus. The Supreme Court decided in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education that African American students must be allowed to integrate into schools in the Little Rock area. The school board planned on initiating the plan for the school year. Contrary to the Supreme Court decision, governor Faubus commanded that the National Guard surround the school on the first day and prevent any African American students from entering the school. His reasoning stated that their acceptance to the school would cause a ‘violent citizen reaction.’ When Eisenhower met with governor Faubus concerning the Supreme Courts decision, Eisenhower failed to persuade Faubus about the integration by not stating any of its advantages and how it would be for his benefit and the state’s. The meeting was pointless because Eisenhower did not use his persuasive power. Anyone can see how the Supreme Court decision was of no concern to governor Faubus or the state of Arkansas.”

Raw power does not necessarily lead to getting one’s way. President Trump learned this after shutting down the government this year. “Balancing the interests” is another way of citing the principle of Win-Win. Persuade, explain, question but do not pontificate or legislate. Or, in a different turn of phrase, mediate don’t litigate.