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One President at a Time? How the President‐Elect Shapes U.S. Foreign Policy during the Transition

Michaels, J. H. & Payne, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-1936-8062 (2022). One President at a Time? How the President‐Elect Shapes U.S. Foreign Policy during the Transition. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 52(4), pp. 730-758. doi: 10.1111/psq.12795


Over the past six decades, the presidential transition scholarship has grown increasingly rich, yet little systematic attention has been paid to the foreign policy activities of the president-elect. The idea that the United States has “one president at a time” may be a constitutional reality, but it is also a political fiction, more honored in the breach than in the observance. This article demonstrates how U.S. foreign policy operates along several simultaneous tracks during the formal transition period between the election and inauguration. We develop and illustrate a new framework for understanding the underexplored role and significance of the president-elect as a foreign policy actor during the era of the “modern presidency.” By refuting the notion that the president-elect is a nonentity, this article lays the foundation for more active exploration of the foreign activities of presidents-elect and their impact on U.S. foreign policy.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2022 The Authors. Presidential Studies Quarterly published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.
Subjects: J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
SWORD Depositor:
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