Cover of The Specter of Dictatorship by David M. Driesen
The Specter of Dictatorship
Judicial Enabling of Presidential Power
David M. Driesen


July 2021
256 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503611757
Paperback ISBN: 9781503628618

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Reveals how the U.S. Supreme Court's presidentialism threatens our democracy and what to do about it.

Donald Trump's presidency made many Americans wonder whether our system of checks and balances would prove robust enough to withstand an onslaught from a despotic chief executive. This book focuses on the lessons recent experience with democracy loss abroad teach us about the U.S. Supreme Court's separation of powers jurisprudence, which has unduly favored presidential power at the expense of those checks and balances.

In The Specter of Dictatorship, David Driesen analyzes the chief executive's role in the democratic decline of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey and argues that an insufficiently constrained presidency is one of the most important systemic threats to democracy we face. Driesen urges the U.S. to learn from their mistakes. The lessons from abroad suggest, Driesen shows, that the Court must eschew continued reliance upon and expansion of the "unitary executive theory" recently endorsed by the Court and apply a less deferential approach to presidential invocation of authority to protect national security and combat emergencies than it has in recent years. Ultimately, Driesen argues that concern about loss of democracy should play a major role in the Court's jurisprudence, because loss of democracy can prove irreversible. As autocracy spreads throughout the world, maintaining our democracy has become an urgent matter.

About the author

David M. Driesen is Professor in the College of Law at Syracuse University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including The Economic Dynamics of Environmental Law (2003), which won the Lynton Keith Caldwell Award.