Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science

Committee Chair(s)

Robert Ross


Robert Ross


Anthony Peacock


John Pascarella


This paper takes a critical look at executive power in the United States. Recent years have shown an increase of executive power that many people including: scholars, media, and the public have become skeptical of. The new norm has been for the executive to bypass Congress in order to accomplish policy goals. Traditionally the separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches has been the remedy to executive power. This thesis, however, argues that scholarship has largely ignored the role of political parties in government. Due to this, scholarship has misunderstood the role parties play in the separation of powers. The inter branch dynamics of “ambition counteracting ambition” became replaced by competition between political parties and loyalty to political office was replaced by loyalty to political party. In turn, this causes the structural separation of powers to fail when the government is unified.

I argue that parties can serve as a solution to expanding executive power by creating a new separation of powers based on party opposition. The Theory of Conditional Party Opposition argues that under necessary conditions, parties create a strong division in government that prohibits the executive from expanding their powers. I test this by examining six different presidencies on the issue of immigration. I find that under certain conditions of party opposition and when and issue itself is salient, parties become a new separation of powers and subsequently stop executive power.