Presidents don't try to influence Congress by going public.
Sometimes they combine strategies and deal with Congress and the public at the same time.
Congress has primary lawmaking powers.
To be successful with their policy agendas, presidents need congressional cooperation.
This depends on the president's reputation with members of that institution and other Washington elites for being an effective leader.
The nation's problems and possible solutions are usually defined by the president and members of Congress.
The president and members of Congress have different interests to please.
As the leader of the nation, the president needs to take a broader view of the national interest.
Members of Congress tend to represent their interests.
Members of Congress don't want the same things the president does.
There is a staff of assistants to work with Congress.
What members of Congress are most concerned about, what they need, and how legislation can be tailored to get their support are all determined by the legislative liaison office.
Some members just want their views to be heard, and they don't want to be taken for granted.
The details of the president's program have to be explained.
It's useful for members to have this done in person by the president, with photo opportunities for release to the papers back home.
When presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were elected who did not have experience in Washington politics, they failed to understand the sensitivities of members of Congress.
Jimmy Carter had a difficult time with Congress because he didn't realize that what he believed was good for the nation might not be the best thing for each member.
Donald Trump, with less government experience than any previous president and less political contacts to rely on, has had special challenges in this respect.
He was able to get a tax cut passed because of the goals of Republicans in Congress.
His border wall has not been a success.
The president is more successful at getting programs passed if the majority of Congress is in his party.
When the president faces a different party than the majority in the house, they don't do as well.
The problem of divided government is that members of different parties stand for different approaches and solutions to the nation's problems.
Republican presidents and members of Congress tend to be more conservative than their Democratic counterparts.
Figure 8.2 shows a scenario in which a Democratic president would deal with a Democratic-led Congress.
The presidency and Congress can work together on ideological issues if the majority party wants to follow the same path as the president.
The president is happy to work with the Democrats on proposal A because it is closer to what he or she wants than the status quo.
The situation for two years after the 2008 election, when the Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, is reflected in this.
Consider how much the situation changes when there is a divided government.
If the Republican Congress sent a bill like proposal B to the Democratic president, he or she would veto it, preferring the status quo to what Congress passed.
Congress ignores what the president wants and the president vetoes what the majority party in Congress offers.
Both the House and the Senate were in the hands of the Republicans after the election of Obama in the White House.
Presidents are not likely to get their agendas met under divided government.
The success rate is higher under unified government.
The impact of divided government can be seen in the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Congress passed 86 percent of the bills Clinton supported during his first two years in office.
Bush had an average of more than three-quarters of his favored bills enacted into law when he had a Republican majority in Congress.
After the 2006 election, Bush's success rate dropped dramatically.
The results are due to the large Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate, along with the president's ambitious agenda and a tanking economy.
Although Trump did not face a divided government in his first two years, the lack of congruence between his agenda and theirs led to a mostly stalemated legislative record.
Most of Congress doesn't want to build a wall on the border or pass immigration legislation, even though they passed a tax cut and approved a steady stream of federal judges.
Hypothetical policy options under unified and divided government are either to keep playing to his base or to work with the other party to find common ground.
It requires a lot of compromise and a willingness to take on one's own base in order to do that, and Trump has not shown any desire to do that.
Washington is not doomed to inaction because of divided government.
When national needs are pressing or the public mood seems to demand action, the president and opposition majority have been able to pass important legislation.
Sometimes national needs don't cause Congress to step up.
Congress was unable to agree on policies to deal with revenue shortfalls and the budget in 2011.
This brinksmanship has played out many times in an era of politics with one party at odds with the other.
Review Who, What, How Presidents want to get their policy agendas enacted with congressional cooperation and to get and maintain the public approval necessary to keep the expanded powers they need to do their job.
They try to accomplish these goals with their constitutional powers, by maintaining their reputation among Washington elites as an effective leader, by building coalitions among members of Congress, by going public, and by trying to keep the economy healthy.