Change of Presidents

October 15, 1952

Report Outline
New Tests in Transfer of the Presidency
Experience in Critical Transition Periods
Safeguards for the Period of Transition

New Tests in Transfer of the Presidency

Passage of Two Decades Without a President-Elect

Whatever the outcome of the November election, the United States will have a new President next January. Not since 1933 has there been a change of White House occupants as the result of an election. Roosevelt's long tenure through repeated re-election, Truman's succession from the vice presidency on the death of Roosevelt, and Truman's subsequent election for a full term have made it 20 years since a President-elect waited to take over the reins from an outgoing President. Now, with Truman not running, the country of a certainty faces the almost forgotten problems of a changeover in national administrations.

Although the Roosevelt administration gave way to the Truman administration in 1945, Truman undertook to follow the path that F.D.R, had blazed. As a result, except for the changes that new situations brought about, there has been for two decades a general continuity of government policies. And, in the absence of any presidential election turnover, none of the complications attending the installation of a new Chief Executive has arisen. Even if the Democrats are successful at the polls next month, it may not be easy to arrange and maintain adequate liaison between the outgoing Truman and incoming Stevenson administrations during the 11-week period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. The task will be more difficult if there is a Republican victory and the consequent prospect of far-reaching changes of policy when an Eisenhower administrati on takes office.

Difficulties in New Timing for Change of Presidents

Transfer of the presidency to new hands in January will show up, for the first time, certain practical difficulties resulting from the change made by the 20th amendment in the date on which presidential and vice presidential terms begin. Since the 20th amendment took effect, Oct. 15, 1933, the Congress elected in November has met for its initial session on the following Jan. 3, or occasionally by special arrangement on a later day, and the President and Vice President elected in November have been inaugurated on the following Jan. 20 instead of, as formerly, on the following Mar. 4. All four of the Jan. 20 inaugurations so far held have been inaugurations of a re-elected President and therefore have merely marked the bestowal of a new lease of power on an administration already in office. But the 1953 inauguration will involve a shift of power from one administration to another, if not from one party to another.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Executive Powers and the Presidency
Feb. 24, 2006  Presidential Power
Nov. 15, 2002  Presidential Power
Feb. 02, 2001  The Bush Presidency
Jun. 20, 1997  Line-Item Veto
Jun. 14, 1996  First Ladies
Oct. 21, 1988  Dangers in Presidential Transitions
Jun. 10, 1988  The Quandary of Being Vice President
Jan. 06, 1984  Presidential Advisory Commissions
Jul. 28, 1978  Presidential Popularity
Feb. 13, 1976  Evaluating Presidential Performance
Dec. 12, 1975  Presidential Protection
Jul. 11, 1973  Presidential Reorganization
Mar. 07, 1973  Presidential Accountability
Sep. 24, 1971  Presidential Diplomacy
Nov. 11, 1970  Vice Presidency
Oct. 02, 1968  Presidential Power
Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
May 28, 1931  Presidential Commissions
Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
Mar. 21, 1928  Business Conditions in Presidential Years
Jan. 20, 1927  The Monroe Doctrine
Mar. 18, 1925  The President's Power of Appointment
Sep. 10, 1923  The President's Position on Patronage
Campaigns and Elections
Powers and History of the Presidency