Are elite decision makers, such as the president, norm entrepreneurs? Within international relations constructivist theorizing, norm entrepreneurs are seen as critical to the early stages of norm emergence, where norms are defined as shared understandings of appropriate behavior for actors with a given identity that isolates a single strand of behavior (Jepperson, Wendt, and Katzenstein 1996, 52; see also Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 891). These entrepreneurs hold strong notions about appropriate or desirable behavior and seek to call "attention to issues or even 'create' issues by using language that names, interprets, and dramatizes them" (Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 897).
This is cast as an outside-in process: the goal of norm entrepreneurs, whether nongovernmental organizations, international organizations (IOs), or individuals, is to influence states. Interpreting norm entrepreneurship in this way introduces two significant weaknesses: an initial account driven by nonstate actors becomes subsumed within the state; and the state and its political leadership are assumed to be one and the same. This is often not the case, because one part of the legislative or political apparatus of the state may agree with the norm entrepreneur while another part does not. Further, these actors are generally seen as working at the international level; and even when they are understood to be working at the domestic level, they are seen as operating outside government. By contrast, political executives are frequently seen as driving change through an inside-out process: by exercising leadership to convince followers and separate democratic institutions, particularly when they share constitutional power, like the executive and legislative branches in the United States (Allison and Zelikow 1999; Howell and Pevehouse 2007; Neustadt 1960).
We argue that elite decision makers can play a normative entrepreneurial role with respect to norm creation and dissemination at both the domestic and international levels, with a focus on the presidency. In so doing, we point to a critical area that is undertheorized in the international relations literature: how norms move from being ideas held by the individual to being accepted by the state as a whole.
Of course, this leads to the direct question of whether an individual who represents, or who is the spokesperson for, an organization or state can be a separate actor from that organization or state. This problem is readily apparent as we cross the domestic/international line on any number of issues. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a norm entrepreneur in global health issues. But can Bill Gates also be a norm entrepreneur on his own, if he is speaking for himself and not the foundation?
A figure, such as the president, has unique advantages over most norm entrepreneurs. They have their own sources of legitimacy, of authority, and of persuasion. They can operate at both the international and domestic levels simultaneously in a way few other actors can. At the same time, however, like most norm entrepreneurs, they can be limited and constrained by the institutional framework in which they operate. Further, more than many norm entrepreneurs, they are subject to limited windows of opportunity to achieve policy change.
This article, based on new archival research, adds nuance to the idea of political executives as norm entrepreneurs or change agents by exploring the leadership roles of two successive presidents--Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman--on influencing global views on refugee protection. Yet, the roles that both presidents played at the international level were moderated by constraints at the domestic level as support for global and internal changes to refugee protection required a considerable amount of negotiation. While both presidents demonstrated a strong commitment to refugees--Roosevelt from 1938 onward, Truman from his assumption of the presidency onward---only Truman was able to bring about change in U.S. policy by deploying the tools of norm entrepreneurship. This was despite the dramatic expansion of executive authority under Roosevelt caused by economic and foreign policy upheaval.
The President as Norm Entrepreneur
Within constructivist theorizing, the activities of norm entrepreneurs are seen as crucial to the emergence of new norms. In their widely cited piece, Finnemore and Sikkink (1998, 896) note that "norms do not appear out of thin air; they are actively built by agents having strong notions about appropriate or desirable behavior in their community." These entrepreneurs use framing--"the conscious strategic efforts by groups of people to fashion shared understandings of the world and of themselves that legitimate and motivate collective action" (Benford and Snow 2000, 614; McAdam, McCarthy, and Zald 1996, 6)--to advance their ideas and to compete against alternative frames put forward by different sets of actors (Krebs and Jackson 2007, 44-45; Payne 2001). Success is first achieved when these entrepreneurs convince states to accept new normative understandings. These states can then become norm leaders, using their privileged status at the international level to persuade other states to adhere to the new norm (Coleman 2013, 166; Finnemore and Sikkink 1998, 901-02).
But such an account is problematic in two ways. The first is that much of this work has focused on the range of different actors who play such a role. The efforts of various norm entrepreneurs have become near ubiquitous within this literature, including such a range of actors as transnational advocacy networks (Klotz 2002, 56; see also Risse 1999), epistemic communities (Haas 1992), IOs (Barnett and Finnemore 2004), and key international figures such as the UN secretary general (Rushton 2008). Given the sheer number of actors now defined as norm entrepreneurs, however, it may be conceptually richer to classify norm entrepreneurship as an activity that any international actor can engage in.
The second issue is that much of this literature focuses on the role norm entrepreneurs can play at the international level alone. Yet, gaining the support of states frequently requires norm entrepreneurs to operate at the domestic level, either by persuading domestic actors of the relevance of the new norm by discursively linking it to national interests (Cortell and Davis 2005, 22-23; see also Young 1991) or by overcoming opposition from domestic veto players or gatekeepers whose agreement is required for change in the status quo (Busby 2010; Tsebelis 2000, 442).
This can be done in two ways. The first is for international norm entrepreneurs to possess either their own sources of authority or legitimacy to exercise power across borders (Cronin and Hurd 2008). Global governors, for example, are defined as "authorities who exercise power across borders for purposes of affective policy. Governors thus create issues, set agendas, establish and implement rules or programs, and evaluate and/or adjudicate outcomes" (Avant, Finnemore, and Sell 2010a, 2). Even though they have authority within a specific area, these governors are constrained in two ways: "their actions must be seen by the governed (and others) to accord with whatever authorizes them to act" (Avant, Finnemore, and Sell 2010a, 10-11); and they must interact with other global governors, whether states or nonstate actors, who can possess similar forms of authority at the international level (Avant, Finnemore, and Sell 2010b, 357-58).
The second is that norm entrepreneurs can possess direct connections with domestic institutions or other ways to be able to mobilize domestic support (Cox 1969, 225; Kaufmann and Pape 1999, 632; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Moravcsik 1999, 272). But this requires the norm entrepreneur to be empowered by a domestic agent whether individual, group, or government (Checkel 1999, 88-89). Transnational advocacy networks have dealt with this problem by making links between civil society actors in individual states, governments, and international organizations (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Price 1998). Alternatively, local norm takers can work by themselves to "build congruence between transnational norms (including norms previously institutionalized in a region) and local belief and practices," a process Acharya (2004, 241) refers to as norm localization.
Both positions, consequently, allow norm entrepreneurs to operate at the domestic level but assume that they are based at the international level. But what then of elite decision makers who possess their own domestic sources of political legitimacy, like American presidents?
To deal with these two issues, we believe it is useful to redefine how we understand norm entrepreneurship away from a set of actors to instead be a category of action. A cogent perspective exists within the concept of policy entrepreneurship. Policy entrepreneurs "distinguish themselves through their desire to significantly change current ways of doing things in their area of interest" (Mintrom and Norman 2009, 650). As Kingdon notes, their "defining characteristic, much as in the case of a business entrepreneur, is their willingness to invest their resources--time, energy, reputation, and sometimes money--in the hope of a future return" (Kingdon 2002, 122); in other words, they translate ideas into action (Oliver and Paul-Shaheen 1997, 744). Critically, these entrepreneurs can function both inside and outside of government (Kingdon 2002, 122; Oliver and Paul-Shaheen 1997, 744). It is what they do, rather than who they are, that matters.
Norm entrepreneurship can similarly be viewed as a category of action through which actors are willing to devote considerable resources (material and/or ideational) in order to introduce, change, or replace international norms in their areas of interest (Orchard 2014, 37). (1) This allows for a range of actors at both the international and domestic levels to...