The imperial presidency

Jay Cost of National Review Online assesses Donald Trump’s impact on the presidency.

This is such a pathetic time for our republic. Hopefully, future generations will learn from our frivolous idolatry.

Most people are inclined to think about the Age of Trump from a moral perspective, but that is not my first instinct. I’m an institutionalist at heart. I think human beings are what they are, for the most part. That is not to say that civic virtue is unimportant. It is. Instead, it is my tendency to assume a baseline of good and evil in people, and then ask — as Madison and Hamilton put it in the Federalist papers — whether the “science of politics” can channel their antisocial tendencies into constructive endeavors. So when people look at Trump as a statement about the American character, I instead see him as a statement about the structure of our government.

I contend that Donald Trump represents the apotheosis of the imperial presidency, whereby a single person has come to exercise almost total spiritual, moral, and psychological control over civil society. His tenure as commander in chief reveals that this model of governance is basically unsound and incoherent. I strongly believe that, in the long run, an institution such as our modern presidency is incompatible with a free, prosperous republic.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...