Remember when Democrats opposed the imperial presidency?

But what’s happened with Executive power is weirder than a mere rotation in the respective chances of Rs and Ds in presidential elections. There are strong substantive reasons why you’d expect modern conservatives to favor the Executive and modern liberals to mistrust it. The Executive commands the war-making power of the American state. Intelligence agencies answer to the Executive, and the Executive is in turn powerfully shaped by its relationship with those agencies. The Executive is elected in broad national elections in which discrete and insular minorities carry less weight.

It is the Executive that is held responsible when budgets don’t balance, for the stability of the currency, for the performance of the American economy. The presidency makes cautious even the most ambitious reformers.

It’s not a coincidence that—with only very partial exception of Barack Obama—none of the presidents elected since 1945 has enjoyed during his time in office anything like the popularity among political liberals that Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush enjoyed among conservatives during theirs.

So it’s all in all a real surprise that it should be Senate Democrats who struck this blow for the Hamiltonian conception of the presidency—and against their own personal power.