And equally tellingly, they are enthusiasms of the center-left and center-right rather than the ideological extremes. This is obviously true of the people pining for a Bloomberg era, a Silicon Valley-led administration, or a Mattis man-on-horseback presidency. But it’s true of Trump’s constituency as well: While the G.O.P.’s staunch ideologues are mostly voting for Ted Cruz, Trump is winning with Northeastern moderates and blue-collar populists, with voters who may be xenophobic but on many issues are closer to the political middle than to the poles.
It’s not that our ideologues are averse to an imperial presidency when their side is in charge. (The theory of Bernie Sanders’ campaign assumed a rather … remarkable level of presidential influence.) But the cult of the presidency is clearly strongest in the American center. This means that political polarization probably isn’t pushing us toward a Weimar moment, in which the only question is whether the far right or far left consolidates a dangerous level of power. Instead it’s encouraging a kind of moderate-middle enthusiasm for crown government, as a means of escape from congressional dysfunction and endless right-left war.
The good news for the republic is that this center is itself complex and divided, over specific issues like trade and immigration and then along lines of class and culture. The Bloombergist upper-class moderates fear the Trumpist working-class moderates, and Trump’s middle-American populists loathe the globalist elite right back. As long as that’s the case it’s hard to imagine them finding a centrist Caesar to actually unite behind. (Though they are united in their admiration for the military …)