In 1974 Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote a book about the “Imperial Presidency” – an anti-constitutional trend toward a robust executive. The two presidents who preceded Trump pushed the envelope on executive power further than any since FDR. George W. Bush’s post 9/11 security state was followed by Barack Obama’s “pen and phone” strategy to advance his agenda without help from a Republican Congress. Thus continued the inexorable trend toward imperialism, where no president of either party took it upon themselves to reverse it and constrain their own power.
Neil Postman has become a Trumpian Nostradamus of sorts, with his prophetic 1985 tome about how television has a corrosive effect on politics and public discourse. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, he wrote about how the written word requires rational argument and nuance whereas television demands a higher entertainment value with a greater emphasis on images. Social media has exacerbated this, making our discourse not only grounded in images but in brevity. Gifs, 140 characters, meme lords.
Enter When he orchestrated a massive rally, the Air Force One theme song echoing over the loudspeaker, and delivered the message that “I alone can fix it” – his voters believed him, in part because over time they had been socialized to the idea that presidents can act alone and that Trump was a boardroom CEO who could make executive decisions.