Taming the imperial presidency

A more acute problem, at least of late, is the false presumption that the president can actually speak for the nation. This is, after all, a diverse country. It always has been, and right now it is more so than ever. Can a single person articulate the American interest? I am dubious. Instead, I think a diverse polity means that Congress is more reflective of the many national viewpoints. Congressional compromises are often messy, difficult to understand, and even harder to defend, but the legislative process is, in my view, the way that the balance of Americans can be made happy. On the other hand, a president who comes before the podium and says “America is this” or “America is that” is liable to alienate a large segment of the nation.

I think this helps explain the presidential derangement syndromes that have afflicted our body politic for nearly a generation. Charles Krauthammer defined Bush Derangement Syndrome as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.” I think that there was an Obama Derangement Syndrome as well, and I am certain there is a Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Is that really such a surprise? The president, by virtue of being a single person, can reflect the values and interests of only a segment of the nation. When he goes before a microphone and represents that factional perspective as the national perspective, doesn’t it follow that people with a different way of looking at things would feel alienated?