A dark assumption seems baked into Donald Trump’s effort to strong-arm foreign leaders into unearthing dirt on Joe Biden: that Trump’s reelection victory is in the nation’s interests, because he and the nation are one and the same.
When that is a president’s mind-set, schemes that might seem unsavory and possibly impeachable become necessary acts of national service. Legitimate investigations into his behavior become plots against the state. An impeachment inquiry isn’t so much a constitutional process for determining whether a president violated the oath of office as a coup—a crime against country.
As Trump tries to preserve his presidency, he’s talking in just these grandiose terms, erasing the distinction between country and self, and grooming his base to see things the same way. That sort of thinking could ultimately portend a crisis, if Trump’s actions in the months ahead mirror his rhetoric. If Trump thinks of himself as the state, would he leave office were the Senate to convict him in an impeachment trial, or were he to lose the 2020 election? Or would he count on an embittered electoral coalition to rise up and repudiate the verdict?