Why the presidency can't just go back to "normal" after Trump

Here’s the problem: Many of these “presidential norms and traditions” that Trump has left by the wayside aren’t timeless at all; they’re actually quite new. They grew up alongside and in reaction to the expansion of both the federal state and the presidency—a process that began in the early 20th century but gained steam from the 1930s onward. With the growth of what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the “imperial presidency,” each occupant of the Oval Office has left his imprimatur on the development of what we think of as normative presidential conduct.

Which means that whatever impact Trump has might not be so easy to undo.

Take, for example, three cherished institutions—White House press briefings, independent courts, respect for nonpartisan law enforcement agencies and a nonpartisan civil service. Their foundations are more young and shaky than you might think, and once altered, they may not be easily restored. Future presidents may regard newer precedents as more binding. A once-sturdy nonpartisan civil service and equally assured nonpartisan courts may be too weakened to enforce a return to prior norms. A public once conditioned to expect certain things of its presidents may have lost a critical amount of muscle memory. In short, anyone who expects a restoration of the status quo ante 2017 may be in for a rude awakening.