Three weeks later, here we are—and there Trump is, on the South Lawn. He has fully embraced using the White House as a prop for the RNC, secure in the knowledge that no one who has any power over it will do anything to stop him. Oh, sure, some congressional Democrats will write angry letters demanding investigations, but the independent watchdogs don’t have any power to punish, and the Senate would never sanction the president.
He’ll get away with it, as he always does: That’s the real message Trump is sending this week. It isn’t about using the backdrop of the White House to show the awesome power of the presidency. The president has proved largely uninterested in using many of the powers available to him. Besides, there’s little to celebrate now: 80 percent of Americans said the country is on the wrong track in a recent poll.
As I have written, Trump has systematically knocked down the checks on the executive branch, leaving only the ballot box, in November, in place. He has tried to delegitimize and undermine that too, and his election strategy hinges not on winning a majority of votes but on cobbling together, as he did in 2016, an Electoral College victory. If he rides a minority to reelection, the next four years will deliver much more of the smug disregard for laws that his convention has promised.