Yet it seems unlikely that Trump intends to institute a dictatorship. One factor — far from the most important, but overlooked in many Twitter jeremiads — is that he simply seems to be too lazy to do so. Someone who can (as the New York Times reported) routinely spend four to eight hours a day marinating in cable TV news makes for an unlikely candidate to overturn a constitutional order. Another is that he has little incentive to do so while he is secure in his position and his family is free to profit without fear of reprisal. Were either of those factors to change, the story might be different — and we would have to hope that the institutions that were weak enough to allow Trump to become president would be strong enough to thwart such ambitions.
Seeking hidden plots misses the point. There is no real distinction between the onstage and offstage Trump. He is not acting. The Donald Trump who publicly ranted during campaign rallies about Mexican immigrants and refugees is the same one who, as president, privately ranted on phone calls to the Mexican president and the Australian prime minister about those issues. Even when his staff briefly succeed in getting him to stay on message, he soon flaunts his independence by going “off-script” to reveal that his good behavior was a charade.