The Fight Over How Trump Fits in With the Other 44 Presidents

It’s not just an academic question. The intense argument over where he belongs tells us a lot about where we’re headed.

Comments: 186

  1. Part of the "problem" is that the history of the Presidency will be written primarily by PhD's in history - professors who, in the aggregate, support the Democratic Party to the extent of over 90%. This is not exactly a "neutral" gene pool of objective historians - they're coddled by their institutions, protected by tenure, teaching 7 months per year, overseeing a handful of classes. Part of the cultured elite that is offended by the style of President Trump - and unable to look at the substance of his accomplishments. Basic decency would require them to admit to this inclination - in a foreword to any book that they write - and to self-describe themselves as biased. But, they are unlikely to do so.

  2. @Maurice Gatien Better proof required for the statement "professors who, in the aggregate, support the Democratic Party to the extent of over 90%." Only 10% of the educated teachers at colleges and universities vote Republican? If true, maybe their training has fostered minds that can think clearly and rationally.

  3. @Maurice Gatien Your comment points to another important moment of 'disjuncture': an abandonment of the idea that we are involved in a common pursuit of truth. In the Reagan culture wars, it was the right that attacked the left for their embrace of relativism. Now it seems that it's the right - amplified by Trump - that does not seem to believe that we can assess claims based on whether they are backed up by reasoned argument and evidence. That's a huge loss, a pillar of Western civilization that we can trace back to the Enlightenment.

  4. @Maurice Gatien "This is not exactly a "neutral" gene pool of objective historians - they're coddled by their institutions, protected by tenure, teaching 7 months per year, overseeing a handful of classes. Part of the cultured elite that is offended by the style of President Trump - and unable to look at the substance of his accomplishments." With respect to how, and how much, academics work and how their institutions treat them, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. With respect to your general ad hominem about academics' skills and abilities, you also have no idea what you are talking about. That academia and party affiliation are correlated is not, in and of itself, informative, without a causal link. Most likely, there are a number of fields where party affiliation is correlated with the field and the party of affiliation is the GOP. Everyone brings their perspective to everything they do, including you, and me. The question is whether people trained in a certain area are able to do analysis and construct theses that rely on wholly or predominantly on their analytic skills and you have presented no evidence that historians, as a group, do not do this.

  5. There is no political 'science". There are no political 'scientists'. There are too many unknowns and variables to craft the double-blind controlled experimental tests that provide predictable and repeatable results. Calling politics science is akin to calling accounting, economics, finance, history and law science. They are all gender, color aka race, ethnicity, national origin, sectarianism, sociology, education and history plus arithmetic. That being said Donald Trump's proper prior 'best' historical American role models are a combination of Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Jefferson Davis, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

  6. @Blackmamba You left out Mike Tyson and Al Capone.

  7. Excellent overview and critical analysis. It seems to me that we're in a period where either the Republic,or the Republican party, is going down. The prognosis for the former doesn't look so good from where I sit.

  8. The Trump presidency is the result, not the cause, of extreme partisanship. And the cause of extreme partisanship is the polarization on the issues of abortion, religion, and race. The anti-abortion faction represents about 30% nationwide, but a majority in many of the red states. The religious right overlaps to a great degree with the anti-abortion faction, but it also includes the "Christianist" and anti-gay rights groups. These also have some overlap with those who are concerned with the country becoming majority-minority in a few decades. (These groups are joined in many cases by other single-issue blocs, such as gun rights and anti-tax.) The result is that there is a strong, monolithic political minority that controls a majority of the states, and a diverse and often divided majority that has multiple issues. The majority will stay home or vote third-party if a candidate is not "pure" enough on a long checklist of issues. The minority, being single issue motivated, will not abandon its champion even if they are hurt economically. The result is Trump. Because the political minority will not compromise in any manner on any of their principles, the result will be a long, prolonged, battle that has not existed in the United States since just before the Civil War.

  9. @John Graybeard Well put. I am pro-choice, but anti-Roe. Roe - as even RBG has pointed out - was too much, too fast. Roe has energized, as you point out, a sizeable minority of the electorate that thinks of overturning Roe, to the exclusion of virtually everything else - that is bound to have - and has had - a significant impact on our politics. If Roe is overturned, and this returns to the States, I predict this: The Democratic Party will benefit, politically. The political center of gravity with respect to abortion is moderately pro-choice, and that will be reflected in legislation in many - but by no means all - States.

  10. @John Graybeard I’m glad you pointed out the importance of the abortion issue. Opposition to abortion drives a great deal of the otherwise hard-to-explain support that Trump enjoys among evangelical voters. It is a critical factor for conservative Catholic voters as well. In 2016, the bishop of Rockville Center on Long Island sent a letter to the churches in the diocese that stopped a hair’s breadth short of endorsing Trump. The abortion issue has been a huge factor in moving our politics to the hard right.

  11. @John Graybeard Yes Graybeard, I still say that this will blow up to be the deciding issue in the next election. To DennisG: I say it is just too bad that some need 'more time' to adjust to the present days. But I do agree that this will ultimately help boost Democratic turnout if nothing else. Carla: This does indeed explain the support for Trump. Some will never vote for Democrats because of this very issue. A constant campaign for years.

  12. Ziblatt nailed it: "demographic changes underway in the U.S. since the 1970s have prompted Republican existential fear about the future & an increasingly stiff resistance to democracy itself. Like Conservatives in Europe before 1914 or Southern Democrats in the 1890s, fear of the future means a greater willingness to play dirty & to block ..." We have been witnessing this for decades now. "Blocking" is McConnell's legacy. Republicans have perfected Gerrymandering through the use of computers. Trump made be an autocratic, oligarch. But he is a symptom. The question is are we on the way to the cure or are we getting "sicker"?

  13. Climate change and world wide extinction of humans and animals and insects is liable to derail any prognostications for the future that have a basis in past experience. The future is a known, unknown.

  14. The United States is complicit in her own demise. We have capitalized Democracy. Making the political system a capitalist endeavor, fueled by big moneyed donors and an ever-growing list of favors-owed by the recipients is the mechanism that has worked to break our Republic.

  15. @Skidaway ... Yes, we have a more fully-formed Corporate State, including a "Helpful" Hedge Fund Funding and Corporate Funding of Universities.

  16. @Skidaway DJT is the distilled essence of what a developing autocratic oligarchy wants in a president. Someone who has no respect for the common man and woman; someone who believes in entitlement and that the uber-wealthy are the rightful masters of the universe; someone so completely unhinged from truth and so surrounded by sycophants (pathetically including the GOP) that he is able to wield the robes of the most powerful role on earth as a weapon to destroy what doesn't fit his grandiose ideal of himself; to distort and ignore laws that he doesn't like, including the Constitution. By destroying our faith in government and our ability to govern ourselves he is achieving the ultimate goal of capitalism over democracy...concentrating all power into the hands of the wealthy. This is what the GOP has at its core, its ultimate objective. The common man and woman is merely the mark to be exploited. These are dark days indeed.

  17. @Skidaway The old saying "you reap what you sow" is quite applicable here.

  18. The theories laid out herein seem kind of forced. The US is in the midst of the final stages of a post industrial collapse in some regions and extreme wealth creation in others combined with the catastrophic pension and debt overhang from incredible growth for 80 years. The politicians are really just random pieces reacting to this.

  19. @David The "catastrophic pension and debt overhang" is the result of much slower growth over the past 50 years than the preceding 30 or so.

  20. The Presidency has too much power and Trump is willing to exploit it for his own ends. The biggest danger right now is that he will take us to war against Iran, just to distract the public from his many legal problems. The man has no sense of morality.

  21. Nancy Pelosi's concern should be shared by every citizen in this country. Republicans included. It conjures images of an aroused rabble, armed to the teeth, and willing to follow a man who will dictate his terms to a besieged democracy. The weapons are already out there, the militias are training and motivated, and our government is already reeling from multiple assaults from fringe ideologues. Will law and order prevail? That depends on who is defining the law and how the law is enforced by people who may also have strong political leanings against democracy. If Trump is to be defeated he must be totally defeated, erased. The politicians who supported Trump and engaged in crimes against our government must also be brought to justice.

  22. @Interested Party. Just heard on NPR the US has 4% of the world population and 40% of the worlds guns in private hands. There are more guns in the US (population approaching 330 million) than people. We deserve to lose democracy if we cannot stimulate the populace to vote. We have the lowest voter turnout of any first world country.

  23. @LaPine Scary times. Like anything that is not maintained and treated without respect, our democracy may start to gradually disappear. Bit by bit. We will then find out firsthand what dictators like Stalin were all about.

  24. This is an interesting essay. But something’s missing. The way information is now received—the influence of cable TV and social media on the electorate (truth or Fake News, depending on your perspective)—must be part of the analysis. I’d like to see the social scientists answer that question.

  25. The question isn't how Trump compares to our other 44 Presidents. It's whether he deserves to be compared to any of our other 44 Presidents.

  26. @Jay Orchard Trump's in a "crass" of his own...

  27. @Jay Orchard - You are correct, especially in light of his being essentially elected by a hostile foreign power. That cannot be said of the previous 44.

  28. @He is an illegitimate president w/no comparison - he was shoved over the finish line by a foreign adversary -- and then they all celebrated their victory in the WH! It looked to be a jolly affair. But this in itself portends yet more problems, as I suspect countless citizens do not see him as a valid POTUS.

  29. My thought (not complete) is that some important piece of this 'generalized urge' toward authoritarianism ('a family is not a democracy') might be more strongly related to the 'existential worry' about climate change.

  30. @dca Strongmen exist because they are allowed to. Humans turn to them in times of extreme angst. As for climate change, were it only so that Trump were a despot with benefits.

  31. I think it is hard to engage in an intellectual analysis when so many emotions are stirred up. Many people presently feel a sense of shock related to the drastic change in style of the American presidency. There may be clearer thinking about how President Trump fits in with the other 44 after his presidency is over.

  32. Indeed, I have a hard time viewing Trump's time in office as providing anything worthwhile. If he represents the end of the Reagan GOP, great, but Trump has brought us to a horrific place that makes me want Iran/Contra back.

  33. Is not the dark money deep state that the Kochs and their minions have inserted into the fabric of our culture, academia, and political world a major factor in all this? A factor that was not as pervasive and deliberately hidden in past turns of political direction. This deep state of the the conservative, moneyed right has forged itself into a shadow government with ever more expanding reach into every sphere of our life. Mr. Edsall wrote a piece last year on the Trump/Koch connections which is little mentioned in this essay. I think it is central and radically different from past examples of presidencies. The MSM media barely develops this, except for the New Yorker and other similar publications. It is too threatening to even bring it up since most of the MSM is owned by oligarchs with vested interest in the status quo, even the benevolent owners.

  34. As usual I love reading Edsall’s column. Regardless of Trump’s eventual position in history, which will def be an interesting future to watch unfold, we see similar cycles as those described by Scowronek reflected in broader culture, for example in the visual arts: Rococo, a disjunctive period of cultural production as high Baroque, takes Baroque florid decoration to new, teetering, indulgent heights. High Modernism takes Modernist’s repulsion of the viewer to a reductio ad absurdum, like we see in the work of Robert Ryman (who’s work I like, btw, partially for that reason).

  35. @Aaron Thanks Aaron, I enjoyed reading your intriguing analysis. Placing DJT in a cultural context provides an instructive lens into his rise. He is after all a creature of the Internet Age, with its facile tendencies towards truth and knowledge. If I’m not mistaken, a fake Times magazine cover hangs in his golf course(s?).

  36. Thank you for the interesting analysis. We will not know for a while if the current pattern does represent the last gasps of the Regan era, but in some sense --if all this holds--there is evidence for a regression to the mean (Skowronek's pattern?). It does not seem as though other shifts took 40 years to occur. I hope Balkin is correct and this is an "exhausted regime." No doubt many of us are tired of the belligerent and obstructive patterns we see. It would be nice if the voters followed some pattern here--and got rid of Trump and many of his cronies. Unfortunately, there is reason to be skeptical of overarching theories.

  37. If this is a "pre-emptive" president, it has a scary twist. Then the erosion of democratic institutions is here to stay. Like climate change. Then, we are witnessing of the end of democracy and the beginning of autocracy and, authoritarianism. The changes in the Supreme and federal courts and the hold of the GOP in the Senate may well guarantee the death of democracy. The infrastructure budget will be for the wall and prisons. Maybe city-prisons, like in China. America will be the land of nepotism, corruption and, established conflict of interests in government. I hope that, as simplistic as it sounds, this president is "disjunctive". His best fit is not with the other 44. His best fit is in court for his deserved day.

  38. @Aurace Rengifo I will vote for anyone (a Democrat) but Trump, yet your analysis sounds more like a partisan screed than any attempt to understand historical details.

  39. @JSK. Unfortunately, J, when the shoe fits, as it does in this case, that’s what you have to wear. The “partisan screed” has been published and broadcast by Republicans for thirty years but people are so focused on their own positions that they fail to see the big picture. And that picture has been how to establish Republican/Corporate/Money power while still being a minority of the electorate.

  40. The loss of legitimacy and the loss of political and social norms go together. Trump is not a disjunctive politician. He represents something outside of the political order. He reverses the adage that war is the continuation of politics by other means. For Trump, politics is the continuation of war by other means. The lack of rules and of compromise in an all out war (the failure to observe the rules of the game) is not political. It is outside the political. This is why political analyses of Trump fail. One has to extend the terms of the inquiry.

  41. Rambling nonsensical opinions of the left. That is all this essay is. Three points. Both Trump and Obama have exercised more presidential power primarily to fill the void of legislative action by a polarized congress. Trump is not an extension of Reagan, quite the opposite. The true anti-Trump conservatives are the last of Reagan style politics. And finally, the only politicians I see that have questioned and not accepted the results of recent elections are democrats, Stacy Abrams, Hilary Clinton, and have you heard of all those Dems still clinging to the Russian Hoax, the conspiracy theory they hoped would unseat a president.

  42. “Trump ‘has shown himself,” Levitsky continued, “to be a more openly autocratic figure than any of the other disjunctive presidents I am aware of. So we have a president of authoritarian instincts in a context of extreme partisan polarization (such that Republicans line up behind Trump no matter what) and weakened norms. That strikes me as quite a bit different - and more threatening - than say a Carter presidency.” “Disjunctive” or not, Jimmy Carter’s presidential legacy has only been burnished since leaving the White House. He was ahead of his time in expressing concern for the environment and renewable energy. His patriotism and love for America and its institutions was quiet, sincere and non-exclusionary. He applied and continues to this day to apply his Christian humanism to benefit the most vulnerable among us. He is/was so much the polar opposite of everything that #45 stands for and the threat he represents to our democracy, that it seems grotesque to find him lumped into any similar category with Donald Trump.

  43. @Susan: I could not agree with you more. He is still such a humanist that he has never slowed his charity to all underprivileged people who have long been forgotten by most Americans. What a wonderful and 'good' man and I hate that he has to suffer the pain of a hip fracture even though I know he is doing so with a smile on his face so others will not worry. He is a very special man.

  44. Thank you so much for your comment. It expressed my views exactly. The world needs more people like Carter. Sadly, those who are kind and considerate (no matter how intelligent) are seen as weak and inefficient. Only when we can change that mindset will we make true progress.

  45. @Susan Reagan and Carter have little in common. And, yes, Reagan did indeed make Trump possible, gave him context. Reagan was a man whose legacy continues to be the notion that government is evil, and today his legacy has born fruit; C.f. the Trump administration. Carter on the other hand has been embraced by history; he will continue to be seen as an intelligent, civilized man, a courageous post-Watergate president, and an honest Middle East power broker. Carter was/is a peace maker. Trump, without his aura of fear, is nothing at all.

  46. Political scientists apply their previous observations to each era and try to make a "rule", or theory. In a steady state it might be descriptive. We may have a bigger change going on. There are two aspects to this. There is change in partisan politics run by the leaders and there is the change in the citizens. We define the citizenry for example as either conservative or liberal and find that these terms are neologisms, not associated with their previous meanings. Our system is not bottom up but coalition defined by what the elites can deliver for a variety of constituents. So in a small room, elites devise messages to appeal to a group,deliver messages hoping to get the votes. What they do not do is try to devise solutions and present them. What is different now is that once elected the representatives from both sides tried for consensus or at least compromise. Governing is seriously about solving problems not winning, but now ideology? and winning has pushed that aside, fracturing the trust of the citizenry. And the citizenry has changed: Fear? greed? blind materialism? prejudice? complacency? or my favorite, conditioning toward mass marketing? who knows. We are not smart independent politically aware agents, and maybe never were, but we are more susceptible to prejudice, superstition and propaganda either by the sophistication of the propaganda or our own complacency.

  47. We'll see what happens if there is a movement to repeal the 22nd Amendment. I predict that process will begin on January 22, 2020 if our current president is re-elected. Hopefully that is really and if and not a when. I'm not optimistic.

  48. Too many things to worry about to consider this an ordinary 'disjunctive' moment. Globally, we face skyrocketing economic inequality which will slow global growth for some time, unprecedented and unpredictable environmental shifts, and a return to authoritarianism in many former democracies. Nationally, we are seeing stresses on our constitution. As HLA Hart correct noted, law depends on compliance. But the executive branch does not comply willingly. That is the branch charged with enforcing the law. We have a president and more clever legal enablers who desire to set the president above the law. How can the law be maintained in such a situation? To make things worse, the primary motivator appears to be personal corruption. Demographic shifts will likely result in a substantial majority of the population having much less electoral power than a small minority in the legislature. SCOTUS is dominated by partisan actors who appear determined to represent a minority view. So all three branches of government may come to be seen as illegitimate by some substantial portion of the public. The right, whom they will likely represent for some time, has been nurtured on an extremist hostility to government even when they have virtual control of the government. This hostility takes the form of hostility to their fellow citizens--those who in past periods looked to government to defend their rights. The problem is structural, and not merely due to one man's egoistic whims.

  49. What happens next is very predictable for any student of the history of republics. And no one can justly say that we, as a people have not earned the judgement we are about to receive. We were warned. Many times.

  50. What do you mean, “we”?? Most Americans did not vote for a Trump. Besides 3 million more voting for Hillary than Trump, another 6 million voted 3rd party, and another million wrote someone else in. So, 10 MILLION MORE PEOPLE VOTED FOR SOMEONE OTHER THAN TRUMP. Add in voter suppression, gerrymandering, violations of voting rights, and a deeply skewed Electoral College, the nightmare we've been living through is NOT one that most of us wanted or voted for.

  51. This is a really great article, built upon strong academic research and solid reasoning. The idea of the "long disjunction" resonates with me, and while the bias of some of those interviewed comes thru when they refer only to GOP radicalism, and assume Trump's sui generis nature (in other words, they miss, as always, the radicalization of the Left for the most part and pay no attention to the reckless leadership Obama displayed), I feel there is something quite right about much of the point of the article ---which si that the country is entering a profoundly unstable period, with an unfortunately ill-prepared and unethical base of leaders who are not up to the challenge. It might help therefore for all of us to start relying more on the constitution and all our institutions, and avoid delegitimizing important touchstones of the Republic like the electoral college, separation of powers, and checks and balances. Would that this were so.

  52. Any theory that would equate the presidency of Donald Trump with that of Jimmy Carter is flawed. I'm a longtime fan of Skowronek's book, but this article makes a good case for why it needs to be revisited and debated. Thanks for this timely piece.

  53. Superb column! The Times should run more such pieces, with scholarly foundation, complexity, disagreements within the same framework, and thoughtful critiques of the framework, too. It would elevate discourse and expand knowledge and do so much more than the confirmation bias of the usual opinion columns that do little more than fuel our own self-righteous, though justified, indignation at what is happening to our country and our democracy.

  54. @Marsha Pembroke I agree Marsha. Edsall's showcased academic research at its best: rigorous, lucid, diverse, and thought-expanding. But the question--and challenge-- becomes: how to translate Edsall's sophisticated digest to spread to the broader masses? The Times reaches a certain, and limited, class strata of readers. Good for us that we start our days edified by this reasoned (and reasonable) debate. However, analyses of this caliber need to filter into news media outlets that engage readers beyond the Times' beltway. How do we make that happen without turning thoughtful scholars into shouting, screaming pundits (which seems to be the norm for "experts" featured on even CNN, and MSNBC, in addition to FOX)?

  55. @Marsha Pembroke. Sadly, Marsha, most voters no longer read even simple analyses and this one is far too complex for the average worker to follow or to care about. If the economy continues to go downhill or the tariff pinch hurts enough voters will reject the Nasty Man. If not, a lot of them will continue to share his trashing of the same people that they feel threatened by.

  56. Always hoped Trump would be the Hoover of the Gop, relegating them to the back benches for a generation. Problem is we don't have politics anymore, we have brand loyalty. Coke drinker may choose Pepsi in a blindfold test but she'll still buy Coke.

  57. Another look at the Obama years tells that Obama was the disruptive presidency that undertook an attempt to toss out the Bush/Bush continuance of Reagan and turn our nation into a left-leaning, Socialist Democracy. President Trump is trying to reverse the disruption of the Obama path of excessive regulation and change to a larger Federal-driven government. As Skowronek wrote, "this case will confirm the residual strength of the regime-based structure of presidential leadership."

  58. @JoeP Your remarks wrongly suggest that it was President Obama's aim during his tenure to "turn our nation into a left-leaning, Socialist Democracy." To that I say: What NONSENSE!!! President Obama by inclination was a CENTRIST Democrat and behaved very much like one. As for regulation, what regulation exists now in the United States is hardly excessive. Look at what Bernie Madoff was able to do for decades in swindling many of his clients of millions of dollars though an elaborate Ponzi scheme. The Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commission was warned about Madoff years before he was finally brought down. But it refused to do anything about him. Perhaps, sir, you are among a segment of Americans with a center-right or right wing disposition who yearns for the transformation of the United States into a one-party (GOP) Fascist state. Say it isn't so!

  59. @JoeP "excessive regulation" !!!! Give me a break. Who wants to go back to the era when rivers caught on fire? If we keep abusing water, air and land, Mother Earth will be unforgiving.

  60. - and where is this idea of ''disjunction'' coming from? From an US Philosopher who compared Trump to Carter? How ''disjunctive'' is that - as there is no ''disjunction'' in a President who receives somebody like Viktor Orban as a ''friend''. (kind of) And Dudes who want to build walls -(or fences) are everything BUT ''disjunctive''.

  61. Because of Trump, no Republican can exercise legitimate power. That includes judges. I'm willing to grandfather pre-Trump Republican judges, but not any Trump appointees or any that come after. And I say that as someone who voted for McCain in 2008. How quickly things change! I suspect they'll change again when Trump is on the other side of the grass, and I hope that's soon.

  62. @Maria Ah, Maria: based on your comment here, I trust Trump won't be your candidate in 2020. But how did you cast your vote in 2016?

  63. schöpferische Zerstörung), sometimes known as Schumpeter's gale (in English "creative destruction") though originally an economic concept was expanded by Richard L. Nolan to the corporate environment. Recently Francis Fukuyama notes that many institutions (including those in Government) outlive their usefulness and become negative influencers. This phenomenon is more acute during times of great change i.e. the transition from the industrial to the Information age. No matter where one lives on the political spectrum an honest assessment is that the Government is increasingly non-functional and both political parties are imploding. Although there has been some notable bipartisan legislation passed the majority of bills contain poison pills that assure their non-viability. What is not generally accepted is there is no going back. The environment has changed as technology as come to the fore. Economic globalization is a given. Yet neither party acknowledges this fact. To blame this all on President Trump is naive. He is but a bit player in a global stage of interconnected influences. Perhaps it's time for a new generation of social "scientists."

  64. @Captain Roger "many institutions (including those in Government) outlive their usefulness and become negative influencers." You're talking about the Electoral College?

  65. @Charlesbalpha Absolutely not. Read Federalist 68 on the electoral college and why we are a republic instead of a democracy. Also Fukuyama "Political Order and Political Decay" on the impact of obsolete institutions.

  66. How to take this analysis in the face of an increasingly militant democratic left? It seems to me revolution is approaching. The question is whether the fight occurs with ballots or weapons.

  67. Oh, please. Who parades with guns? Which group is seized with fear and paranoia? The Right.

  68. However autocratic those in power may be, they still require support. The critical support for Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the Republican anti-republican Party comes not from conservative voters (who are an increasingly small percentage of voters), but from economic power like the Kochs, the Mercers, Wall Street, Big Pharma, Big Oil, etc. (including some wealthy so-called liberals). Many among the 0.1 percent have made it clear that, given a choice between democracy and accumulation/concentration of wealth, they choose wealth. That is the essence of the regime change the U.S. is now undergoing.

  69. @Hugh Sansom You are spot on.

  70. @Hugh Sansom. Amen. You understand the deal going down. A pity that Evangelicals think they will escape the abuse to come.

  71. I'm a much a fan of abstract theoretical constructs as the next nerd. But whether you find something in the viewpoints and patterns Edsall presents here or not, it's really hard to argue that Trump isn't a radical break from presidents past, a distinct anomaly in our history. Of course, it's also entirely possible he simply represents a vanguard of authoritarian chief executives that will be more and more likely to fill the post in an increasingly polarized environment. If that occurs, though, we'll have a lot more pressing matters to worry about than where he or they will fit in some historical analysis.

  72. @Glenn Ribotsky it is an interesting historical oddity that he shares "radical break from the past" with two Democrats (Liberals, Progressives): Wilson and FDR.

  73. Trump is not a president of any type; to speculate about where he fits is misguided. American history, assuming there is one, will in fifty years record Trump’s presence in the White House as a form of Russian attack, a successful bid by an enemy state to cause our democracy to rupture from within.

  74. @Alex K The attacks took place when Obama was president, and were largely successful because the FBI had warned the DNC that their computer security system was terrible. Also, Anyone anywhere could post whatever they wanted to post on Facebook. So who gets the blame for the Russian attack? Trump.

  75. @Alex K Trump is a President of the type "elected under the prevailing laws and systems of the US. As were all of his predecessors.

  76. @Erik Dear Erik - I would say the orange one can take a good chunk of the blame for the intrusions and he had no problem taking advantage of the situation.

  77. It would be far too easy to dismiss the scholars discussion of political change as the result of academia's mandate to publish or perish. When you cut to the core, the issue is the nation's durability to withstand the emergence of an authoritarian oligarch who commands the support of a compliant political power structure. Durability is not just the continued existence of a nation state bearing the name of United States of America. That will happen no matter the structure of our governance. Durability in this context has to be the strengthening or weakening of our laws based governance. Trump and the republican party have demonstrated their willingness to abuse the law in the manner of Mafia chieftains cheered on by their talking head versions of Joseph Goebbels. How America transitions this generation of republican subversives will be determined by the electorate, 98+% of whom will never read the scholars referenced in Mr Edsall's column. That is, absent a coup. Although Trump brays about "FBI and CIA coups," the possibility of a coup to maintain Trump and republicans is probably about as likely as a nuclear war occurring in the next five or ten years. So the American electorate will decide the path forward. Good, bad or indifferent, it won't be the scholars mobilizing the voters. It will be their quality of life concerns and their expectations for their children. Those life priorities will not likely conform to either party's extremes.

  78. Trump is aided by a number of things that are different from Carter and Hoover: 1) An economy performing far better than it used to be 2) The successful and ongoing effort of Republicans to rig elections in their favor via gerrymandering, voter ID, prison voting laws (the electoral college has always been present, but seems more aligned to bias in favor of a single party than ever before, so maybe that can also be included) 3) A left that is thoroughly alienating to a great number of people, esp. many who are swing voters in swing states If #1 changes between now and election day; and #3 is resolved by nominating a reasoned moderate, the Democrats maximize their chances of winning the presidency.

  79. @MA "1) An economy performing far better than it used to be" Don't you really mean "better than under the previous recession" ? The economy was far better in the twentieth century.

  80. Trump does not fit within these categories because his effect will have depended upon his unique motivations. Whether or not his is Russia’s instrument of chaos, his actions stem, unique to other Presidents, from a purely selfish desire for personal fun, to demonstrate his skill, to acquire and exert authority. He lacks objectives (apart from fame) and so there is no cohesive political transformation. He may give rise to imitators or to reaction in an increase in Congressional authority, but not as a result of his deliberate endeavor; he is destructive rather than disjunctive. Category five: bull in a china shop President.

  81. It's not up to question who is Trump's favorite POTUS: Andrew Jackson. And there's also little doubt that, on a personal career level, Trump's actions seek to emulate what Jackson did, at least poetically. But I also agree he's no Old Hickory, no matter how much he tries. My personal opinion is that Trump is a historically unique POTUS if you analyze it in the "great scheme of things". He is the first POTUS who represents decline (and the despair of decline). Since the USA has never experienced decline in its existence, that would make him unique. But, on a policy-by-policy level, I think he's doing what any other POTUS from any of the two de facto existing political parties would do. The only thing different a Democrat POTUS would do in his place would be not to confront China and focus on destroying Russia. Even those corporate tax breaks are something that is well within the Democrat spectrum (Obama did way worse, by bailing out the big banks and other big corporations). Despite the dramatic rhetoric, he still maintains the troops in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. He renewed the economic sanctions against Venezuela and Russia (despite his clearly pro-Russia rhetoric). Now, on the postmodern scale (micro scale), there are clear ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats (Immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, religion, climate change denial, etc.) -- but that doesn't matter at the world scale.

  82. @VK Greetings from the South Pacific. There is nothing microscale about climate change, which is the tsunami that is about to make Trump and just about everything else look small scale. The fact that Trump thinks it is a myth makes actions by the US, which might help mitigate things, significantly messed up.The US now has a champion from within seeking to make it all much worse. For environmental catastrophe, check out coral reefs worldwide. For human disaster, keep an eye on Bangladesh, which is about to go underwater to a significant degree. Many are living in blissful denial about the real macro catastrophe that is coming into frame.

  83. Isn’t it enough for these professors to already know that Trump is currently in charge of making all the basic economic and life-and- death military decisions for the country. Decisions that will profoundly effect the course of events in this country for decades-to-come regardless of who the next Presidents are. I would have thought that the only essential question about him worth studying is how to get rid of him tomorrow.

  84. The meaning of Trump, how he fits in with the other 44 Presidents? Where and how and why he belongs tells us about where America is headed? Trump AND his opposition, and American politics at present seem all about people and the failure of humanity to form any worthwhile politics, and a complete collapse of faith in words, human language, and a complete green light for mathematics, machines to solve the problem of humanity. American politics on the right seems increasingly about racial, biological differences between people and how success of society is dependent on genetics, while the left appears to just want to dumb everybody and society down in an everybody is equal, nurture over nature, socialist scheme, but between the both and because the both are expressed in language, words, and cannot reconcile let alone form anything coherent, there is increasing censorship, in fact loss of faith in human language, and instead there is not only no censorship in mathematics, machine construction, but a full steam ahead mentality and evident desire to entirely bypass and overcome the problem of humanity itself by replacement of people as much as possible by machine, machines which can be radically different from one another without the human 'genetic difference' fears and resentments, or line up and be identical to each other yet function as no Marxian expectation of the human has been possible... In short, go into math/technology and make machines do what people cannot do...

  85. It takes around 30 years after a presidency ends before historians can make judgments regarding its successes and failures. Ten years after their presidencies ended, Truman and Eisenhower were considered mediocrities. Now they are often placed in the top 10. My sense is that Bill Clinton, who left the presidency with fairly high ratings, is about to take a significant dive, thanks to the Me Too movement, his tough on crime stance, and his giveaway of our industries to China. Trump is half way through his first term and Mr. Edsall (and others) are having discussions about "where he belongs." I don't think so.

  86. I used to laugh at the James Bond books and films and others of the genre where an evil group schemed to dominate the world and enrich themselves in the process. I thought Ian Fleming had to reach really far to come up with something so diabolical. Maybe the current roster of world leaders read those stories and thought forming such a group would be a good idea. I wish it had stayed fiction.

  87. On policy alone, he'll be evaluated as ineffective; Are Medicare and Social Security solvent and can us working Americans count on them to be there when we retire? Have out of control health care costs, costing families between $30,000-$40,000 per year, been addressed? Have out of control prescription drug prices been addressed? Have outrageous costs of education and student loan debt been addressed? Has the skills gap and unfulfilled jobs that can't be filled been addressed? How's our infrastructure? Surely you know that Trump and the GOP pushed spending from 3.5 trillion to 4.2 trillion in two years, and created a 900 billion dollar budget deficit the past 12 months...are growing debt and deficits something to be celebrated? Are stock valuations not at historically extreme levels seen only in 1929 and 2000? Are 95 million Americans, the figure Trump cited through 2016, still "out of work" and isn't labor participation near four decade lows? Aren't wages stagnant for a majority of Americans? Don't 50% of Americans not have enough in savings to cover a $400 emergency? Why are birth rates and life expectancy declining? Aren't Iran and NK stop moving forward against us? Isn't China out doing us globally?

  88. @Joe Arena Saying that he is "ineffective" implies that he has been trying and failing to solve a problem. Actually he doesn't care.

  89. Our choices are clear: immigration and Trump or no immigration and no Trump. The Democrats will never give up on the importation of tens of millions of people because 'diversity' so the country will get Trump. I don't want to live in a third-world country, crowded, dangerous and full of poverty. I don't know why the immigration radicals have control over the Democratic party. I consider immigration to be an existential threat to the future of this country. More than Trump.

  90. I agree because of the numbers. This mass immigration will have great and deleterious environmental and economic results. One of the problems is that opposition to large scale immigration and racism are lumped together as though they are identical when they are not. The rise of rightist politics in Europe is unfortunate, but the desire of many Europeans to oppose massive immigration resulting, also, in great environmental damage and economic harm to many European workers who will be displaced, is understandable. The Democratic Party leadership has been taken over by those for whom any opposition to large scale immigration is anathema and is equated with racism. However, if any Democratic Party candidate runs for the office of President and is viewed as an “open borders” candidate, he or she will lose, and in my opinion, deservedly.

  91. @willt26 Most of the country's problems were caused by people who were here already, particularly the neo-Nazis who started coming out of the woodwork in Charlottesville.

  92. The cyclical pattern of presidencies sounds reasonable with the understanding that history does not repeat itself precisely. Perhaps the current picture would be clearer if people take the long view. The country has been in turmoil since the Civil War and the influx of immigrants in the last quarter of the 19th century and first half of the 20th only added to the problem. During this period, the founding group of Anglos realized they could not maintain control over "their land" if things continued the way they were. However, they have never been able to solve their problem which has lead to more and more radical actions. Trump is only one of these. Until the power block that has controlled the country for over two hundred years admits they are a minority and behave as such will the problem be solved.

  93. @Milton Deemer I am an "Anglo". I don't consider the US "my land" and was unaware that I had the "problem" of keeping "control" over it. This is just the Democrats' silly obsession over identity politics. The real problem is the concentration of wealth in 1% of the population.

  94. All these interpretations are intriguing. At the same time, one of the institutions that this president has shown to be ineffective and irrelevant is... political science. Surely the end goal of studying politics is to improve it in some way? And yet, though we "stand on the shoulders of giants" - on mountains of research and studies - our country is now in freefall.

  95. What’s being seriously examined here is the likelihood of a jarring collapse of our current “regime”. Unfortunately, there has never been a widely held conception of “what” the US regime is and has been. ONE of major contending descriptors is the formal system of republican checks and balances (including federalism and “limited government”) laid out in the written Constitution. The OTHER is the sphere of concentrated wealth (necessary for marshaling investment) and which is protected as “private property” by our constitutional system of limited government. Our Constitution, of course, was framed WELL before mega corporations beyond the control of a sovereign could be viable. Which of those two is most vulnerable in an era where the idea of liberal democracy is increasingly misunderstood and discounted?

  96. Still amazed that Trump's base does not get what he is doing to them. The irony, of course, is the "coastal elites" are benefitting from Trump's policies and his base---from trade to health care--are being savaged.

  97. The legislative branch, by inaction, has transferred most of its power to the executive and judicial branches. Congress has created the imperial presidency which started under Obama. We forget how much Obama had to use executive orders. Trump merely picked up the mantle. As long as the primary branch remains inferior, presidents and courts will wield increasing power. From a legislative view, the republic is in shambles. We often forget that Trump generally has an approval rating twice as high as Congress. The imperial presidency is here to stay courtesy of your elected officials. Congress created the power void through obstructionism; presidents and the courts fill that void.

  98. I fear that these scholars have it in reverse, that Trump is a transformative, not a "disjunctive" president. It is indisputable that he is seeking to change -- and in many ways already has changed -- the presidency and the country in myriad ways. Like other transformative presidents, he has a keen sense of the political Zeitgeist and how to exploit it for political gain. Hoover and Carter, by contrast, were notable for their tone-deafness when it came to public opinion and fecklessness in governing. In this context, it is Obama who resembles Carter and Hoover more closely than Trump. While Obama was clearly more skilled than his two predecessors, he, like them, failed to grasp deep discontent and despair building to dangerous levels and act to address Also like Carter and Hoover, he proved inept at wielding power, repeatedly allowing the GOP and foreign leaders to walk all over him. Let's hope these scholars are right, but I fear they are not, that it is Trump who is leading us into a new era.

  99. @Christopher Hoffman You may be right. Of course it is too soon to tell, but you have sketched out the right framework.

  100. I'm surprised that none of these political scientists addresses what, to me, is the single greatest force driving our politics today - big money. Thanks to Citizens United, both parties are compelled to tap members of the expanding billionaire class, who hold diametrically opposing worldviews (Adelson vs. Soros). The rest of us just tag along.

  101. Thank you, Mr. Edsall, for this thought-provoking column. The main problem with Balkin's argument for Trump's supposed "last gasp" of Reaganism is his flawed analysis based on temporocentrism. Conditions that led to today's chaotic political divisiveness is tied to the changes that have taken place since either Carter or Reagan occupied the White House. Not the least of these changes include the evisceration of the Equal Time broadcasting rule, the Citizens United decision, the emergence of political PACs and dark money, and outrageous gerrymandering resulting from the 2010 census. To look backward but not take into account these recent judicial and legislative changes contradicts the rosy prediction that "We will get through it." It appears that Balkan's prediction of an "unhappy nightmare" will not be overcome unless the 2020 election results eliminates the ascendancy of the"Party of Trump." If it does not, the public will be treated to 4 more years of an inevitable path toward authoritarianism, and the destruction of democratic principles and institutions. The electorate must speak - loudly and firmly - or we will witness the end of democracy as we believed it to be.

  102. What’s really fascinating here is that it’s Trump, failed businessman and b list celebrity, who captured the imagination of a cadre of Americans longing for a return to post Reconstruction 1890s. (The 1890s were a time when civil rights for freed slaves were being rolled back and tariffs were high. MAGA has never meant the 50s.) I’ve had the misfortune to know about Donald Trump practically my whole life and I always considered him a sideshow. How he managed to come up with the right combination of words to articulate the fear and anger of those who believed themselves to be Republicans is still beyond me. Who could have guessed his real gift was conning a major American political party into thinking their future lies in the past.

  103. @M " How he managed to come up with the right combination of words to articulate the fear and anger of those who believed themselves to be Republicans is still beyond me" I've always considered him the brainless puppet of some slick manipulator behind the scenes. I'd be curious to know who it is.

  104. Populist, fascist type movements are usually rooted in economic anger based on inequality and the resultant resentment of the aggrieved group. Globalism has been the primary force that creates increasingly inequitable wealth distribution as production allots less and less of its profits to labor, both by seeking the cheapest labor globally and by using technology to reduce the need for human labor altogether. Efforts of individual nations to compete on this investor's controlled playing field has often led to government reduction in the support of organized labor. Workers may not understand the accelerating shift in wealth and political power into fewer and fewer hands, but they certainly feel the consequences. Even in countries like the U.S. where it is more an issue of stress than inadequate food or shelter, the most stressed feel huge resentment, even if their anger is often poorly aimed. It is these conditions that make the political soil fertile for the likes of Trump. The investment class needs to understand the potential consequences far outweigh the gratification of ever increasing returns on their capital. After WWII this was well understood and western governments made sure that conditions of economic resentment were kept under control via relatively equitable wealth distribution (redistribution, in fact)- but memories fade quickly, which may allow history to repeat itself.

  105. Trump compared himself to Lincoln -(and Jackson?) - So - it probably would help to treat any efforts of any US Philosophers to compare Trump to any of the other 44 Presidents - like Trumps effort to compare himself to Lincoln?

  106. Like many other Americans, i don't believe this man belongs anywhere in the cycle of presidents this country has had. He is an error of history. The scorched earth policy he practices every single day diminishes not only our Democracy and its core values but the past, present and future of America. If the People don't take it into their hands to remove this man from office since Congress won't lift a finger to do it for us, this country will never be the same and by the time the 2020 elections come and pass, it may be too late. Gone has the time to remain optimistic. We only need to read the headlines coming out of the White House every single day and read about the damage done to all of us by the Republican enablers of this man all across the American canvas: immigration, diversity, women, voting rights, transgender rights, big pharma, big oil, climate change denial, loss of trust from our allies.... what else can we say about the reverse path this country is taking? As they say, voting is like driving, are We, the People going to choose R for reverse or D for Drive? Drive forward that is. Otherwise the fools we have become will really become the scorn of the world and we will have deserved it.

  107. It's not a question of where Trump fits in with other presidents; he doesn't fit in at all. He is unfit to be president. He is at the most fundamental level a malignant narcissist who has no business having any authority. Any kind of power he has automatically will be abused. All those categories mentioned don't apply. He is a disaster. He is an asteroid out of a clear blue sky. He is a super volcano. We didn't see him coming; and we'll be paying the bill for generations.

  108. I guess I'll need to read the book to find out how Jimmy Carter, the kindest and most spiritual President we ever had, is in the "destroyer" camp with Trump. Presumably, Carter completed the destruction of democrats as Trump is destroying republicans now. I'm glad the author sees a ray of hope -- only 10 more years of hatred and division before they're gone. I sure wish it was sooner.

  109. The filmmaker Michael Moore called Trump, “An evil genius”, for his ability to lie and con a significant part of the American public to vote for him. That makes him a consequential president and one that Democrats need to figure soon to defeat him next year. No president has been able to use mass media like Donald Trump has been able to manipulate social media in our time. He governs by tweets. FDR used radio, Kennedy used television, Lincoln used the telegraph and Andrew Jackson used popular rallies. But Trump’s often contradictory tweets keep journalists, politicians, foreign governments and the American people wondering how a man who believes nothing but himself can getting away with the biggest con despite everyone knowing how corrupt and incompetent he is.

  110. Trump is merely a figure head. Efforts since the post civil war era have focused on an inclusion facade. Making it appear racism is no longer a problem and women have equal rights in America. Once it became apparent the 'facade would do the trick' approach no longer worked, the answer has become, why bother? The electoral system was made less democratic and the courts have been stacked with judges who will make sure racism and sexism become the law of the land. The message that needs to be delivered loud and clear is: if you are OK with that, by all means stay home EVERY election day. Very clearly, elections from the most local to the national do make a difference. Trump put it best when he told African Americans "what do you have to lose?" Nothing would frighten Republicans more than to see a huge minority turnout at the polls. They are betting you won't. After all they set up the system to make it hard for you to do so. Nothing to lose? How about starting with taking away your right to vote. Repeal of the 15th amendment by another name. Was all the blood shed to earn that right a waste of time? Imagine that. The cheaters, deniers, and corrupt politicians calling minorities cheaters at the voting booth. They respond by staying home and allowing their abusers to remain in power. Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave.

  111. You ascribe far more intelligence and reason to Trump and his supporters than exists. Trump is not the result of rational attempts to increase presidential power, or to create a transformative reconstruction of American politics. Trump is an egomaniacal person of limited measure who recognized a pervasive racist, sexist, LGBTQ phobic, and religiously obsessed sentiment seething in half of America. Voters elected him purely for his stance on social issues, not because of his views of our democraticl structure, foreign policy, economics or normal governmental functions. If the legislative branch was the racist, sexist and religious sector and the President fostered socially liberal programs they would flip in a heartbeat. You overestimate the intelligence of the American voter.

  112. The problem with this analysis is that the four categories were set a priori and the aberrant Trump is now forced to fit into one of them. Trump may be his own category entirely. It is like trying to wedge the foot of Cinderella's step sister into a shoe that is too small. It just does fit and fails to capture the deviancy of Trump from established norms.

  113. This a minor point, but if you count the names of the people who have been president prior to the current present, your count will be 43 *. So our current president is trying really hard to be the 44th best president. And if you told him that, he'd probably ask, "Who is the guy worse than me?" * It is Grover's fault.

  114. I feel like such academic discussion is too little too late for it to be meaningful, now. Our constitution is being destroyed; our rule of law shattered; our national decency and pride down the gutter; our lives, many lives destroyed. My feeling is, this is the moment only power that comes with sweeping electoral wins matters. I said sweeping because, as it is clear now, just winning the House is not enough! At first they were just breaking norms, now they are even doing what is legally not allowed and their supporters still stand with them. They declare any disagreeing words as "fake news." I think the more poignant and urgent question is, where do the Republican voters of today fit in the history of our country? Was there anytime in history, maybe other than the time of slavery, where we lose our collective minds so thoroughly, foolishly and disastrously?

  115. Wow! Having a runaway president, abusive to no measure of the powers of the presidency, may not be a complete anomaly after all; in spite of his constant lies, insults and exaggerations, scapegoating to distract us from his rabid-dog style attacks on this democracy, he seems to enjoy the total adoration of a 'base' akin to an unthinking mob, driven emotionally by their noses to support his nonsensical attacks to any and all that dare voice criticism (however constructive) to his violent nonsense. Have we forgotten that the assault of the presidency by Trump may be a shift to an allegiance to a demagogue...to spite the privileged coastal elites...even when his base is supporting measures counter to their dignity and pocket? What we have now is not a true democracy, for lack of participation and standing forthe truth, a pluto-kleptocracy instead. To our shame.

  116. It is very hard to determine where Trump falls in the procession of presidents. All I know is that on a recent stroll on Wisconsin Avenue, my teenaged daughter asked, as we passed the Washington Cathedral, whether Trump’s funeral would be conducted there. What a sickening thought. Trump doesn’t deserve to be in the procession of presidents.

  117. Very interesting as usual. Too bad the vast majority of citizens won’t read this and furthermore the occupant at 1600 penn Avenue can’t read it. I will be sanguine today. We are doomed.

  118. Trump is different. Some fear him. Some adulate. He knows how to capture attention. I suspect what will emerge from his regime is a Machiavellian cynicism no longer hidden behind the norms and structures of a once sacrosanct mechanics of governance. He has ripped off the politeness and deference — and installed pie-in-the-face with water balloons and stink bombs. A lot of people took to watching the cringe-worthy America’s Funniest Videos where humiliation and hurt had a laugh track.

  119. Trump is a symptom - and not even the worst one - of a progressive and potentially fatal disease. That disease is greed. Greed distorts rational thinking, destroys empathy and in the guise of any means justifying the end will co-opt religion, feign morality and tilt the judiciary toward kangaroo “justice.” One need look no further IMHO than the near absolute power of money in our political system for the now epidemic spread of this illness. Citizens United has done more to suppress our natural defenses than any decision in my lifetime of 68 years. Radical change will be required. My hope is that this could be evolutionary change beginning in 2020, with new leadership elected in landslide proportions down the ballot. My fear is that revolutionary upheaval is the more likely outcome.

  120. Trump is the manifestation of the Republican party’s evolving embrace of religious fundamentalism, far-right, authoritarian political philosophies and tactics. The threat of losing the 2016 election so endangered the Republican project that they embraced the help of Russia to win the election. This alliance has now ignited the confrontation. It was not just trump up to his eyeballs in Russia. The existential crisis in America arises out of this illegitimate presidency support by a corrupt Republican Party in alliance with Russia. I don’t see this ending nicely. There will have to be a cataclysmic event that disrupts or destroys the foundations of the Republican Party. Get ready to relive the 1930-1940s.

  121. It's impossible to have a balanced, historical view on a presidency until at least 25 years have passed. Before then opinions reflect current politics, not dispassionate judgment. I'd say we're just now at the point where we can form reliable views of Presidents Reagan and G.H.W. Bush. In another few years, we can start looking back on President Clinton. Academic opinions offered today about Obama and Trump are useless.

  122. It bears repeating one more time. Republican lawmakers are mostly, proud, confident and accomplished men. So why would they choose to humiliate themselves by abandoning all principle and kowtowing to Trump's idiocy when they could walk away from their $180K jobs that require 4 or 5 nights of fundraising events each week and instead make seven figures in the private sector? Answer: they CAN'T make more money in the private sector. The Republican Party belongs not to Trump but to the world's richest man--Vladimir Putin. Putin has realized that he can never defeat western democracies by engaging in a $100 billion/year arms race. But an annual investment of $5 billion in bribes to western men and women of influence? Piece of cake. Republicans don't bow down to Trump because the fool makes sense. They tolerate him because Putin has made them, and Trump himself, fabulously wealthy. We all know that money is usually a compelling motive, and the probability that we'll never be able to prove this treachery doesn't make it any less plausible. Republicans' inexplicably crazy behavior will continue to be a mystery until we admit that money is at the root of all this upheaval.

  123. @WDG, IMO, you have hit the nail on the head. The fact that my pre-paid internet was stolen and my previous tablet was hacked and quit allowing me access to NYT comments, then keyboard wouldn't work, and after comparing today's McMafia to the CIA/Dulles Bros/yesterday's mafia, a proxy server in the disguise of internet security said that I could not connect to internet.

  124. Political science should be a science, not a behavioral modification tool. As such it should move from truth to truth for the purpose of finding what’s good for society. Instead it’s being used to move from agreed upon fact to agreed upon fact for the purpose of gaining and maintaining power by manipulating the primitive fears and wants of the electorate. Expediency and lying are successful strategies, but only for the few. They violate the Categorical Imperative, and will ultimately fail when societal taboos are finally overcome and everyone is corrupt.

  125. It really comes down to whether in November 2020 a sufficient number of Americans are comfortable (or comfortably numb) with overtly corrupt, amoral, authoritarian, undemocratic government as long as it pretends to address their issues, primarily with regard to race and xenophobia, doesn't it? At this point it is clear that those issues take precedence over economic security, personal well being, peace, and climate change. It will be "interesting" to see, in a frighteningly existential sort of way. Eighteen months and counting.

  126. Assuming our democracy survives the Trump presidency more or less intact, my question is what will happen next? President Trump and his supporters have shown that it's possible to ignore and undercut democracy and political norms with little consequence. Like a house with a weakened foundation, what's to stop the next autocratic leader from bringing the entire structure down? (Or, as Levitsky and Ziblatt show, from creating a patina of democracy in an otherwise dictatorial regime, as in Russia.) Many people voted for Donald Trump because he was "different," unlike other politicians. And those voters were right; he is unlike any other President in our country's history. Academic arguments about where to "place" this presidency would do well to keep in mind that democracies are inherently fragile.

  127. I see something different in this era of Trump. Before 2000, people dealt with the main stream media being the major source of information about what was going on in the country and world. Since then, we have all become able to curate our own information streams, carrying far more content than was available before the rise of the World Wide Web. This facilitates the “siloing” of opinion across our political system. I try to look at the multiple sides of the political landscape and read what people who do not think like me believe. This is probably because I spent much of the new century as a history teacher (now retired) which carried with it the need to discuss current events with my students. And since they were siloed, much like most Americans, I needed to be able to bring up other views so that they could start to comprehend the complexity of the landscape. This siloing has sometimes shown up amongst the various political landscapes we have seen through out our history (for instance, the Know Nothings of the antebellum period, or the politics of the South following Reconstruction). However, we have the tools nowadays that allow this happening across the political spectrum. Trump supporters can find numerous sources that reinforce their outlook, AOC followers can do the same, as can Bernie, Biden, and many others’ followers. I see this as having more of an impact then any cyclical presidential pattern.

  128. History books of the future will not be centered so much on Trump as they will be on the electorate who voted for him. Historians will ask the same question years from now than present historians ask about the German and Italian people in the 1920's and 1930's. How did they let this happen? What were they thinking of? What were their expectations?

  129. Teddy Roosevelt broke many of the accepted norms during his 7 years as pres after McKinley was shot. TR had a devout love of country and legitimately worked to the benefit of the common man. He championed a shorter work week, worker protections, child labor laws and opposed the railroad barons. He also served during the Cuban invasion and was wounded. But that's where the similarity ends. Trump represents Trump and those deep pockets who benefit Trump. TR was a family man whereas Trump is alleged to hire prostitutes whilst his wife was in labor. TR created national parks whereas Trump dismembered them and allowed oil drilling and mining. TR controlled corporations whereas Trump passed the largest tax cut to the benefit of corporations followed by a tariff that falls squarely on the middle and lower class. Both stretched the prior limits of presidential power but most historians will agree that Trump is abusing the office like none other before him. After studying presidents for 50+ years, I conclude that Trump is the most vile and unqualified president in 243 years. He makes Harding's Teapot Dome scandal look like a parking ticket.

  130. Where are we? "Morton's Fork" (a choice between two equivalent options), or a Dilemma, which is a choice between two undesirable options? Or a Hobson's choice (only one option offered) which is no choice at all? Do we have enough Information to make an informed choice? To paraphrase Taylor Swift: haters gotta hate, players gotta play, and "social scientists" have to pretend they have a clue. (They don't.) Faced with an uncertain future and no clear decision making process what does one do? Decide we need more destruction before rebuilding and re-elect President Trump? Pick someone from the 21 or 22 or 23 Democrat hopefuls? Or be very clear on one's beliefs and communicate them in hope a candidate will rise to the challenge? I am clear on mine: free speech, property rights, due process, free scientific and intellectual inquiry, rationalism, and civil liberties. Are you clear on yours?

  131. I believe our most recent 2 presidents have both made a strong case why big government is not the answer and a smaller, less powerful, less corrupt government is the way to liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

  132. @dave A "smaller, less powerful" government just leaves a vacuum for big corporations to wield more power.

  133. @dave Tell that to Texas. We preach “small government, local control”; but it’s a complete fallacy. We have the “best small government” the energy lobby can buy. Throw in a few crazy Dominionists, and we have so much liberty and freedom that my employer can restrict my personal choices on religious grounds ....

  134. @dave Except Obama was not corrupt. How can you ever compare the dignified Obama to this absolutely horrible person?

  135. As much as I think Trump is an ego maniac, rabble rousing bigot and those are some of the nicer things I can say about him, history has taught us you have to wait at least 30-40-50 yrs. or more till you can properly assess the grade of a leader. Pres. Jackson disobeyed a Supreme Court decision and ordered the trail of tears march against the Cherokee Indians, FDR refused to support an anti lynching bill and Bush 2 was an admitted war criminal. This a just a few of the atrocities American presidents committed. The point being is that we will have to wait to see if the damage Trump has done is temporary, relatively minor or was a threat equal to or greater than the above examples.

  136. As hard as these political writers try to assure us that "this too will pass", I don't think we have ever in the history of the United States had a president as rude, as unthinking, as cruel, as selfish, as childlike, as racist, sexist, and all those other isms as we have now. This country is going back into the middle ages when we had warlords, and kingdoms.

  137. The headlines “How Trump fits in with the other presidents”... I’m old. Been around for a lot of presidents. Donald Trump will never, ever fit in as being presidential, no how, no way. And the ironic part of that - there’s nothing that probably makes him more happy. In his warped mind it only makes him more “special”.

  138. Not sure in rating where this president will place but it will be well above Obama and Carter would probably rank last in history.

  139. @Jan A mark can never admit she’s been played. Like climate change deniers, the Grifter’s supporters are in denial of the facts and the consequences thereof.

  140. @Jan Why?

  141. One of the greatest of all times, greatest blunders of our political system

  142. - and as it seems to be - that any type of ''disjunctive'' comment about ''Disjunctive Trump'' gets censored let's try to be dead serious. The world World know that - what the whole world compares Trump to - A kind of ''Evil Clown'' And not one of all the US Presidents before Trump was considered -(or compared to ''An Evil Clown'' - and so - to philosophy about the comparisons of Trump to any US President is more or less a joke - which never could be taken seriously or only by people - who think one should NOT make any jokes about ''our Presidents''.

  143. None of these academics ever envisioned the ascent of a truly mentally ill, malignant narcissist whose only skill is the art of the lie. But the problem isn't the presidency per se--it's the electorate. We are living in a warped version of the movie, Idiocracy. Focus on what's wrong with the Republican party and the people who, despite the obvious lack of qualifications and 7th grade behavior on full display, supported this elf-proclaimed billionaire nincompoop to the highest office in the land--and fully embrace him despite all that he has done to destroy our democracy, rip apart institutions, and foment disruption in long-established international relationships.

  144. Trump fits perfectly well in the long list of war mongering presidents . His bad behavior and some intellectuel deficiencies don't change much the course of the USA. Some presidents with better manners in the public space murdered a lot more people than Trump. And the presidents responsible for the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Lehman collapse (Clinton) were certainly worse in the economic sphere. At least till now.

  145. Easy question. Trump ranks above the next Republican president.

  146. This President is by far the worst President we've ever had. Everything about him is fake. Everything about him is crooked. He literally is uninformed on every single policy he approaches. The fact he has tens of millions of followers doesn't in anyway validate him as a president. Rather, it demonstrates both how easily Americans can be fooled and how contemptuous the values are for so many Americans. We've been through this before in the 1860s. People clinging to the, often imagined, past. It is for those of us who see the truth to ensure that it prevails over the rancous contempt in America.

  147. If Trump is re-elected we can say goodbye to our planet. Maybe it’s too late for it anyway, but with deregulation, there’s no chance to actually save ourselves from catastrophe. He uses fear of “other” — and other can be anybody who doesn’t disagree with him. If he wins in 2020, our democracy has collapsed.

  148. Issac Asimov, a prolific writer and sociological thinker comes to mind now, as his classic 'Foundation Trilogy' has a perfect Trump avatar - The Mule. Not a spoiler, but over the course of galactic centuries, a mathematical "social algorithm" goes awry when a leader appears out of nowhere who has the ability to reach into the minds of others and "adjust" their emotions, individually or en masse, using this capability to conscript individuals to his cause and rule a mythical galaxy to deleterious effects. Asimov nailed that galaxy and that time - its now...

  149. Where he belongs? In federal prison is where he belongs--no need to provide a list; just pick any card. Otherwise, he is likely to be our last president.

  150. Unmentioned LBJ and Nixon seem to be anomalies in the professors’ schema. Trump is the deluge.

  151. Why don't they wait until his presidency is over (hopefully next year) before trying to decide how to write him in the history books? How can they talk about is " doomed struggle to hold together the fraying coalition of an exhausted regime.” until the 2020 election?

  152. It's almost funny reading these historians try to categorize Trump. It's not that complicated. Trump is a lifelong con artist and crook who, thanks to a corrupt political system and idiotic electoral process, lucked into the job.

  153. Rather a long-winded way of saying something quite evident, and quite simple: Trump is a tyrant in the making.

  154. What will our country be November 2020 if Donald Trump again wins the election without carrying the popular vote? Will such an outcome acceptable?

  155. What about all the blatant lies from Trump? This guy falls way outside the norm of any other presidential. A flagrant disregard for the country and the R's going right along with it. It's shocking and not at the same time :/

  156. 100 years from now, we will look back on today as the culmination of what happens when money infests politics, our government, and elections, the natural consequence of a plutocracy. Oh, but Hillary spent more money, I can hear some of you saying. Consider this, if Trump wasn't wealthy and didn't have tens of millions to spend, he'd be just another right wing troll, blathering away on blogs far removed from government and elections.

  157. @Joe Arena There will be no 100 years from now. The United States will no longer exist having splintered between urban and rural, red and blue. This of course assumes that mankind is not extinct by 2119.

  158. More apt comparisons can be found in the late 1930s, in Germany. Seriously.

  159. Spot on observation. The 2016 election was the functional equivalent of the 1924 beer hall putsch. Even if Trump is defeated in 2020, and he and his minions indicted and imprisoned (beyond the current crop) as a result of the federal and state investigations, that will not be the end of it. The genie is out of the bottle now and this will continue with or without Trump. We have entered a dangerous time for American democracy; those who believe eliminating Trump eliminates the threat are living in a fool’s paradise.

  160. Ms Pelosi is right that Mr. Trump is independent from established authority , but Ms. Pelosi is mistaken about what this authority is To run for President, you get paraded in front of donor committees comprised of the financial elite. Should you fail to please them, your aspirations to run this country die right there Mr. Trump escaped that control by running on his own nickel and a masterful manipulation of the press. Others have tried , Mr. Sanders come to mind, he failed, but to escape the oligarchy that controls this country will not die. Ms Ocasio-Cortez comes to mind - a nightmare for Ms. Pelosi, whose campaigns are financed by Facebook and Google https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/summary/nancy-pelosi?cid=N00007360

  161. First of all, you have to contend with the fact that Trump doesn't want to fit in with the rest of the Presidents. He wants to be 'SuperPresident'. He craves being the best President ever. Consequently, his performance is going to skew history's perspective on him. He may actually be the worst President ever, even counting those that refused to deal with slavery, so history will have to figure in his own clearly stated megalomaniac viewpoint of being the best. So go ahead and fight about how he fits in and you'll be as off base as predicting he couldn't win.

  162. Let's hope the country makes it that far under DT that we can calmly debate his history after this mess.

  163. The only positive outcome I can see of the Trump reign is that there will be no need of taxpayer money to fund a Trump library. The term itself is an oxymoron.

  164. @anselm I have wondered for some time now, how can one build a library in honor of someone who proudly brags how he doesn't read?

  165. It’s a fool’s errand to outline the legacy of a President, especially a controversial one, who is barely halfway through his first term. Liberal academia (and media) wants to label him a despot or a failure. It’s too soon to be a failure (not to mention that he’s had many successes) and the “despot” theory is not borne out by the facts—he can’t even get his wall built or stop migration—hardly the mark of a despot to leave his major promise unfulfilled because Congress won’t approve it. The supposed disarray of the Republicans is also mischaracterized. The GOP is actually fairly unified compared to the Democrats. Which party best fits this statement: “the party’s factions are at each other’s throats.” What will the Trump legacy be? Who knows. He could be impeached. He could be a one-termer. He could serve two terms and have a long list of accomplishments. Or he could start a war with Iran. The book is not written.

  166. 45 is unique because he had never held elective office or serverd in the military. First President to be elected as a disruptive force with reality-TV background. First President to not drink or smoke or own a dog. Lots of firsts for NYC born and bread, Trump.

  167. @Frank Jimmy Carter never drinks or smokes - one reason he's lived to a healthy 94.

  168. My conclusion from this article is that Bernie Sanders will be our 46th president.

  169. Ultimately there is only one Philosopher who has the right to declare where Trump fits in - and it is Donald Trump - and as he already had declared that he only could be compared to Abe Lincoln or Elvis Presley - we finally HAVE to go with ''The King''. As nobody did ''disjunctive moves'' better than Elvis Presley. -(perhaps Michael Jackson- but Michael Jackson wasn't a US President as we believe)

  170. The Trump presidency, and the current iteration of the Republican Party, have three core ideologies: unregulated proliferation of gun ownership, absolute opposition to abortion rights of any kind, and hatred of all non White immigrants. These ideologies are unsustainable in a democratic America. Guns kill 36000 Americans a year, an unjustifiable consequence of current lack of effective gun laws. Only one fifth of Americans support repeal of Rod v Wade. And America will soon be a majority non White country. Voter suppression can only go so far. America will have to discard its democratic institutions, including its Constitution, in order for its inevitably White, Christian minority to sustain these core ideologies. The 2020 election will either be the end of Democracy, or the birth of autocratic theocracy. It is up to the voters.

  171. He belongs in jail.

  172. He is, to put it simply, the worst President in American history. Sorry, James Buchanan.

  173. Where he belongs? Definitely not in the White House, but a prison.

  174. Trump is yet not as bad as either Buchanan or Andrew Johnson. There is a legitimate argument about his place vis a vis Hoover. So, he is probably our 42nd or 43rd best president.

  175. I am more and more convinced that Trump is going to be re-elected. the current crop of Democrats will spend the next nine months tearing one another to pieces or in the case of the radical leftists, making such unrealistic proposals that the vast middle class of America will be turned off and turn to Trump.one can only imagine that with no re-election restraining him,Trump will be utterly untrammeled in whatever schemes his right wing fanatic followers come up with.one day historians and sociologists will try to analyze this period of our history, but we are the ones who will have to survive it.

  176. @Frank A primary in which questions about a potential candidate's past concerns or ideas can be asked and to which a candidate can respond does not have to be a circular firing squad. We cannot be afraid of the democratic process. We need to put our personal concerns aside and vote for the person who will do the most for the country. We need to be aware of any oppositional (negative social media attacks) interference and not succumb to the ugliness of 2016's GOP.

  177. @Gwen party primaries Have been a source of the country’s hyperpartisonship problem they tend to bring out the most radical voters in each party resulting in Republican candidates pushed to the right and now Dems facing anger from the left How do the parties Solve this dilemma? either increase the number of primary voters or increase the power of party leaders. democracy does not require rule by the vote of an angry mob

  178. @Gwen "does not have to be a circular firing squad" but the odds favor it.

  179. As Mr. Edsall points out in his own parsing of Prof. Skowronek's remarks at the LSE this May, Trump is the apotheosis of the historical development of executive authoritarian power. This increase in executive power has developed due to gridlock in the legislative and politicization of the judicial branches. The weakening of these other branches has been due, at its most basic level, by the influence of money on our politics. We are entering an era in which climate change and mass migrations due to climate change will wreak ever greater chaos on our governmental institutions. Add this to the already profound cultural and economic displacements in our society, and you have the recipe for authoritarian rule. This is not a nightmare from which we will awake soon, or perhaps ever.

  180. Interesting analyses. One thing missing is the pressure of global population growth and extreme overuse of planetary resources beyond stable carrying capacity of humanity. This leads to extreme instability and crazy politics. If we fail to focus on ways to counteract our own biological imperatives to grow our population we will end up crashing and burning (as Bill Nye so recently dramatized on the John Oliver show). None of these historians seem to have looked at our extreme growth in population and its pushing against real physical limits

  181. @Rodin's Muse I assume you are kidding? An argument using Nye and Oliver as your expert analysis, might be flawed.

  182. trump makes me want to go and erect statues of the woeful Warren G. Harding. He is that awful. He is well beyond the worst ever as he plays a daily game of limbo with the Oval office and we all wonder: "How low can it go?"

  183. Gentlemen gentlemen! Give it a rest. Mr. Donald J. Trump has not even finished Term Number One. He has what?--a year and a half to go. I don't mean to be snide. But I am distrustful of historians who--with the din and clamor of political life going on all around them-- --find it easy to step back and evaluate and summarize and draw plot lines in the sand. Tell us just what's happened--what's happening--what's gonna happen. What'll other historians be writing in ten years? Or twenty years? Or a century--if the United States lasts that long? And you can tell--I don't feel too good right now about the United States. About our government. About our society. WHATEVER kind of president Mr. Donald J. Trump turns out to be. Consider this: History is not JUST a pattern. History is sometimes irreversible. That is to say-- --we reach turning points. We can't go back. "You can't go back home again." Change happens. The change is permanent. When Julius Caesar took power in 49 B.C. (Or whenever)-- --that was it. The Roman Republic was dead. And after a while-- --people knew it. Everyone knew it. But that only happened--"after a while." And Mr. Donald J. Trump? What'll be the effect of HIS presidency? Maybe we'll all know the answer in ten years. Or twenty years. Or a hundred years. When, perhaps, the extent of the calamity that was Mr. Donald J. Trump becomes clear. It isn't perfectly clear right now. It will be. Count on it.

  184. Yes. And we Americans all watch in horror and do nothing. The power is with the people who should be taking to the streets but prefer to keep their heads down, remain silent and watch Game Of Thrones.

  185. “... that Mr. Trump would not give up power voluntarily if he lost re-election by a slim margin next year.” The People should never fear the president. The president should fear the People. We do not live under a monarchy or an autocracy. America is not yet a dystopia. Trump assumed the presidency peacefully based on the results of the 2016 general election. If he refuses to give up the office should he lose the election in 2020, then the Secret Service can escort him to the door and/or to prison. That will be his choice. We should no longer allow our apparent despot wannabe to guide this narrative. AT ALL.