Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
It is becoming clearer by the day that Donald Trump continues to lose interest in governing. Being President of the United States has clearly strained his sense of how he believes a leader ought to function. Having been a CEO of an extremely successful, privately owned real estate operation, Trump believes he knows how to run the country. Trump is burdened by the need to comply with procedures, laws, and regulations. The concept of separation of powers and divided authorities frustrates him terribly. Sharing power with anyone or any institutional body is anathema to Trump’s entire psyche. Trump believes that he has been elected to govern the nation and the entire Government ought to comply with his directives and instructions. Anyone or body that seeks to disobey him should be removed or the position or institution eliminated. This explains why Donald Trump enjoys governing by executive order. The notion that he can run the country by executive order is wrong and doomed to failure; both for him as well as the country.
America is nation of laws and a representative democracy. It is clear after 70 days in office that Donald Trump does not appreciate how the American system functions. Law-making is difficult and decision-making is complicated. The President is only one of the separate institutions which Richard Neustadt said “share” power in the governance of the nation. Presidents are not authoritarian rulers who govern by fiat. They require the consent of the governed and the affirmative participation of the other institutions. This is not how Trump is used to operating.
By way of example, the failure of the Trump-Ryan healthcare proposal was due at least in part to the fact that Trump had no healthcare proposal. His goal was to remove Obamacare, by doing whatever would achieve this result and with whatever coalition would be mustered. It did not matter to Trump what was in the final bill or what group or faction of the Republican Party won the battle for content. The bill was too complicated and Trump was only interested in winning. When he lost he wanted to blame someone else and to seek revenge against whoever opposed him. The President wants to give orders and have them complied with and not to negotiate the finer points of legislating and coalition building.
The issue that is most disturbing is whether the President will learn how to govern or even wants to do so. There is no reason to assume that he will. In fact some of those with whom he is surrounded reject the system as much as does the President. At the end of the day Trump and this theory of government must fail or else the American democracy may be over.