Donald Trump and the Green Lantern presidency

Brendan Nyhan wrote a nice Upshot on this, but I actually prefer Seth Masket’s summary of it in a piece mostly devoted to criticizing Lawrence Lessig:

Americans tend to have a pretty distorted view of the powers of the presidency. And who can blame them? They hear constantly from pundits and candidates who describe a nearly omnipotent president who can pass laws, intimidate countries, and boost the economy by sheer will.

This distortion is really being pushed this year. As Brendan Nyhan recently noted, Donald Trump is currently the embodiment of the “Green Lantern” philosophy of the presidency, the idea that the president has superhuman powers and is limited only by his or her own willpower. By simply being a tough negotiator and being unencumbered by political correctness, Trump argues, he’ll be able to “bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places.” He’ll negotiate tougher deals with Iran, obliterate ISIS, and re-locate our oil that somehow wound up under Middle Eastern sands. He’ll make America great again not through any particular policies or appointments or military strategies, but simply through the force of his personality.

And, just so we’re clear, no matter how much it may excite Trump’s supporters, the presidency does not actually operate this way.  If only more Americans understood how American government actually worked.  Hopefully nobody who’s had my PS 201 falls for this.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Donald Trump and the Green Lantern presidency

  1. Jon K says:

    so do you run into students in your 201 classes that think everything you say is part of a liberal plot to ruin good conservative thinking? i would think it would be frustrating to be teaching basic facts about how the government operates and have some students think you are teaching propaganda. i had the experience recently when I was talking to a conservative’s conservative (who decided I had to be a liberal democrat) and i referenced an article in Slate or Vox (I can’t remember which it was). The guy made some dismissive comment about how he didn’t trust slate/vox as it was all liberal propaganda. He wouldn’t even read the article or consider that it might contain anything useful. At that point I realized I was wasting my time and disengaged by changing the subject and then leaving. I found the experience extremely frustrating. I would think you would have to deal with stuff like that fairly regularly.

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