History is at least as much about the structures of power as it is about the personalities of “great men”—or terrible ones. Of course, a president’s idiosyncrasies matter, and the outsized and outrageous personality of the current president of the United States has riveted the public and press.
But most condemnations of President Donald Trump are also, if only implicitly, accusations that his administration has broken with precedent and violated the norms of presidential government. We are not so sure. Trump’s manner of exercising power certainly has a precedent. In terms of the structure of politics—a term associated with the Cambridge historian Lewis Namier—Trump’s presidency is not so new, even if his personality is sui generis.