Trump's six executive orders in his first 10 days as president are the most since World War II, according to Smart Politics. But it's not just the raw number. It's the subjects on which Trump has seen fit to exert his executive power. One order set in motion the much-promised construction of a wall along our southern border. Another temporarily banned refugees from entering the United States and curtailed all visitors from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
What Trump is doing — under Jenkins's theory — is defining the landscape on which his presidency will play out. He's seeing how far he can stretch the system before it breaks and, thereby, setting the outer limits of what he can do very, very far out.
To put some names to Jenkins's argument might help. Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors is very, very hard to stop with the ball in his hands in a one-on-one situation. His dribbling ability coupled with the quick release on his jump shot makes him a near-impossible cover. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers is a very good defender and knows all of that about Curry. So Paul employs a very deliberate strategy. He starts every game where he is guarding Curry by playing the Golden State point guard very, very aggressively. Paul grabs Curry. He holds him. He hits him. And he dares the refs to call a bunch of fouls on him. Sometimes they do. Sometimes Paul gets in early foul trouble. But Paul doesn't stop his aggressive play. And because the refs don't want to foul an All-Star like Paul out in the first half, he gets away with far rougher treatment of Curry than he would have if he didn't start off so aggressively.
Paul is Trump in the political world. Curry is the political establishment — elected Republicans and Democrats as well as lobbyists, consultants and the media.
There is outrage right now about much of what Trump is doing and who he is entrusting with doing it — Stephen K. Bannon in particular. Protests at airports. Legal complaints being filed. Democrats promising retaliatory action. Republicans wary of saying much of anything.
But if Jenkins is right — and I suspect she is — then that outrage, those protests, those skittish Republicans will all dissipate, or diminish, as Trump's presidency goes on. That what feels like line-pushing now will seem normal sometime soon. That by pushing so hard so fast, Trump is redefining what he can do and how the political establishment — and the country at large — will react.
It's something to watch very closely as Trump's presidency continues. He's proven to be someone not only able to push the bounds of conventional wisdom well beyond normal limits but also escape from it without paying any real penalty. Will his “go hard early” strategy keep working as president?