Currently, media coverage of the presidential campaign primarily focuses on why Trump remains so popular and what chances he might have to secure a second term in the White House next year. These are important aspects, of course, but it's also worth looking beyond the November election day because Trump has already signaled the policies he intends to implement and how he plans to bypass the system of checks and balances to expand his power.
In terms of content, his campaign will primarily revolve around law and order issues. This is not surprising and has played a central role in the previous two election campaigns as well. However, Trump intends to go further and promises to cross some boundaries that were not common practice before or were deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
First and foremost, Trump aims to reintroduce the "Stop and Frisk" practice, which was halted by federal courts in New York, as a common police practice in the USA. "Stop and Frisk" refers to the arbitrary stopping and searching of people on the street, even when there are no clear suspicions from the police. This policy, which was commonplace in New York during Mayor Bloomberg's tenure, was declared unconstitutional by a U.S. federal court in 2013 because it severely restricted the rights of individuals (protection against unwarranted searches and the constitutional guarantee of equal treatment). These citizens' rights are no longer a concern for Trump. Additionally, Trump plans to use the military to combat street and gang crime and address illegal immigration not only at the borders but throughout the United States.
Rhetorically, Trump has also escalated his stance. While he declared himself the voice of the American people in the 2016 campaign, this year, in campaign speeches, he claimed to be the warrior of the American people, justice, and retribution. This sounds different from the concept of checks and balances.
He also intends to exert stronger control over the executive branch. What is coming to the United States was already outlined by Trump in his executive order "Schedule F," which he signed 13 days before the last presidential elections. What does this executive order, which was revoked by newly elected President Biden in 2021, contain? It would align the entire presidential apparatus and executive administration closely with the president. Anyone who doesn't fit the president's agenda can be fired. This is aimed at combating the "Deep State," which Trump has declared the main enemy of the American people. The foundation for such a personnel policy was laid in the executive order. Several tens of thousands of government employees who have significant influence on policy-making would now be classified as "Schedule F" employees and could be easily dismissed by the president. Previously, a president only had influence over the leadership levels of the departments and agencies. Under the new regulations, it would be around 50,000 employees. With this new decision, he can fire almost any disliked employee to implement his "America First" agenda without problems. Civil servants in the executive branch are supposed to provide institutional memory because they often serve across multiple presidencies. They also serve as a small element of the system of checks and balances because their expertise offers a counterbalance to a president's more politically and ideologically motivated proposals.
Trump and his team have learned and become more professional, understanding the power of the highest political office in the United States. This wasn't the case in 2016 because Trump and his team didn't even expect to win the elections. So, they governed chaotically and unprofessionally for a long time. This changed after the 2018 midterm elections when they learned on the job. But now, there is already a solid plan in place, and this plan will restructure key areas of the administration and align them more closely with the president's persona. This would reverse a long process in the United States that has transformed the executive from being governed by one president into a presidency comprising a complex system of different actors, institutions, and agencies, some of which enjoy a high degree of independence. This does not fit the right-wing populist image of a strongman who should rule with an iron fist. Therefore, while the focus of the media is currently primarily on the election campaign, we should not overlook the consequences of Trump's potential re-election for established political institutions, especially the executive branch.