Ross Douthat lays out the case for why a Clinton presidency might be bad for the cult of the presidency:
The Trump phenomenon, after all, did not come out of nowhere. His caudillo-esque posturing, his contempt for republican norms, his “I alone can fix it!” promises are all populist variations on our political culture’s enthusiasm for untrammeled executive power, the bipartisan cult of the presidency, the Caesarism that the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have done a great deal to advance.
No one should doubt that a President Hillary Clinton would also play Caesar whenever the opportunity presented itself. But she would lack many of the qualities that make imperial presidents particularly dangerous — powerful charisma, a passionate and devoted base, a close relationship with a compliant press, a claim on some sort of sweeping policy mandate.
It would be very good for the country if the cult of the presidency were greatly weakened, but I’m not sure that I see that happening under Clinton. What makes imperial presidents most dangerous is their ability to run roughshod over the formal limits on their power without consequence, and I don’t see why Clinton wouldn’t take full advantage of that. I also don’t see who would stop her from doing so. She doesn’t have a “passionate and devoted base” in quite the same way that Obama or even Bush had, but she still has plenty of cheerleaders and defenders ready to justify whatever she does and to attack her critics. She may be a “scandal-ridden dynasty,” but as a dynast she has a lot of faithful hangers-on that she has gathered over the decades and there will be many more eager to join her court. Their number will undoubtedly grow if she wins the election. It’s true that she “embodies so many of the establishment’s vices and drags so much baggage in her wake,” but she is also the candidate with overwhelming backing from political and media elites and will be defended all the more doggedly by them because she is their candidate. We are already seeing during the campaign how ready many people in the media are to dismiss any criticism of or concern about Clinton, and that impulse will only get stronger when she is in office.
Clinton would almost certainly face hostile Republicans in Congress no matter how large her margin of victory was, and that would encourage her to make as many end-runs around Congress with executive orders on domestic issues as she could. She might have majorities in both houses on her side during the first two years, but the next midterm election would probably reverse that. Given what we know about how the Clintons operate, we can reasonably sure that she would test and then go beyond the outer limits of what is legally permissible for a president to do, and I suspect she would encounter relatively little opposition from either party as she did this. Most of her partisans will fall in line and defend her actions as partisans tend to do, and the other party has so few consistent opponents of executive overreach that she will probably be able to abuse executive power without having to fear much of a backlash.
Congress already acquiesces to whatever a president wants to do when it comes to matters of war, so Clinton would be pushing on an open door in her conduct of foreign policy. Clinton would also be taking office as a wartime president, and I assume that she would emphasize that role much more than her predecessor has done. She would also have the foreign policy establishment squarely on her side early on, and they would urge her to “lead” in Syria and elsewhere and then celebrate her when she did so. One of the presidential cult’s most corrosive effects on our government is how it valorizes “action” and executive power, and that is nowhere more evident than in the bias in favor of “doing something” overseas. Since Clinton is already very much inclined towards an activist and meddlesome foreign policy, she won’t need any convincing to act accordingly.