Does this mean Trump has a contempt for traditional ways in Washington to contain political rivals and prefers to a more sensational way?

Just how much trouble that can cause was on sensational display this week, with his sacking of James Comey—only the second director of the FBI to have been kicked out. Mr Comey has made mistakes and Mr Trump was within his rights. But the president has succeeded only in drawing attention to questions about his links to Russia and his contempt for the norms designed to hold would-be kings in check.

The Economist, May 13 Issue, Courting trouble http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721904-impulsiveness-and-shallowness-americas-president-threaten-economy-well-rule

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    There is no reference to flamboyance or sensationalism or political rivals in Those highlighted words even if they might separately allege those things as well. The bolded part is suggesting "unwritten traditions"(norms) were followed that effectively limited how much a president could influence some parts of government. By breaking the traditions, a leader could extend their influence beyond what fits for "democracy" and implies that the traditions stemmed elected officials who wanted to have more absolute power like a king from doing so. – Tom22 May 12 '17 at 3:12
  • @Tom22 You seem to have used the comment box, not the answer box. :) – tchrist May 12 '17 at 3:23
  • @tchrist my "comment" ended up more expository than I thought it might when I started typing :) I'm also never sure where "opinion" is good enough to be an "explanation" if I'm not citing third party definitions etc. :) – Tom22 May 12 '17 at 3:31
  • @tchrist Also, a complete answer interpreting the words really should address rhetorical choices beyond the extracted meaning. An analysis should consider the choice of the word "contempt" vs something like "overlooking", the strong call to alarm with "would-be kings" rather choosing something like "captain at the helm" and the notion that the "king" would not be a benevolent dictator, but one that must be beaten back. Colorful language "dripping" with concern/alarm (for some readers, perhaps their own editorial sensationalism?). All might be justified(but that is a political discussion) – Tom22 May 12 '17 at 3:56
  • An answer might also point out that this is an editorial expressing opinion and not a news story. – Xanne May 12 '17 at 7:36

“his contempt for the norms designed to hold would-be kings in check”?

The complexity is coming from the phrasing and composition, so I'm going to dissect the sentence.

"His contempt for etiquette"

Donald Trump does not respect etiquette. But in your example, we're not discussing etiquette, we are discussing:

the norms designed to hold would-be kings in check

Let me clarify the phrasing by enriching the sentence:

the norms (that are) designed to hold (would-be kings) in check

What we know so far: Donald Trump does not respect norms. Not just any kind of norms, but norms that were designed for a specific purpose:

to hold (would-be kings) in check

I think we need to clarify "would-be kings". What is meant by a would-be king is someone who, when given executive authority, is likely to turn himself into a dictator for life. Because that's basically what a king is.

I'm going to substitute "would-be kings" with "dictatorial leaders", maybe it helps.

the norms (that are) designed to hold (dictatorial leaders) in check.

These norms are designed to prevent dictatorial leaders from making themselves into a dictator.

[Donald Trump's] contempt for (the norms designed to hold would-be kings in check)

Donald Trump does not respect the norms that are intended to specifically prevent leaders from making themselves into dictators.

I hope this analysis has helped. It's not an easy sentence to read or explain.

  • The thing about kings is that they choose to hold the office for life. It's just so uncommon for a king to willingly give up power that we do not discuss it; but it is an important distinction to remember that a king chooses to remain in power. But being a king does not mean you rule alone, it just means you're in charge. A king can still rely on a public poll or advisors to make a decision, or he can imbue others with specific power so they are permitted to make the decision. A dictator inherently wishes to call all the shots himself, instead of delegating authority. – Flater May 12 '17 at 8:49
  • Thak you so much for your detailed answer. – Bakebake May 12 '17 at 9:00
  • You're welcome. I was afraid that my answer lacked readability or structure, happy to see it helped :) – Flater May 12 '17 at 9:01

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