Today begins a new era, a new term, a new presidency.
Donald J. Trump will shortly take the oath of office and assume his role as Commander in Chief, President of the United States of America.
Welcome, Mr. President. I hope that you receive the honor you are due today, though more than ever that seems more like wishful thinking than a realistic expectation. I wish you the best as you begin your term and transition into the most powerful office in the world. And I pray you respect the authority you now wield and use it prudently.
Now, here’s a question: what are your expectations for President Trump? It seems to me that there are basically three groups of people as we think about expectations for the President-elect. First, there are those whose expectations are so low, that unless Mr. Trump literally sets the world on fire he will exceed their expectations. Second, there are those whose expectations are so high, that unless Mr. Trump truly delivers in full on his campaign promises their expectations will not be met (though, because these folks love him so much, they might not care). Third, there are those like myself whose expectations are quite lukewarm; we want to see the President succeed (whatever exactly that means), but more than anything we want to get through the next four years peacefully and move on.
How is it that expectations can simultaneously be so high and so low for an individual? What does success look like for such a one? Is failure even possible?
I don’t have great answers to those questions. But it appears that Mr. Trump has put himself in a position similar to the debates: as long as he does ok (not good, not bad) he’ll be fine. The only way he can lose is if he turns into a Washington crony and his base rejects him for it. Since that is an unlikely outcome, Mr. Trump will likely be a fine, but not great, president. But in his mind, I wonder if that is itself the worst of all possible outcomes.