On his way out of the White House this week, President Obama assured the country that all will be well. But Obama is not returning to Chicago, which is engulfed by the violence of social disintegration, nor even to Illinois, the most insolvent of states, and if everything was well he wouldn't be delivering the White House to anyone like Donald Trump.
Trump has been elected precisely because most people, including even many people who did not vote for him, understand that the country has declined during the Obama administration -- that living standards for the majority are eroding, that the touted national health-insurance legislation has only made costs explode without covering everyone, and that the country's standing in the world has diminished with both imperial wars and appeasement in the Middle East.
Having lost the popular vote by a large margin, nearly 3 million votes, Trump has no mandate. His election was largely a fluke, caused first by the Republican Party's division among a dozen more responsible candidates and, then, more so, by the Democratic Party's inability to hold on to its own voters in three usually Democratic “Rust Belt” states -- Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin --whose economies are not half as strong as the Obama administration pretended.
Trump's Cabinet nominees, a bizarre mix of plutocrats and ignoramuses, may make even Warren Harding's look ethical and brilliant. With their evasions and comments contradicting their boss, they already have made the incoming administration seem incoherent.
But unable to recognize its responsibility for Trump, the political left is apoplectic and would not even concede him an ordinary inauguration. Trump's every tweet must be protested. Under no circumstances can the left allow any dialogue that might imply the right of the other side to its contrary views and that might acknowledge that much of the country is opposed to the largely failed agenda of the Democrats and their cheerleaders in the news media.
There cannot be even a prayer that Trump, like other people suddenly installed out of their depth, could be humbled by his new office and sense a profound obligation to try to rise to the occasion.
As he seems always to be spoiling for a fight and thumping his chest, it is hard to imagine such an effort from Trump. He has given much cause to be considered temperamentally and even psychologically unfit to wield power in a democracy, where some respect or ordinary courtesy must be paid to dissenters so that divisions don't turn the country against itself and weaken it against its enemies.
But circumstances soon may force Trump to realize that always spoiling for a fight is not the path to political success, especially since public opinion of him has gotten only lower since the election and since the Senate is almost evenly divided, its narrow Republican majority including members who are both sensible and capable of putting the country's interests above partisan interests. Indeed, moderate Republican senators may come to control the agenda.
The apoplectic protest is premature but people on the left and right alike should resolve not to be intimidated, as dissenters were during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Johnson was as megalomaniacal as Trump, and Nixon as much of a liar -- and when enough people stopped being intimidated and started resenting lies, democracy brought both presidents down.
For in the end the people themselves are the guardians of their own liberty, and even if Trump works out for the worst, he will have reminded some people who very much need reminding that ever-larger, more powerful and centralized government is a two-edged sword, one that can cut on the left side as well as the right side of politics.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.