Much of the time, argues David Runciman, a British academic, politics matters little to most people. Then, suddenly, it matters all too much. Donald Trump’s term as America’s 45th president, which is due to begin with the inauguration on January 20th, stands to be one of those moments.
It is extraordinary how little American voters and the world at large feel they know about what Mr Trump intends. Those who back him are awaiting the biggest shake-up in Washington, DC, in half a century—though their optimism is an act of faith. Those who oppose him are convinced there will be chaos and ruin on an epoch-changing scale—though their despair is guesswork. All that just about everyone can agree on is that Mr Trump promises to be an entirely new sort of American president. The question is, what sort?
You may be tempted to conclude that it is simply too soon to tell. But there is enough information—from the campaign, the months since his victory and his life as a property developer and entertainer—to take a view of what kind of person Mr Trump is and how he means to fill the office first occupied by George Washington. There is also evidence from the team he has picked, which includes a mix of wealthy businessmen, generals and Republican activists.
For sure, Mr Trump is changeable. He will tell the New York Times that climate change is man-made in one breath and promise coal country that he will reopen its mines in the next. But that does not mean, as some suggest, that you must always shut out what the president says and wait to see what he does.