1) Unite the American public behind his controversial presidency or at least gain legitimacy
While there has rarely if ever been a candidate who so starkly divided opinion, there are a couple of adjectives we can all agree upon. Donald Trump is unique on both a personal and political level and pretty much everything since he declared his run for the presidency has been unprecedented. Both terms apply to today’s inauguration and the many challenges that lie ahead.
There has certainly never been a less popular incoming president, nor an inauguration so overshadowed by protest. In stark contrast to the mood music of President Obama’s signing in eight years ago, the rest of the world will see a bitterly divided USA and a new leader with very little legitimacy.
Historically unpopular throughout, losing the popular vote was never going to help Trump win over his critics and the lingering belief that his victory was a result of Russian interference has reinforced that sense of illegitimacy. A chaotic transition process and period, characterised by controversial appointments, a running war with the media and yet more bizarre tweets, has made matters worse.
Apart from his victory speech, Trump has made very little attempt to be magnanimous or reach out to opponents. Doing so in today’s acceptance speech is absolutely imperative. Gaining power merely requires winning more votes than your opponent. Wielding it effectively demands taking people with you. Without building at least a degree of consensus and unity, Trump will struggle to achieve anything in office.
2) The new administration must swiftly demonstrate competence to quell fears of amateurishness
Arguably Trump’s biggest selling point was his total lack of political experience. Now he has to govern, it could become his achilees heel. We are yet to see any evidence that the new president has coherent policies or even the ability to construct a team capable of governing. Only 29 out of 660 appointments have been made.