As Barack Obama rode off into the sunset as America’s first black president after an emotion-filled farewell speech in Chicago, to signal the end of his eight years in the White House, the world braces itself for the new man in the saddle.
Donald Trump’s shock election victory over Hillary Clinton had many of the hallmarks of the western gunslinger of old, bursting through the bat-wing doors, verbal six-guns blazing at the most convenient target.
It was a performance full of braggadocio, aimed more at the blue-collar worker in the hardscrabble regions of America’s economically depressed rust belt than any refined nuance of policy, which outraged the sensibilities of nation after nation and left pollsters across the globe speechless as they ate their collective hats. But Trump takes charge when he is sworn in a week from today.
There is only a limited range to carrying the wild cowboy persona of fiercely independent, legs astride in the realm of realpolitik, rather than the more leisurely moralistic stance of his predecessor.
Obama leaves office with an approval rating hovering around 55%, according to an independent Quinnipiac University poll, a survey noted for its precision and thoroughness – and he still carries considerable political weight.
Even without hanging his handmade Stetson behind the Oval Office door for the first time, Trump has some catching up to do. About 51% of Americans polled believe that Trump is doing a bad job as president-elect. He now faces the kind of job that is as demanding and diverse as any of the challenges that faced the messengers who rode for the fabled Pony Express, which could deliver a letter from Missouri to California in just 10 days.
And this in the knowledge, that even rapid change of mounts and a hell for leather approach only gave the Pony Express an 18-month lifespan.