The gap between expectations and reality has been around since politicians first started giving speeches. And that’s because politics is about what folks are promised — governance is about what they get.
As the role of government has grown larger in our lives, that gap has only gotten bigger. We think we’re entitled to more from the government than ever before. Even as we worry about too much government and resent its reach, we continue to want the perks it provides. Even Tea Party supporters don’t want the government to cut their Medicare benefits.
At the nexus of the divide between what we expect and what we can or cannot have sits the president — the face of America, the only guy we all vote for, and the one who we expect to save us from a bad economy, terrorists, and an alien invasion (just watch Air Force One and Independence Day).
We have a presidency addiction. No single aspect of our government draws more interest and fascination. As early as 1903, the New York Times was running articles reporting odd facts about our presidents: Of our first 25 presidents, 15 had no middle names, the Gray Lady informed its readership. We put presidents on our currency and monuments, not senators or Supreme Court justices.
Because of this, we naturally assume that the presidency is where the power is. The bells and whistles of the office — Air Force One, Marine One, the football with the nuke codes, and the White House itself create the image of a powerful leader who should be able to do amazing things.
But it just isn’t so.