AT LEAST in the political arena, history is running against the presidency and the president. It doesn't have to do with either party. It simply has to do with the situation.
One of the things a president as a political leader has to confront is how to buy time from the public to put into place programs that take months to get through Congress, much less have an impact. I would argue that a president needs a strategy to deal with this particular problem.
If you look at short-term history, the instinct that overcomes presidents-elect and new presidents is to be cautious, to compromise, to be a consensus-former in terms of policy. This has real long-term dangers; and, in fact, some short-term dangers.
Given the public mood, a healthy dose of boldness in the early days may well help buy time. Today you're dealing with a public which expects and demands solutions and, because they have not been getting them satisfactorily, they have been demanding them at a faster rate.
A president's real governing problem is between sustaining the public base and the actual process of governing. The president doesn't need to conduct a civics lesson as much as he needs to have a strategy to occupy the focus of the public in a way that educates them, while his other programs begin to take shape.
In 1976, since we had run against the government's inability to function well, we reasoned that a president should tackle issues where people would follow along. He could take them through the process on some small problems so people could see an impact, and simply say, "Well, that man really can do these things." And use that as a buffer, in part, to longer-term goals. So my advice to Mr. Reagan now would simply come down to this: Be bold, Mr. President.