When Donald Trump takes the oath of office just before noon on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, it will cap the single most unpredictable and unprecedented rise to the White House in modern political history.
There are so many things that make soon-to-be President Trump unique. The fact that he is the first president elected with neither military nor political experience. The fact that he ran a shoestring campaign with a patchwork of quasi-political aides. The fact that he insulted — among others — women, Hispanics, the military and Gold Star families on his way to the White House. The fact that he takes office with historically low popularity numbers. His celebrity. His Twitter feed. His vast and various business interests. His relationship with Russia.
It's all part of the unicorn nature of Trump's candidacy and election. We just haven't seen anything like it before.
It's important to remember that fact as Trump officially becomes the president today. There has been and will be a tendency to try to fit Trump and his presidency into a blueprint that we — the political world — recognize. That would be a mistake.
Any political blueprint available would never have predicted that Trump would go from this . ..
. . . to this.
— POLITICO (@politico) January 20, 2017
Nothing anyone knew about politics would have put Trump anywhere near the Republican nomination much less the presidency. And so it's time to accept that we are in a through-the-looking-glass moment of the presidency. The major rules that have governed modern politics to this point don't seem to hold when it comes to Trump. (As The Washington Post's James Hohmann notes, however, not every rule of political gravity is off.)
Trump and the rest of us are truly in uncharted territory. Assumptions about how Trump's presidency will play out are foolish. He is someone who prizes unpredictability, who loves zigging when people expect him to zag. He is also someone with one of the least-defined policy agendas to ascend to the White House. How he handles the gravity of the presidency, how much — or little — he delegates to soon-to-be Vice President Pence and members of Congress, how active he remains on Twitter and other social media, how he interacts on the world stage: These are all questions to which we don't have the vaguest clue of an answer.
No one knows where this goes. Nothing historically gives us much of a clue. For supporters of Trump, that is exhilarating. For his opponents, it's terrifying. For everyone, it's something we've never seen before. And the ride starts now.