Now that Barack Obama's second term is coming to an end, let's review some of the dire predictions people on the right made about his presidency.
He didn't declare martial law. He never came for anyone's guns. He didn't ban hunting and fishing, or make any move at all to limit them outside the areas he declared National Monuments. He did turn modestly toward gun control in his second term, but nothing came of that, and the measures he suggested were so weak I didn't even bother to support them.
Obama never brought 100 million Muslims to America or staged a coup on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He never seized anyone's IRA, as various right-wing news outlets and Michelle Bachmann predicted he would.
Energy prices stayed low throughout his presidency. This was one of Newt Gingrich's big talking points during his 2012 campaign, when he said Obama's policies would drive gas prices past $10 a gallon and promised $2.50 a gallon if he were elected, which as it happens is a little more than the average right now.
He never managed to "unleash the Environmental Protection Agency to impose crushing new burdens on U.S. business," as the American Enterprise Institute predicted.
Various politicians, business columnists, and Donald Trump all predicted that Obama's re-election would tank the stock market. Stocks are up 46% since then, to record highs.
Mitt Romney said that if Obama were re-elected unemployment would stay above 8% for years, and promised that if he won he would bring it down to 6% within four years. Right now it is at 4.6%.
Rush Limbaugh was only the most prominent right-wing journalist saying that under Obama the economy would collapse: "There’s no if about this. And it’s gonna be ugly. It’s gonna be gut wrenching, but it will happen." No sign of collapse in sight.
There are a couple of errors behind the more serious of these predictions: first, exaggerating the importance of the president, and second, believing that our system constantly teeters on the edge of disaster. But the president just plain can't seize everyone's gun, and his power over the economy is quite limited. On something like energy policy the power of the president is very small. I have mentioned here before the policies governing long-distance transmission lines I have been involved with, which were enacted in the 1990s and maintained by every administration and Congress since. Fracking is mostly governed by state laws. The president does control off-shore oil leases, but it can take 20 years for new leases to produce oil for the market, so nothing Obama did would have impacted the supply of offshore oil during his own presidency. As it happens he has made new leases at about the same rate as his predecessor.
Opinions differ as to how unstable the current political and economic order is, but I lean toward very stable. I can't see what would cause our system to collapse.
It is worth going over this when we think about the upcoming presidency. Trump may turn out to be a terrible president, but there are some things he would have a hard time doing. For example, some people have worried that a Trump administration will stop enforcing Civil Rights laws; but decisions about which cases to pursue are actually made by career prosecutors who are hard to remove, and I doubt a single Trump term would be enough to change their culture very much. If Trump even tries to deport millions of illegal immigrants, he is going to find it very difficult. On trade policy the president has the powers to make a big mess, but it remains to be seen whether Trump will do anything besides jawboning a few CEOs. Big changes to the tax code or entitlements will require laws passed by Congress, and I doubt the whole Republican caucus can be brought to make big changes in Social Security or Medicare.
In foreign policy the president's power is very great, and Trump could create much misery in the world. I personally have no idea what he will do, so it's wait and see for me and everyone else.
Personally I think that Obama was obviously a great choice to be president, and Trump a very risky one; to me the various dire fears expressed about Obama have always seemed absurd, and those about Trump much more worrisome. But it is worth remembering that millions of Americans have felt the opposite.