There is something about politics that elicits a faux sense of certainty. No matter how many times that political action contradicts political promise, we still mostly pretend as if we know for certain what will happen when so and so wins. We know that Jim would be better than Jane, that Joan will be better than John, and so on. How do we know? By what they say in the campaign and nothing more. But the truth is that rhetoric is not decisive.
.. No single elected official has the power to change the system. The system is, in fact, largely unelected and unappointed. The bureaucracies are massive. The cumulative regulations and legislation that empowers them are monumentally complex, impossible for any single mind or any one generation to comprehend. The process of reform is messy, structured so that the special interests with the most lose get decide where it goes. It is highly unlikely that this process will result in an overall net good for the cause of human liberty.
This is why there seems to be so little relationship between promised results and actual results. Reagan was going to cut the budget. It doubled and then tripled. Bush was going to have a humble foreign policy. Instead, we went empire-building. Obama was going to break down the prison state and empower minorities. Instead, he grafted the surveillance state to the existing architecture of oppression.
One way to think about government is as a giant corporation with its own interests to better its position and power. The president is the CEO. How do you do a good job and earn the support of the stockholders and customers? Not by cutting the budget, driving down the stock price, and pulling back its market share. Everything that hurts government as an institution will be resisted at all levels and in every conceivable way. You win by boosting the prospects of the state.
This is why it is such an enormous and implausible effort to use the presidency to enhance liberty. Everything we know about government pushes against this .. we do well to keep in mind that politics is more about cosmetics than reality.