There was a time in this country, so the story goes, when a newly elected President was granted a "honeymoon," usually a 100 day period when the new chief executive was given time to set up his presidency.
It was, like the Easter Bunny, largely a myth.
Princton professor Julian Zelizer points out that while approval ratings tend to be higher in the first months of office, there never has been the kind of honeymoon period often talked about.
"The sociologist Steven Clayman and his colleagues have reviewed the transcripts from White House press conferences dating back to 1953," Zelizer writes, "and found that the White House press corps can be extremely assertive in the first few months, particularly if the economy is struggling."
But that doesn't begin to explain the angst and paranoia that has followed the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.
He won't take office for two more months but already the wolves are in full howl.
Just this week, a Republican congressman from Georgia said he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.
"It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he's the one who proposed this national security force," Rep. Paul Broun said of Obama in an interview with The Associated Press.
"I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may -- may not, I hope not -- but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism."
Broun cited a July speech by Obama in which he called for a civilian force to take some of the national security burden off the military, a plan the Bush administration had once floated.
"That's exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it's exactly what the Soviet Union did," Broun said. "When he's proposing to have a national security force that's answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he's showing me signs of being Marxist."
Also this past week, weapons dealers in much of the United States are reporting sharply higher sales since Obama won the presidency.
Buyers and sellers attribute the surge to worries that Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress will move to restrict firearm ownership, despite the insistence of campaign aides that the president-elect supports gun rights and considers the issue a low priority.
If that's not enough, a group called Focus on the Family Action is predicting that under an Obama presidency, we will have same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the disbanding of the Boy Scouts, compulsory training in varieties of gender identification in Grade 1, the eradication of religious adoption agencies, the banishment of religious programming as illegal hate speech and the forced participation in abortions by medical providers who are morally opposed to them and the end of all obscenity laws.
OK, folks, let's all settle down a bit. We elected a Democrat, not the Prince pf Darkness.
Nobody is going to take your guns away. Nobody is going to unleash an army of jack-booted goons in your neighborood. In fact, you probably stood to lose more personal freedoms under the Patriot Act than you will under Obama.
Nobody is going to disband the Boy Scouts.
This wasn't a conspiracy. It was an election. And in reality is was about once issue: the economy. 62 per cent of the electorate said so.
Who did they have to choose from? One candidate had Warren Buffet as his advisor. The other had Joe the Plummer. One said the economy was priority one and that more oversight is needed. The other said, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I can."
Nonetheless, we ought to be concerned that the level of disucssion in this country has reached a new low.
We ought to be concerned that we have lost all sense of civility, of reconciliation, of common sense. Polarization is the operative mentality and centerists in both parties are an endangered species.
We can point a finger at the brave new world of the Internet, instant communications, 24/7 news cycles, endless cable talk shows and partisan journalists. It is a Pandora's Box we may not be able to close.
Professor Zelizer adds to this list "the never ending campaign...
"Frankly, the campaign for 2012 has already begun. Politico has already reported that Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich will be speaking in Iowa to the Republican Governors Association. Mike Huckabee will be in Iowa to promote his new book and Gov. Bobby Jindal will make his way to the caucus state to speak to a number of civic organizations."
We should be worried.
But somehow, this country manages to get it right. This country overcomes adversity. People of good will triumph. Justice is served.
And we do it by rejecting the blatherings of extremists such as the ones we're hearing now.