DONALD TRUMP won the White House on the promise that government is easy. Unlike his Democratic opponent, whose career had been devoted to politics, Mr Trump stood as a businessman who could Get Things Done. Enough voters decided that boasting, mocking, lying and grabbing women were secondary. Some Trump fans even saw them as the credentials of an authentic, swamp-draining saviour.

The Trump presidency is in a hole, The Economist (1 April 2017) http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21719794-and-bad-americaand-world-trump-presidency-hole

Does it mean "the job of the US president"?

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    – choster
    Mar 31, 2017 at 4:32
  • 1
    "DONALD TRUMP won the White House on the promise that government (= the activities involved in controlling a country, city, group of people, etc.; direction; control; management; rule) is easy". Mar 31, 2017 at 4:33

2 Answers 2


In this particular case it means governance, no more and no less. As in managing everybody and everything.


  • Thank you for your answer. To make sure the exact meaning, does it mean that Donald Trump thought the governance of a country was easier than running a company before he won the election?
    – Bakebake
    Mar 31, 2017 at 4:51
  • The author of the article clearly thinks so. I don't think Trump himself does.
    – Ricky
    Mar 31, 2017 at 4:53
  • This is a great Answer. Keepin it simple. I would add an alternate explanation in tandem. Basically he is saying working in politics ain't so hard. This can be understood especially since it's his first foray in the political world. Apr 1, 2017 at 12:19

To better understand this, you would have to look at how the word is built: 'govern' + '-ment'. Quite simply, the (French) suffix -ment after a verb is used to describe an action (like move => movement). But then the meaning often evolves to describe something around that action (a movement could also describe other things, like a group of people supporting an idea).

If we take the verb to govern, government meant at first "the activity of governing people" (actually 'to govern' meant originally 'to steer' [a ship]). Then by a shift of the meaning, it designated how well (or not so well) this activity was done. And finally, through historical evolution, it acquired the meaning of "the people who are governing".

Your question indicates that the first meaning (the activity of governing) seems to have fallen in the background.

The bottom line, is that the writer likely meant "the promise that it is easy to do the activities of a government". The way he wrote it sounds nicely formal and traditional (after all The Economist is an English publication whose headquarters are in Westminster, London...).

  • 1
    Thank you so much for your detailed explanation. One more question, can I replace "promise" with "premise"? If not, Is "the promise" in the sentence is the promise to the American people?
    – Bakebake
    Mar 31, 2017 at 8:08
  • Indeed, "promise" and "premise" are not interchangeable, and the "promise" is presumably to the American people.
    – fralau
    Mar 31, 2017 at 13:26
  • Amazing catch! In this one unusual case, promise (guarantee) and premise (assumption) both work, but not in most other cases. Mar 31, 2017 at 20:52

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