In his 1989 classic “The Power Game,” Hedrick Smith drew a fascinating comparison between the advent of two consecutive presidential administrations: that of Jimmy Carter and that of Ronald Reagan.

Carter’s, he reported, was a free-flowing affair, where the first cabinet meeting was a bunch of guys sitting around, unsure what to tackle next until the relatively lowly White House counsel spoke up and asked if anyone had an agenda. By contrast, Reagan’s was like a well-planned military operation without genuflection or much small talk.

Today, the Biden administration faces a choice: to be like Carter or like Reagan. This isn’t a partisan question, it is a stylistic one whose answer can foreshadow whether or not there will be a second term. Even discounting the strange days where we currently live, early signs of trouble can be seen in the first couple weeks.

For instance, another dud impeachment trial is unlikely to boost anyone’s morale, except perhaps that of the recently ex-president. Yet here we go, with an exercise so dubious the chief justice declined to preside over it.

Sure, we’ll be reminded how supine and cultish the Republican party has become, but we already knew that. So why waste the goodwill that a new president (usually) has on the same circular firing squad we all saw a year ago?

To be generous, perhaps Biden didn’t want to waste political capital squelching this sad, congressional revenge-fest and is instead setting his steely focus on deliverables far more important to the weary, frustrated and suffering American. But the flurry of 42 executive orders so far has shown little sign of that. Axing the Keystone pipeline and delving into the debate of who plays which gender sport are both provocative moves with limited payoffs.

Then there is working with Congress on what is, to put it mildly, a battered and frayed relationship. Moving ahead with stimulus checks, whether $1,400 or $2,000, through a procedural loophole called reconciliation is a signal of a White House more inclined to end run Congress than work with it. This is the same mechanism Barack Obama used to pass the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare, and the message using it sends is that the ends justify the means.

A president cannot really be faulted for acting forcefully to deliver help to citizens, especially after Mitch McConnell’s Senate short-sheeted the last stimulus. But from a stylistic standpoint, the question becomes whether this is how he will continue doing business, or is it just this once?

Again, it’s too early to tell whether there is anything of FDR scale to the Biden team’s designs or whether we’re just looking at a bunch of folks who are used to having government jobs and are getting back to the way things used to be.

Right now, the governing left is a kaleidoscope of special interests, each demanding attention without a clear definition of hierarchy or priority of one to the other — a demos less unruly than the mob that sacked the Capitol, perhaps, but still resistant to the kind of discipline a successful administration must exert.

In his inauguration speech, Biden focused on unity. This was more pleasant than carnage. But it is also an abstract and medium- to long-term goal. With the yet-to-be scheduled State of the Union at some point in February, we will hopefully hear — instead of a long, laundry list attempting to please everyone — a tight, crisp outline of at most a half-dozen things the Biden-Harris team aims to accomplish in the next year. It should be quantifiable, concrete and relevant on a mass scale.

But first, the Senate offers another round of theatrics, still a week in the offing, while the rest of us huddle and try to stay warm.

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.