No, we’re not comparing President-Elect Donald Trump to President George Washington. Readers of these essays know we were not supporters of Donald Trump’s candidacy, nor have we had great confidence that President-Elect Trump will go on to become one of America’s great presidents. We do, however, fervently hope we are wrong, and that his presidency does, indeed, achieve a stronger, fairer America—an America largely at peace with itself and a world less antagonized by vicious conflict and sectarian warfare. As of tomorrow, at noon, Donald Trump will become the legally and legitimately elected President of the United States.
The brief inaugural ceremony that will take tomorrow is of enormous historical significance. It is akin to that proverbial gear shifting somewhere in the universe after which some things are never the same; the hyphenated President-Elect instantly transforms simply into President, and the responsibilities of executive leadership in America rest with a new leader. The brief, but almost magical ceremony represents the most consistent peaceful transfer of power the world has ever known. It, the inaugural process, is to be celebrated.
Many in America are not happy that Donald Trump is about to become their President. Many profess that he will never be their President. But he is and he will be.
We have no particular problem with anyone, including members of congress, skipping the inauguration. It is wrongheaded but it is their right. This is, after all, America. We do not parade, like dancing bears, anyone into public view to pay homage to our elected leaders. The absence of members of congress and others will demonstrate their utter disregard for the new president. It will also demonstrate their utter disregard for a grand, historic and consequential American tradition, but dissent is certainly their right, and there will be plenty of dissention.
Disruption, however, is not anyone’s right. The twentieth amendment to the Constitution fixes the date and time of the beginning of a new president’s term and the end of a sitting presidents term as January 20th at noon, following the national election the previous November. Intentionally engaging in activity to disrupt the administering of the oath of office is, in our judgment, a protest gone too far.
There is nothing new about members of Congress or other government officials refusing to attend the inauguration of a President. Indeed, President John Quincy Adams refused to attend the inauguration of his successor, Andrew Jackson, in 1829.
Actually, there are interesting similarities between the two elections. Andrew Jackson was the first populist elected president. Jackson was also the first non-Virginian with the exception of John Adams and his son John Quincy to be elected President, and Jackson was the first President with no connection to the founders or, for that matter, to the original thirteen colonies. Jackson, like Trump, garnered immense support outside of any sort of political establishment. He, like Trump, was the ultimate outsider.
The animosity directed at Jackson from his opponent, John Quincy Adams and from his opponent’s supporters was immense. As is true of Trump a large swath of Congress also refused to attend the new president’s inauguration.
As stated earlier, we don’t believe the “no-shows” are of much significance. Following the inauguration, they may even be of less significance. They place a higher value on giving the new president a cold shoulder that they place on honoring the American inaugural tradition, and that is absolutely their right and their choice to make.
Similarly, we take no particular issue with those who wish to protest or show their displeasure with the choice our nation has made. There will be protests of dissent in Washington and cities throughout the country and that’s okay. That’s as American as apple pie.
We take a different view, however, of those who are planning to come to Washington, not determined to dissent, but, instead, determined to disrupt the Inauguration of our 45h President. The internet is rife with calls for absolute disruption, and if the organizers can’t stop the inauguration they are determined to drive the inauguration behind closed doors. More ominously, they seem determined to foment violence to assure that domestic and international viewership sees disorder, if not violence, on the streets of Washington, D.C., and in other American cities. They want television screens across America and across the world to show split screens with images of the cherished American inaugural ceremony concurrently sullied and shared with violent protest.
The National Park Service has granted dozens of permits to demonstrate in Washington today, and is expecting more than 350,000 protesters. Of those, about 200,000 will be participating in the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow. And make no mistake about it, their right to protest is as hallowed as the inaugural itself.
But those who travel to Washington to disrupt the inauguration of the President are not the patriots they pretend to be. Far from it. They are vandals at best, and anarchists at worst.
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