I have been thinking about the next 60-some days until the newly-elected president of our nation is inaugurated. There is no way not to wax nostalgically about the changes of power in Washington I have watched occur in my lifetime. While there was lots of passion and emotion between the outgoing and incoming administrations there was always the respect for the electoral process along with the decorum and decency that professional politicians know to be important to present to the public.
History, long before you and I had eyelids, shows that such respect was not always the case in the nation. It is from that perspective I ponder not only if Donald Trump will attend the inauguration of Joe Biden, but even if he should be at the capitol for the swearing-in.
For the sake of our national narrative, the process of governing, and the important image that an inclusive array of leaders present when a new president takes the oath means my top desire is for Donald Trump to act as an honorable man. Our nation would be best served with his appearance at the event.
But acting honorably is not a characteristic Trump is known for, be it in his days as a businessman, candidate for office, or when serving in the Oval Office. To have Trump consider the day to be about him, or to act in some reckless and selfish way to attract attention or worse, to undermine the new president, would mean his absence from the inauguration would be a better alternative.
The inaugurations where an outgoing president did not attend the swearing-in of his successor is usually presented as a flaw in character along with a pettiness that history never forgets.
John Adams was a learned man and had strict patterns in how to live life but ‘got out of town’ the day before Thomas Jefferson put his hand on the bible.
Keeping with family tradition John Quincy Adams simply refused to appear with Andrew Jackson. (That is easy enough to understand. Jackson was reprehensible.) The inauguration, however, that is most unseemly occurs when Ulysses Grant would not share a carriage with Andrew Johnson. Planners for the special day then encouraged two carriages. But as Grant rides by the White House on the way to the Capitol Johnson refuses to do anything other than stay inside ‘preoccupied with the affairs of state.’
If I were a betting man I would put money on Trump being on the stage at the Capitol. I would also bet money on some snide, shallow, and very Trump-like antic to further show the nation how diminutive he has become to the new path we are taking.
All we know with certainty is that Bette Davis’ line seems most apt when thinking this all is going to be bumpy!
And so it goes.