Inaugural Day is a day for Presidents. January 20, 2021, was no different. There were Presidents physically in attendance. There were Presidents there in spirit through mentions of them in speeches. There was a President who provided the backdrop for a celebration of America. Truly it was a day for Presidents.
Of all the Presidents, the one who loomed most prominently over the proceedings was Abraham Lincoln. I make this claim based on no scientific study of the speeches but simply based on my aural and visual impressions of the day. It was a day for Lincoln. In some ways, that should not be surprising given the Civil War references to the current situation. The biggest change was the reference to a war between the Red and the Blue instead of the Blue and the Gray. Nonetheless, it should be noted that Lincoln was a Republican president and the people celebrating his life were Democrats; the Confederate-based Republican Party never sings his praises.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s examine the Presidents and the setting for Inaugural Day.
DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE FOUR PRESIDENTS WHO WALKED INTO….
“Peaceful transfer of power” was one of the phrases that We the People have heard frequently in the past few weeks and months. It refers to something routine in the United States and rare in the world. It refers to one person in power freely relinquishing that position not simply to another person but to a person in political opposition. We take this action for granted so much so that it rarely is commented on until this election.
George Washington stepped away from power twice. Even once would have been remarkable but he did it twice. The first occurred when the “Indispensable Person” to the victory in the American Revolution stepped down from power and returned to his farm. He immediately was compared to the Roman Cincinnatus. King George III who was on the losing side was in shock and stated: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
But Washington was not through. A few years later he became the first President of the United States of America. After two terms, he stepped down. A few years later, his Vice President who had become President stepped down and peacefully transferred power to his bitterest rival after a contentious election. Later then became lifelong pen pals. They both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the birth of the country they had created. So besides the upcoming 250th anniversary, it also will be the bicentennial of that momentous day.
Of the over 190 countries in the United Nations, how many have had a peaceful transfer of power?
Of the over 190 countries in the United Nations, how many have an over 200-year tradition of a peaceful transfer of power? 100 years? 50 years? 10 years?
Of the over 190 countries in the United Nation, how many have had ceremonies with the current leader and three predecessors (four if it hadn’t been for the pandemic)?
Of the over 190 countries in the United Nations, how many have five predecessors who are even alive?
We take much for granted. We take for granted what George Washington did in setting this country on course to being a constitutional republic and not a monarchy, banana republic, or dictatorship.
We take much for granted in how our Presidents become members of a very small club.
How George Bush the father became a surrogate father to William Clinton who had no father growing up he could call his own.
How First Michelle Obama and George Bush the son could so casually and without artifice stand together.
We are reminded of what we take for granted by the behavior of the sore loser who did not participate in this inaugural ritual. The person who wanted to be President for Life unlike the far wealthier George Washington whom he mocked for not naming anything after himself. The person who only considered the votes of “real Americans” to be valid and worked for weeks to steal the election. The person who instigated a coup attempt and as always did not have the courage of his convictions because he has neither courage nor convictions. The person who sulked in the corner out of sight when he couldn’t be the center of attention and would have to peacefully transfer power to the winner. His behavior will become part of the historical record in contrast to Washington and so many others, a testament to how the immature child failed to live up to the adult responsibilities of the job.
THE EYES OF THE WORLD ARE UPON US
The eyes of the world continue to be upon us. When people who are not free wish to free, they do not think of China or Russia. The global symbol for freedom remains the Statue of Liberty.
In the span of a mere two weeks, another symbol of the United States, the Capitol, experienced two of the widest swings in imagery possible. Today we live so much in the moment that it is hard to realize how much has happened in those few days. One President of the United States instigated an insurrection so he could steal the election and remain in power. The House of Representatives then impeached that President for a second time. A new President was inaugurated. He took his oath of office at the very site of the American carnage perpetrated by his predecessor. In a few days, the Senate, in that same building will take up the trial to convict the former President. While the former party of Lincoln will not allow that conviction to occur, at least the actions will become part of the official record of the country for posterity and all the world to see.
On January 6, 2021, the world was in shock in what it saw happening in the United States. On January 20, 2021, the world was in relief that the peaceful transfer of power had occurred. One day, when there once again will be tourism, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Mall, and Lafayette Square will become even more visited sites than they were before American experienced the twin disasters.
THE PARTY OF LINCOLN
Since my first blog on the end of the Republic Party as the party of Lincoln appeared in 2016, I am not surprised that now it is becoming official. Even prior to January 6, various elected Trumpicans had openly proclaimed that the Republican Party was now the party of Trump.
The Trumpicans who helped incite the insurrection were not acting in the spirit of Lincoln.
The Trumpicans who sought to steal the election by disqualifying electors were not acting in the spirit of Lincoln.
The Trumpicans in the House who voted in support of the President of the United States’s attempt to steal the election through an insurrection were not acting in the spirit of Lincoln.
The Trumpicans in the Senate who will vote not to convict the President of United States for his attempt to steal the election through an insurrection will not act in the spirit of Lincoln.
The abrupt and expected flip-flop of Kevin McCarthy documents the political calculation that there is more to gain from being the Trumpican Party than the Republican Party. Next year when the pandemic is over, the economy has recovered, and more and more of the truth of Trump regime and his life have been revealed, the wisdom of forsaking Lincoln for Trump will be tested.
In the meantime, January 20, 2021, was a day of Lincoln and the country is better for it.