A Dark Inaugural

This article originally appeared on this site.

Politicians, preparing for inaugurals, scurry for their histories. The Republican Senator Roy Blunt, who welcomed the crowd to Donald Trump’s Inauguration, chose to commemorate the peaceful transitions of the late eighteenth century, when partisan tensions were high and the Republic might not have survived. The Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, speaking just before the new President, read at length from a letter that Sullivan Ballou, a Union officer, wrote to his wife: “I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us.” In the faces just behind the new President and his family, viewers could detect the partisan zigzag of our recent political history: the Clintons, the Bushes, the Obamas. Clarence Thomas coaxed the new Administration into being in his magnificent, seldom-heard baritone. And yet, amid these displays of continuity, the new President insisted on a break. Trump spoke about a history in which power had been concentrated among élites and politicians, and said, “That all changes. Starting right here and right now.”

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