Donald J. Trump gave the thumbs-up sign upon making his way to the Western balcony of the Capitol on Friday. Some took it as a middle finger.
Barack Obama looked like he had just watched the end of The Sixth Sense for the first time when he saw his successor arrive. The woman he long expected to see, Hillary Clinton, displayed symptoms of really, really needing a Prozac. Bill Clinton’s smile came across as slightly more real than Chuck Schumer’s hair. Even George W. Bush appeared more amused than enthused.
The baton passed not so much from a Democrat to a Republican on Friday as from the establishment to the great unwashed. Just as Trump’s red-hatted followers imagined their champion as a blue-collar billionaire, as though such a thing existed, his red-faced detractors regarded the real-estate mogul and network-television star as an uncouth outsider. Even though the new First Lady makes all her predecessors look like that lady in American Gothic by comparison, Trump strangely represents the pitchfork people.
Trump got into the role during his inaugural address, which put an end to eight long years in 17 short minutes.
“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” the new president explained. “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories, their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”
Certainly Trump’s triumph was not their triumph. It showed on the blank faces of the powerful and the blank spaces on the national mall. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow juxtaposed Barack Obama’s inauguration boasting people as far as the eye can see with Trump’s crowd failing to extend to the Washington Monument. She didn’t mention that Washington, D.C., favored Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump 91 percent to four percent on Election Day. Nor did she speak of the local welcome wagon, which on Inauguration Eve gored Trump supporters with flagpoles and read “Make America Great Again” on hats as “Please Throw a Battery at Me.” Sometimes watching at home is the better part of valor.
The cameras didn’t capture 44’s face when 45 lamented that “we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own,” or 43’s face when 45 noted that the federal government “spent trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.” One imagines they grimaced, at least on the inside. It’s not merely that the new president announced a break with their policies on the most public stage possible. The very fact of him taking the oath of office directly derived from their policies. The people who most despise President Trump bear the most responsibility for President Trump.
From Melania Trump effortlessly scaling the Capitol steps in four-inch heels to the clouds opening up when her husband enjoyed his grand moment to T.C. choppering the Obamas out of the spotlight, the first day of the Trump presidency offered a surreal quality, amplified for the bigwigs on the balcony long deluding themselves that the in-crowd owns inaugurations.
As the new occupant of the Oval Office reminded, “January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.” Some people liked the sound of that less than others.