The election is behind us, and it is time to inaugurate a new president and celebrate our exceptional nation.
Although my candidate of choice did not win, I will, as always, travel to Washington, D.C., and attend the presidential inauguration. I’ve been asked the same question an incalculable number of times: “How could a supporter of Secretary Hillary Clinton celebrate the victory of President-elect Donald Trump?”
The presidential inauguration is a celebration of America, not an individual candidate, a notion lost in recent years. Of course supporters of any winning candidate and party are more likely to dominate the visitors in D.C.; that’s a natural occurrence. But when comparing the inaugurals of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush with those of President Barack Obama, more attendees appeared to hail the victor rather than the nation that twice elected him.
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While I found his campaign inspiring, I did not vote for Obama in 2008, as it seemed his opponent was better prepared to assume the presidency. Yet when standing on the National Mall listening to Aretha Franklin sing “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” I found myself with tears streaming down my face and unspeakable joy in my heart.
My tears were not rooted in the happiness of his electoral win, but in the elation of America’s continual progress toward that more perfect union. As Americans we must push back against the notion of viewing our leaders through the lens of celebrity, and instead analyze their actions with the sober eyes of a serious electorate.
It can be reasonably argued that our recent election represents a step backward for America. However, I believe it showcases the strength and endurance of American democracy.
In addition to heated and hateful rhetoric, this campaign also featured an unprecedented level of meddling by foreign entities and the promotion of race- and gender-based violence on the campaign trail. Add to that an Electoral College win, coupled with the incongruity of a wide popular vote margin of victory for the losing candidate of the party in power, and the outcome has all the makings for a constitutional crisis with significant conflict.
But this is the United States, and even in times of deep disappointment and defeat, we respect our democratic electoral process.
I’m also attending the inauguration because I want to spend time with people who live outside the artificial public policy and political safe space we’ve constructed in California. I’ve lived the bulk of the past decade in the coastal extremities of San Diego and New York City, not exactly regions likely to give one an honest view of America’s economic challenges.
As I do every four years, I made my plans to attend the inauguration in the summer before party conventions took place, and Donald Trump’s election won’t alter my travel plans. His election also doesn’t change my outlook on America and our proud tradition of peacefully transferring power to the victor. It only emboldens me to work harder, and to ensure we elect a candidate who respects the core values that grant them power.
Ken Barnes is a business consultant in Sacramento. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kenjbarnes1.