WASHINGTON, December 24, 2016 – A growing number of A-list celebrities have declined invitations to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration. Elton John, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Garth Brooks and Celine Dion have all reportedly said they will pass on the event, and no Washington-area public school has applied for the privilege of marching in Trump’s parade.
The Radio City Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, both of which have performed at previous inaugurations, will be in attendance. However, not every Rockette is pleased by that, and the Tabernacle Choir has been roundly condemned for agreeing to perform.
“Response to the announcement has been mixed, with people expressing both opposition and support,” LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement. “The choir’s participation continues its long tradition of performing for U.S. presidents of both parties at inaugurations and in other settings, and is not an implied support of party affiliations or politics. It is a demonstration of our support for freedom, civility and the peaceful transition of power.”
The concern, as expressed in a CNN opinion piece, is that “Celebrities shouldn’t lend their fame to normalize or validate Trump’s history of racism, bigotry, and sexism. And by being a part of his inauguration they would be doing just that.”
Many of us look forward to Trump’s presidency with a mix of fascination and dread. However, we also very much want his presidency to succeed, because we want America to succeed.
If the Trump Administration pursues bad policies, there is a long line of people ready to do everything they can to stop him. Democrats have suddenly realized that an obstructionist Congress may not be a bad idea after all; they will feel deeply aggrieved if President Trump tries to circumvent it by means of executive orders and other extra-legislative measures.
But there is a possibility that Trump will operate within normal parameters of policy, if not of presidential comportment, so for now, the fascination for many outweighs the dread.
The inaugural festivities are a celebration for the new president, a chance to revel in his victory before the weight of the office comes crashing down on his head, but they are much more than that. They are a celebration of over two unbroken centuries of peaceful transfer of power. For over two centuries, we have followed the pattern laid down by the Constitution, and we are doing it again.
For over two centuries, we have followed the pattern laid down by the Constitution, and we are doing it again. That’s something to celebrate.
If President Trump needs to be fought, there is no shortage of people ready to do battle, but the attacks on his inauguration are not about that. They are a declaration that Trump’s presidency is illegitimate. They are not principled; they are petulant. They are an expression of resentment that the rules did not give those stomping their feet what they wanted.
There is every reason to be watchful, and even to preemptively organize to block anything noxious that comes down from the Trump White House, but no good reason at all to try to kill the inaugural party. For that, there are only bad ones.
Donald Trump did not win the election by extra-constitutional means. He operated within the law. Did he lie? Did he appeal to the baser motives of voters? Undoubtedly; that has become something of a tradition in presidential politics. Trump, however, still won.
Since his victory, Democrats have done exactly what they feared Trump would do if he lost: everything in their power to delegitimize the election. They have attempted not just to not normalize Trump’s bigotry, as they see it, but to not normalize his election or his presidency.
If he is not the rightful president, then it would be shameful to perform at Trump’s inauguration. It would lend to the legitimacy of a coup, which is apparently how many Democrats view the Trump election.
And yet Trump’s victory happened within our constitutional framework. It is thus not just Trump’s victory they threaten to delegitimize, but the Electoral College and the constitutional provisions that created it. Along those lines, Trump’s opponents have called the Electoral College an anachronism; they claim that it was created only to give enhanced electoral power to the slave states, which dominated the first presidential elections.
Trump is not about to be the president just because he appealed to racist sentiments, but because of slavery.
Bits of moral posturing explaining why Clinton voters should feel good about not forgiving Trump voters are all over social media. The people who write them don’t want compromise or unity with Trump voters; they want their abject surrender and abasement. They believe that they occupy a privileged moral position that gives them the right to demand that Trump and his voters be punished.
These are zealots, not defenders of civic virtue. And many Trump supporters, feeling triumphant and morally superior themselves, are likewise uninterested in compromise. This is splendid. If we wanted to write the script for the death of a republic, it might well follow these lines. It wouldn’t matter who the leaders were or which policies they espoused, but only that the people hate each other and refuse to forgive or reconcile.
The anti-Trump partisans have moved from trying to undermine the man to undermining the institution. What’s next, egging the White House?
Musicians, stars, and promoters are thinking about organizing an anti-Trump concert on inauguration day, with all the A-list talent that won’t perform for Trump. The hope would be to swamp the inauguration in the ratings, turning it into a sideshow.
The show will go on, and for millions, it will be no sideshow. It will be a celebration of something good, even as it features a deeply troubling and divisive man. Those who chose to attend and perform in the inaugural festivities will be making no political statement, but only a declaration of support for our constitutional system and the office of the presidency.
Those who choose to stay away will be making a clear political statement. That is their right, but it is unfortunate that presidential inaugurals will be one more casualty to the political posturing that is dividing America.